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Final First-Half Player Power Rankings for LA Clippers

Jeff NisiusContributor IIJanuary 8, 2014

Final First-Half Player Power Rankings for LA Clippers

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Clippers’ season is nearing the midway point, and it is time to deliver another set of power rankings. The Clippers are within striking distance of the top spot in the conference, but the West has been quite difficult to maneuver. A long road lies ahead, especially with Chris Paul sidelined until around All-Star Weekend.

    Furthermore, with numerous teams dealing with serious injury issues, new threats solidifying their seeding and the trade deadline a little over a month away, the season is officially in full swing. The Clippers roster could look different a few weeks from now, but the top of the hierarchy seems to be set in stone. However, the middle of the roster seems to turn over every few weeks.

11-15. Rest of Roster

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    The tail end of the Los Angeles Clippers roster has been somewhat of a disaster. Byron Mullens quickly fell out of the rotation due to his terrible defense. Willie Green has not been given steady minutes and continues to be used mainly during injury situations. Reggie Bullock has not played since December 7th, due to injury. Meanwhile, Maalik Wayns was waived on January 5th only to be re-signed once the team waived Stephen Jackson on January 7th.

    There is a potential for the Clippers to add two new players to the roster. Darius Morris and Maalik Wayns were both given 10-day contracts. Furthermore, there is no doubt the team will scour the free-agent market, as the season progresses, for players that fill needs.

10. Antawn Jamison

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    What kind of role, or how much of one, Antawn Jamison will play with the Los Angeles Clippers remains to be seen. Other than a two-week stretch in early December, Jamison has not seen much of the floor. Still, his outside shooting could prove to be a valuable asset later in the season. For that to happen, Jamison will need to shoot better than 23.3 percent from three.

    Complicating things even more has been the excellent play of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Doc Rivers has kept his two starting bigs on the floor as much as possible while also playing some smaller lineups with Matt Barnes at power forward. Jamison’s minutes will be sporadic at best, but his play needs to improve before he factors in the rotation.

9. Ryan Hollins

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    Much like Antawn Jamison, Ryan Hollins’ minutes have been limited due to the play of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. However, Hollins is familiar with Doc Rivers’ defensive system and has been able to serve as an energetic defender off the bench. His rebounding has been solid, slightly under his career average of 2.2 per game, but his minutes have been limited to fewer than 10 per game for the first time in seven years.

    Offensively, Hollins is finishing well around the basket and is shooting an astounding 67.5 percent from the floor. However, his success has come on a small number of attempts as Hollins only takes 1.3 shots each game. Regardless, Rivers seems to trust Hollins, and he should factor into the rotation all season, barring more roster moves.

8. Jared Dudley

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    Perhaps the player on the roster who has been the most disappointing so far this season, Jared Dudley has struggled to reach his career averages this season. Dudley is a career 39.9 percent three-point shooter, but he is connecting on only 35.8 this season. Not a bad percentage, but Dudley was expected to provide deadly perimeter shooting and has been very streaky so far.

    Additionally, Dudley seems to be bothered by tendinitis in his knee and has not looked very mobile this season. His defense is solid, and he makes the right passes and competes hard every night. Regardless, his shooting needs to improve, and he must contribute more than 2.1 rebounds per game.

7. Matt Barnes

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    It was a tough decision whom to rank higher, Jared Dudley or Matt Barnes, but there are a few things that set the two apart. While Dudley has struggled offensively, Barnes’ attitude and defensive intensity were huge additions when he returned from an eye injury on December 21st. Barnes has improved the Los Angeles Clippers’ bench defense and brought a swagger and mean streak to the team.

    Although Barnes has struggled on offense, shooting a disastrous 37.3 percent from the floor and 26.4 percent from three, his presence overall was sorely missed. Injuries plagued the Clippers at shooting guard and small forward, but Barnes’ return to the rotation helped the team transition without J.J. Redick and Reggie Bullock.

6. J.J. Redick

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    J.J. Redick was on an absolute tear before breaking his hand at the end of November. The sharpshooter from Duke was scoring a career-high 15.8 points per game and connecting on 46.0 percent of his shots from the field. Redick seemed to thrive playing next to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

    While the Los Angeles Clippers have performed quite well with him sidelined, there is no doubt that the offense is much better when he is on the active roster. Jamal Crawford has filled in admirably in his starting position, but Redick’s ability to play both ends of the floor is a major plus.

