LA Clippers Can't Be Judged Until Playoff Time

Scott Burns@Follow @ScottInTheBayCorrespondent IIIJanuary 23, 2014

Getty Images

The Los Angeles Clippers are still trying to make a name for themselves as a legitimate contender after years of being the laughingstock of the National Basketball Association.  The Clippers are trending upwards by enjoying their first year as reigning Pacific Division champions, but playoff success is the true judge.

Come playoff-time, the Clippers haven’t been as productive, as they were bounced by the Memphis Grizzlies last season and the San Antonio Spurs the year before.    

This season is no different, as the team sits in its familiar top spot in the Pacific, while being chased again by the Golden State Warriors

Coach Doc Rivers has taken over for Vinny Del Negro, because Doc has a title under his belt and knows how to push and guide a talented squad to the promised land.

If the Clippers want to advance past the exciting team moniker to a legitimate threat, they have a checklist.

The team is growing with the additions of Jared Dudley, J.J. Redick and Darren Collison, a younger group to replace players like Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups.  Collison has been particularly impressive by leading the team to a 6-3 mark through January 22 since the Chris Paul injury.


Effective Ball Movement

As you can see from the highlight, Collison has good court vision and finds DeAndre Jordan for the easy slam.

The free-flow offense and lob city is sustainable in the regular season, but the game slows down in the postseason.  The Clippers must work on the set plays and effective passing around the perimeter. 

In this play, the ball is passed around quickly, with Griffin finally setting the screen, rolling off and getting the pass from Redick for the finish.

With their size and quickness, the Clippers have a powerful weapon when used correctly.  If they can consistently toss the ball around the perimeter and move effectively without the ball, the team will have a much better chance of advancing.

This strategy is most prevalent in the post area.  If the team can move the ball effectively during set plays, Griffin and Jordan will have better chances to make athletic plays than have to create on their own.

With Chris Paul at the helm, teams will be keying in on him, which will give the perimeter players like Redick and Matt Barnes more freedom without the ball.  Paul must decide whether to drive the offense or look to distribute to an open weapon.

Paul is the leader in points created by assists per game by a wide margin.  He should be returning soon, as discussed in this tweet.

As great as the offense is on the floor, the defense is the key to moving deep in the playoffs.

Play defense

Playoff games are won in the trenches.  The Clippers need to do a better job on the boards, as they are currently in the middle of the NBA in rebounds and are outrebounded on average by opponents.

Since Jordan leads the league in rebounds and Griffin rips down his share, the rest of the team is not doing its job.

Yes, Jordan has great size and superb athletic skills for a center.  He uses those talents to protect the rim and tally the most blocked shots in the league.

The primary reason for the deficiency is the style of defensive basketball.  The Clips run a stout pick-and-roll defense that requires Griffin and Jordan to trap the ball-handler, in return forcing them further to the perimeter.

The team gave up only 94.6 PPG on average last season, but this year the number has increased to 100.2 PPG.

The system has its vulnerabilities, so Coach Rivers needs to really drill down and fix the holes.  He also needs to improve positioning and one-on-one defending.

The team has improved its defensive efficiency over the past two months, but the team needs to stay consistent if it wants to advance to the Conference finals.

The Bigs on the Bench

Griffin and Jordan are the only two big men with constant production.  If one or both of them get injured or even in foul trouble, the Clips are in danger.

The team is very thin with only Antawn Jamison, Ryan Hollins and Byron Mullens left to take on the responsibility of the lane. 

The players hardly get anytime on the floor, as Jamison is the most used with an average of only 11.3 minutes per game.  As a result, Hedo Turkoglu joins the mix.

Turkoglu can fill in at both forward spots, and he can play the small-ball position with a lot of dexterity.  He can draw his man out and hit the jumper or create moves to the hole. 

He is not the greatest defender, but he can rely a lot on Dudley and Jordan to fill the gaps.  He is older, but he brings experience and knows how to secure wins.

He doesn’t solve the problem, but he helps solidify one of the biggest weaknesses on this team.  He is a role player who can smoothly transition into wherever the team needs him.

In addition, he has played in the NBA Finals with Orlando and has made countless playoff appearances.

The Bottom Line

The Clippers dominate with a wide-open, fast-moving offense.  The team has all of the pieces in place to make a serious run, but they also face some of the stiffest competition in their own conference.

The Clippers need to fix the holes and further drill down on defense.  Defense wins championships, and a key rebound here and a defensive stop there at crucial moments could really take this group to the next level.

The Clippers want to continue their recent Los Angeles and NBA dominance, and there is no better time than now to solidify their standing.

















    Jimmy Challenges LouWill to $100K 1-on-1 Game

    Los Angeles Clippers logo
    Los Angeles Clippers

    Jimmy Challenges LouWill to $100K 1-on-1 Game

    Maurice Moton
    via Bleacher Report

    Questions Every Team Still Needs to Answer

    NBA logo

    Questions Every Team Still Needs to Answer

    Grant Hughes
    via Bleacher Report

    Cavs' Best Options to Be LeBron's Sidekick

    NBA logo

    Cavs' Best Options to Be LeBron's Sidekick

    Scott Sargent
    via Bleacher Report

    They're the NBA's Most Surprising Offensive Juggernaut

    NBA logo

    They're the NBA's Most Surprising Offensive Juggernaut

    Adam Fromal
    via Bleacher Report