How Every Key LA Clipper Is Adjusting to Life Without Chris Paul
There are a few things certain about the NBA. LeBron James is amazing and nearly indefensible. The San Antonio Spurs defy Father Time and win games at a prolific clip. Chris Paul makes life easier for everyone who plays with him. Unfortunately for the Los Angeles Clippers, life will be more difficult for the next six weeks without Paul.
The onus is now on every player on the roster, especially the main seven in the rotation, to diversify his game and adjust how he plays with Paul no longer available. Players like Blake Griffin will need to take on more offensive responsibility, while others such as DeAndre Jordan must continue to improve their defense in order to make up for Paul’s absence.
Matt Barnes has struggled mightily all season, scoring a disappointing 6.5 points per game and shooting a career-low 34.1 percent from the field. Things have not changed for Barnes without Chris Paul around. His statistics are nearly identical despite the Los Angeles Clippers playing slightly faster—two extra possessions per game—with Paul sidelined, according to NBA.com.
Although Barnes needs to improve his shooting splits and make more of an offensive impact, the real key will be how he performs defensively without Paul. The Clippers need to improve their perimeter defense, and that is one area in which Barnes can make a major impact. According to 82games, he is stifling opposing small forwards, only allowing them a PER of 9.5.
The Clippers will need more of Barnes’ intense defense over the next month to help make up for the regression they are sure to have offensively without Paul on the floor.
Perhaps no player on the roster has been asked to adjust his role more this season than Jamal Crawford. Not only was he inserted into the starting lineup while J.J. Redick was hurt for nearly the entire month of December, but he will now be asked to score more efficiently without Chris Paul.
Crawford did his best as a starter but ultimately was too inefficient during his increased playing time and was immediately sent back to the bench as soon as Redick was healthy.
While Crawford’s shooting percentages have not increased, his scoring output and creation have. Crawford is averaging an impressive 18.5 points per game and 6.0 assists in Paul’s absence, according to NBA.com. Crawford’s highest career assist average is 5.1 per game, coming a decade ago in his fourth season in the league.
Crawford has taken on more offensive responsibility and begun breaking down defenses and finding his teammates for open looks.
Doc Rivers has to be happy with the way Crawford is playing, especially considering the Los Angeles Clippers have won 3-of-4 without Paul, as of January 13. The shooting percentages need to improve, but Crawford is showing signs of maturity, especially after being asked to come off the bench behind Darren Collison and J.J. Redick.
Acquired to provide elite shooting from the perimeter, Jared Dudley has struggled at times this season. Many expected Dudley to fill it up from three-point range upon arrival, but he has shot 37.1 percent on just under one attempt per game—certainly not a bad percentage, but definitely not as good as his career 40.0 percent mark suggests and definitely not at the frequency he shot it with the Phoenix Suns.
Starting at small forward, Dudley saw his fair share of open looks from three, but with Chris Paul hurt, would Dudley see the same open looks, and would he be able to capitalize on the looks he received? The numbers do not lie: According to NBA.com, Dudley is shooting 43.8 percent from three on four attempts per game without Paul.
The points are coming mainly from his outside shooting, and he has yet to contribute much on the glass, but Dudley’s ability to open the floor with his shooting is helping the Los Angeles Clippers in the absence of Paul.
Enjoying his best season yet since being drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2008, DeAndre Jordan has shown that there is more to his game than just dunks. Jordan leads the NBA in rebounding and is shooting an impressive 64.6 percent from the field. Now Jordan must display his improved offensive development with Chris Paul no longer in the lineup.
Jordan has been working on his post moves the past few seasons, and the development is noticeable. Jordan looks comfortable with the ball on the block and has displayed improved footwork. Paul typically was able to create open looks for Jordan after coming off Blake Griffin ball screens. Now the responsibility will be on Jordan to find his own points.
Averaging 4.0 offensive rebounds per game, Jordan has been able to clean the glass and collect easy baskets. He will need to convert those as well as score via a few more possessions on the block each night. Darren Collison will attempt to find Jordan cutting to the rim for easy baskets, but Jordan is going to need to do more work on his own in order to score in double digits each night.
During his stint with the Orlando Magic, J.J. Redick showed off a new dimension to his offensive repertoire: creation ability. According to Basketball-Reference, Redick’s assist percentage doubled from 11.0 percent in 2010-11 to 22.4 percent in 2012-13. Redick was assigned more ball-handling responsibilities as he developed his skills. This is something that may have been overlooked by many upon the Clippers acquiring Redick. However, his creation ability is about to be stressed in the aftermath of Chris Paul’s injury.
Not only can Redick shoot the ball exceptionally well from all spots on the floor, but he will also be able to take some of the pressure off Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford to initiate and create looks for the other players on the floor. Redick has not had the opportunity to show off this asset playing next to Paul and has seen his assist percentage fall all the way down to 12.5 percent this season.
Redick’s shooting and scoring ability was a welcomed sight, as he returned three games after Paul was injured. Thankfully, he has been able to display an ability to serve as an adequate secondary ball-handler and will be asked to take on more offensive responsibility without Paul.
No player has seen his value rise more or his role change as significantly in the wake of Chris Paul’s injury as Darren Collison. The reserve point guard from UCLA was averaging 20 minutes per contest with Paul healthy. His role has now expanded, and he is playing 33.9 minutes per game since Paul went down.
The added pressure and featured role in the starting lineup have only improved Collison’s contribution. He is scoring 17.5 points per game, handing out 6.5 assists and grabbing 3.8 rebounds all while shooting 65.9 percent from the floor. This is a somewhat familiar role for Collison, as he backed up Paul during his rookie season with the New Orleans Hornets, playing similarly.
Thankfully, the pressure to run the offense has not been as demanding thanks to the improvement of Blake Griffin’s aggressiveness on offense, not to mention Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick to share ball-handling duties with. Collison has done a remarkable job thus far, and if he keeps up this level of play, the Los Angeles Clippers will be in great shape upon Paul’s return.
Having his best season since his rookie campaign, Blake Griffin now has the responsibility of carrying one of the Western Conference’s best teams through a difficult stretch of games without Chris Paul. According to NBA.com, Griffin is a hair under his career-high 22.5 points per game, scoring 22.3 this season. Meanwhile, his rebounding numbers are back into double digits, and his jumper looks much improved.
Furthermore, without Paul, Griffin has turned into more of a facilitator. Griffin is averaging an impressive 5.0 assists per game in Paul’s absence, displaying his uncanny vision and passing ability for a power forward. To make things even more impressive, Griffin is shooting 72.1 percent from the free-throw line and getting there a career-high 10.8 times without Paul.
Should Griffin continue to play this well, he will join Paul in the running for MVP. The Clippers are certain to miss Paul’s ability to take over games, but Griffin has shown an increasing ability to dominate from all over the floor.