    Moving forward, it would not be a surprise to see Redick jump back into the top four. His impact was substantial and he is, without a doubt, one of the most important pieces on this roster.

5. Darren Collison

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    Much was made about Darren Collison signing a cheap deal over the summer to spell Chris Paul, once again. Although he did not exactly work out with neither the Indiana Pacers nor the Dallas Mavericks, Collison has proved that at the very least he is one of the premier reserve point guards in the entire league.

    Collison is averaging 9.0 points per game, 2.3 assists and 2.1 rebounds in 19.8 minutes this season. However, since Paul’s injury midway through the January 3 matchup with the Mavericks, Collison has played 35.8 minutes per game according to NBA.com. His increased floor time has also led to elevated statistics, to the tune of 18.3 points per game, 5.7 assists and 2.3 rebounds.

    The Clippers would certainly be in deep trouble without Collison on the roster. Considering that and factoring in his stellar play with Paul out of the lineup, Collison makes a huge jump into the top five.

4. Jamal Crawford

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    While he nearly won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award last season, Jamal Crawford is playing a slightly different role this season. Crawford still holds the reins for the second unit but has been asked to start 13 games already this season, mainly due to injury concerns.

    Give credit to the explosive guard, because Crawford has nearly matched his number from last season’s impressive campaign. His ability to create and make shots is his most important trait, one that has consistently bailed out the Los Angeles Clippers the past two seasons.

    Crawford’s importance is about to be magnified, as Chris Paul will likely be out through All-Star Weekend with a shoulder injury, and Crawford will be asked to do even more. While he has been impressive this season, he has had the benefit of deferring to Paul. How will Crawford respond without Paul?

3. DeAndre Jordan

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    Danny Bollinger/Getty Images

    Finding a handful of players who have improved more than DeAndre Jordan would be quite hard to do. Sure, his minutes are up 10.8 per game from last year, and his SportVU rim protection numbers are not great, but give credit when it is due. Jordan is pulling down a league-leading 13.5 rebounds per contest, blocking a career-high 2.4 shots and shooting an outstanding 64.4 percent from the field.

    Doc Rivers’ proclamation that Jordan would be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year does not seem so far-fetched anymore. Jordan is serving as the backbone of Rivers’ defensive system and is holding up strongly. While his man-to-man defense still needs work, Jordan has clearly been a big asset defensively as he is calling out defensive assignments and acting as the captain on that end of the floor.

2. Blake Griffin

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    Guess which player leads the league in double-doubles this season? Good answer, Kevin Love. Guess who ranks second and third? If you chose Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, you are correct!

    The University of Oklahoma product has been absolutely fantastic this season. He is one of four players averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds. Additionally, Griffin is going to the line 7.4 times per game, an improvement over last season’s 5.3 trips. Why is that so important? Griffin is shooting a career-high 70.6 percent from the line. His entire shooting motion has stabilized, he is able to replicate his form, and he is now consistent not only from the line but from mid-range as well.

    Griffin needed to improve his production in order for the Clippers to become contenders in a daunting Western Conference, and he has. Doc Rivers seems to have revitalized the high-flying Griffin into a brute force bully around the rim. Griffin’s expansion of his game has benefited the rest of his team, and he now seems ready to take on the role of being a go-to second option.

1. Chris Paul

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    The first words anyone should use to describe Chris Paul this season absolutely must start with Most Valuable Player. Paul has been nothing short of amazing all season long. He is averaging 11.2 assists per game, which is the second-highest mark of his career. Additionally, Paul is grabbing 4.6 rebounds and has only committed 85 turnovers all season. He has also recorded 26 double-doubles this season, five shy of his entire mark last season.

    Paul is the stabilizing force of the Clippers but a force that provides an extra gear when the clock ticks under five minutes to play. He is masterful with the ball but has simply made everyone on the court noticeably better this season. Thinking of where the Clippers would be without Paul is immeasurable. Unfortunately, the Clippers will find out over the next six weeks.

    Paul separated his shoulder on January 3 and is likely to be sidelined until the All-Star break. While he is legitimately in the MVP conversation this season, his value might be enhanced even more based on how the Clippers play without him. Still, he is clearly the most important cog in the wheel and deserves the top spot on this list.

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