2013 was a memorable one for the Los Angeles Clippers.
The improvements under Rivers’ tenure have been noticeable, particularly Blake Griffin’s all-around offensive game and DeAndre Jordan’s defense and rebounding.
However, despite all the improvements, there are still numerous causes for concern as the first half of the season nears its conclusion.
7. Reggie Bullock’s Sprained Ankle
Reggie Bullock was beyond impressive at Las Vegas Summer League. He averaged 18 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists on 42 percent shooting.
Unfortunately, Bullock sprained his ankle on Dec. 7 and lost out on a chance for major minutes.
With J.J. Redick going down with an injury and Willie Green struggling to fill his shoes, Bullock would have been given every opportunity to carve out a role.
6. Willie Green’s Three-Point Shooting
Last season, Willie Green became the beneficiary of starter minutes due to Chauncey Billups suffering from various injuries.
He shot 42.8 percent from three-point range and was particularly effective shooting corner threes (47.8 percent)
This season has been a different story; Green is shooting 36.2 percent from the field and just 32.8 percent on three-point attempts.
Green temporarily became the starting shooting guard after J.J. Redick fractured his hand, but the Clippers were just 3-3 after his insertion to the lineup.
Jamal Crawford eventually took over as the starter and has not looked back.
Touted for being ‘three and D’ type of player, his Clipper career thus far has been a disappointment.
With Redick missing a significant portion of the first half, Dudley has struggled to pick up the slack and has posted abysmal numbers.
Dudley is shooting just 35.7 percent from three while averaging 8.8 points per game. Among all small forwards, Dudley ranks 52nd in PER with an 8.86 rating.
An underwhelming athlete, he can be detrimental to the Clippers on both ends of the court: offensively, whenever he is forced to put the ball on the floor and defensively when he's assigned to guard more athletic wings—which comprises most small forwards and 2-guards in the NBA.
With Bledsoe flourishing with the Suns (18 PPG, 4.3 REB, 5.8 AST and 20.16 PER), it is looking more and more like the Clippers got the short end of the stick.
Watching J.J. Redick play alongside Chris Paul is simply a joy to watch. His constant movement without the ball was the perfect complement to Paul and aided greatly the Clippers’ spacing on offense.
Redick was averaging a career best 15.8 points while shooting 46 percent from the field before breaking his hand on a rebound attempt against the Sacramento Kings.
The best part about Redick’s game was that his points were not just coming off spot-up three-pointers (just 35.9 percent from three-point range).
Knowing that Redick is not just some one-trick pony, Doc Rivers has been utilizing his ability to create off screens, which has been invaluable to the team’s offensive flow.
While the injury was unfortunate for both Redick and the Clippers, it happened early in the season, and he should be back sometime next week, reportedly targeting a return on Jan. 15.
DeAndre Jordan has enjoyed a breakout season, averaging career highs in minutes (35.3), points (9.4), rebounds (13.5) and blocks (2.4).
Despite all the improvements from Jordan defensively and on the glass, his porous free-throw shooting remains a major liability for the Clippers.
At the stripe, Jordan is shooting 40.1 percent—which is actually up from last season's 38.1 percent mark.
In the regular season the Clippers can get away with Jordan’s free-throw shooting by subbing him out and going with a small-ball approach.
That solution is not with out its drawbacks.
The Clippers often struggle to rebound the ball with Jordan off the floor, giving up precious extra possessions to the opposition.
Defensively they are often at the bad end of a mismatch, with Jared Dudley or Matt Barnes often stuck against the opposing team’s power forward.
Barring the acquisition of a third big who can hit free throws, the Clippers will struggle to go deep into the playoffs where teams will undoubtedly go to the "Hack-A-Jordan" tactic.
I imagine that good teams get excited when they see their next game is against an Eastern Conference team, considering that only four teams from that side of the NBA have a record above .500.
Not the Clippers.
The Clippers are just 8-6 on the year against Eastern foes.
Every game is important, especially in the West where just getting into the playoffs is a dogfight.
Those losses are magnified with the loss of Chris Paul and could cost the Clippers the Pacific Division at the end of the season.
Per NBA.com, Chris Paul will be out at least six weeks with a Grade 3 AC joint separation.
The good news is that Paul avoided surgery, which could have potentially been a season ender.
The bad news is six weeks—at the minimum, without Paul could cost the Clippers the Pacific Division. The Clippers are currently a half-game ahead of the Golden State Warriors in the standings at 24-13, with the surprising Suns just 1.5 games behind.
Paul was enjoying another outstanding season, averaging 19.6 points and a league-best 11.2 assists, while leading all point guards in PER (27.63).
With Paul out, backup Darren Collison once again becomes the heir apparent at point guard. Collison drew the same role in 2009 for the then-New Orleans Hornets when Paul injured his knee.
ClipsNation.com’s Steve Perrin notes that the Clippers' record without Paul over 20 games is a pedestrian 10-10.