Despite a rather pedestrian 10-5 record, the Los Angeles Clippers are a much better team then their record indicates.
Lob City has faced its fair share of troubles early in the season. The defense is a work in progress, and the second-unit is struggling to defend anyone.
Even with a tough schedule, the Clips have played down to their competition multiple times. They have dropped games to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic, while squeaking out two wins against the Sacramento Kings.
Los Angeles was beat up at home in a playoff rematch against the Memphis Grizzlies and blown out on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Still, the Clippers have had some impressive performances.
The offense has been superb as Los Angeles is scoring 108.6 points per 100 possessions, just behind the Miami Heat for the best offense in the league. On the other hand, the defense has been miserable, as the Clips have hung around the league’s cellar dwellers.
Why should Clipper fans eschew the panic button? What indications shout contender status in Hollywood?
Let’s take a closer look at why Los Angeles is better than its current record.
Fixing the Defense
Although the Clippers’ defense is lagging, there is evidence that the team is improving.
The Clips’ 39-point win over the Bulls was the best performance of the season, as Lob City limited Chicago to just 39.5 percent shooting on the day, while baiting the Bulls into 14 turnovers. The 81 points given up was by far the lowest the Clippers had allowed all season.
Earlier in the year, the Clippers’ defense clamped down to limit the high-scoring Rockets to just 39 points in the second half, in a big 107-94 road victory. In a gritty road win in Minnesota, sans Matt Barnes, the Clips held the Wolves to just 37.8 percent shooting.
Moreover, there has been a major drop-off between the starters and the bench unit this season.
The five-man starting unit of Jared Dudley, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick and Paul is holding opponents to a respectable 100.2 points per 100 possessions. With troubling defensive personnel like Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford and Byron Mullens on the bench, the second unit has been allowing easy buckets at an astronomical rate.
The five-man unit of Barnes, Collison, Crawford, Jordan and Mullens is allowing a laughable 138.4 points per 100 possessions, albeit in a small sample size. Early season injuries to Dudley and Barnes have only amplified the team’s defensive woes.
Coherent defensive play by Mullens and Ryan Hollins has been so concerning, that the Clippers have been eyeing Lamar Odom and Chris Wilcox as potential additions to shore up the horrendous defense.
The Clippers will struggle against elite teams if their second unit cannot hold onto leads. Coach Doc Rivers has stressed the process, and there is hope that by March, the team’s defensive problems will become a distant memory.
Even with their porous defense, the Clips can hang their hats on some significant improvements that should make them a real threat for the Western Conference crown later this season.
Despite the holes, the Clips are defending the three-point line at an effective rate. The Clippers boast the tenth-best three-point defense, as they are holding opponents to 35 percent from distance.
Will the Clippers become a dominant defensive team this season?
Offensively, the Clippers have been near impossible to defend.
Lob City’s 48.1 field goal percentage is the fourth highest in the league. Sharing the basketball beautifully, the Clippers have the second-highest assist to turnover ratio at 1.69, just behind the San Antonio Spurs.
New addition Redick has been the starting shooting guard that Paul has sought since bolting New Orleans for Tinseltown. The Duke standout is averaging 16.0 points on 45.9 percent shooting and 35.8 percent shooting from three.
Jordan’s play has been a revelation as well. With Rivers’ confidence, Jordan is averaging a double-double of 10.0 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. His rebounding rate is the third-best in the league, behind only Dwight Howard and Kevin Love.
The defense and the second-unit are still causes for the concern. However, less than a quarter of the way through the 2013-14 campaign, Lob City is showing glimpses of its championship potential.
All statistics are accurate as of November 25, 2013. Statistics used from NBA.com/Stats and ESPN.com.