Grading Every Key LA Clippers Player Heading into NBA All-Star Break
The season has been challenging for many teams, but the Los Angeles Clippers have battled adversity and come out ahead, thanks to a strong roster composition. Many of the players on the team have been asked to do far more than what they may have been expected to do. Some have succeeded, others have not, but everyone is being graded accordingly.
Whether it was slow starts by Jared Dudley and Matt Barnes, inopportune injuries to Reggie Bullock and Chris Paul or amazing developments from DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, the team has truly jelled as one, and the results speak for themselves.
With teams rounding the track and setting their sights on the backstretch, which Clippers need to step up and which must overcome adversity to hoist the team on their back?
All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com as of February 11, 2014.
Ryan Hollins: C-
The minutes have been difficult to come by for the seven-year veteran from UCLA. Considering how well Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have been playing all season, Hollins has seen most of his minutes late in blowouts or due to foul trouble. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to change.
Hollins has averaged a meager eight minutes per game over the last two months. Honestly, there is not much of a role for him to play. Regardless, Doc Rivers is comfortable with him because he knows his defensive rotations and competes hard.
Outside of those two traits, Hollins’ play has been underwhelming to say the least. The good news is Hollins is shooting a blistering 73.2 percent from the floor this season. The bad news is he has taken 56 shots and committed 68 fouls.
While his roster spot is not in question, should the Los Angeles Clippers add another big via trade or with their remaining roster spot, his minutes are likely to be cut to zero.
Hedo Turkoglu: B
Many doubted whether or not Hedo Turkoglu could help the Los Angeles Clippers at all this season, let alone make a positive impact in such short time. Turkoglu has been impressive since joining the team. Surprisingly, he actually looks in decent shape despite barely playing the past two seasons.
If your mind is wandering right now trying to picture Turkoglu in game-shape, look no further than two of his performances to start the month of February.
Against the Utah Jazz on the first of the month, Turkoglu stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of six points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals. Eight days later Turkoglu failed to score, but he recorded seven rebounds, three assists and a block against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Albeit those two performances, which came against poor defensive teams, the seed has been planted. Turkoglu looks primed to be a solid contributor the rest of the way, leaving the fans searching for a versatile forward completely satisfied.
Jared Dudley: C-
Injuries, slow starts, adjusting to teammates, whatever else you want to call it, Jared Dudley just has not lived up to expectations. To be fair, expectations needed to be tempered some with Dudley arriving in Los Angeles, but he just does not look like the same productive role player everyone saw with the Phoenix Suns.
To his credit, his shooting splits have been pretty good but not up to Dudley’s high standards over the past few years. Still, according to NBA.com, he is shooting an impressive 43.8 percent from the right corner three and is practically above league average at every mid-range spot on the floor.
Unfortunately, he is shooting a combined 35-of-111 from above the break. When his shot is not falling, he simply does not contribute as much as desired, despite his sound defense.
The hope is that Dudley can recover from his knee tendinitis with his reduced role and minutes. Rivers is going to need a full rotation to finish out the season, but it remains to be seen just how big of a role Dudley will have the rest of the way.
Matt Barnes: C-
Certainly not the best season of his career, Matt Barnes is struggling to say the least. Barnes is shooting 38.4 percent from the floor, the second-lowest percentage of his career. Additionally, Barnes’ 9.6 total-rebound percentage is the lowest mark of his career, while his 9.2 PER is the lowest since his sophomore season.
While it has not helped that Barnes has been battling injuries all season, he simply does not look like the two-way destructive force from last season. Barnes has been losing minutes to nearly every forward the Los Angeles Clippers have had active on the roster, but that looks to be changing.
Barnes has averaged 32.4 minutes per game so far in February, and hr has responded by doing a little bit of everything while stuffing the stat sheet. While his role in the rotation looks solidified, his play is vital to what Rivers wants to do because he is the team’s top perimeter defender.
He has the ability to slide down and play power forward in a small lineup, providing plenty of matchup possibilities. The more he improves as the season plays out, the more dangerous the Clippers become.
Darren Collison: B+
Perhaps no Los Angeles Clipper stepped up his game more than Darren Collison did when Chris Paul went down with a separated shoulder. Collison helped lead the Clippers to a 12-6 record without Paul, while logging 32.3 minutes per game in his absence.
Despite coming off what looked to be a down year with the Dallas Mavericks, Collison has exceeded expectations backing up Paul.
Last season Collison averaged 14.8 points, 6.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and shot 47.1 percent from the floor, per 36 minutes. Those per-36 numbers look nearly identical this season at 15.6 points, 5.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 46.5 percent shooting. Collison has been just as effective coming off the bench with the Clippers as he was as a starter with the Mavericks.
There is no question that Collison will be an X-factor the rest of the season for the Clippers. His ability to lead the second unit, shoot and get to the rim has been extremely valuable. He also allows Rivers to limit Paul’s minutes when needed, because of his solid overall play.
J.J. Redick: B+
There could be a case made that J.J. Redick deserves to be awarded an "A," but his injury woes this season have tempered his contributions somewhat. Still, the sharpshooting guard is connecting on 2.1 threes each game, while shooting a team-high 39.6 percent from distance.
Unfortunately, Redick has only played in 30 games this season, but the Clippers offense has been quite effective with him on the floor.
Redick’s ability to shoot and attack the rim has caused problems for teams all season long. To make matters even more difficult for defenders, Redick is constantly running off screens, which causes the defense to identify him and allows Griffin and Jordan easy duck-in opportunities.
While none of Redick’s injuries have been serious, the Clippers have had to overcome multiple injuries this season. Losing someone with Redick’s talents would put a major damper on the rest of the season, even with Jamal Crawford waiting in the wings. Long story short, Redick could be the key to a deep postseason run this spring, and the team desperately needs him healthy.
Jamal Crawford: A-
Remember last season when Jamal Crawford finished second in Sixth Man of the Year voting? Don’t look now, but he is having an even better season in 2013-14.
His scoring, rebounds and assists are all up over last season. In fact, Crawford is scoring nearly two more points per game. There can be a case made that Crawford has benefited from Paul being injured, but the case can also be made that Rivers is utilizing Crawford as well as any coach has in the last five seasons.
Sitting third on the team in scoring at 18.4 points per game, Crawford has three 30-point outings this season and is clearly excelling in Rivers’ faster-paced offensive system. He remains one of the most lethal one-on-one players in the league, as his crossover and quickness allow him to get off nearly any shot he wants.
The real test will come later in the season when the Clippers need to get stops on defense. Crawford’s offense is so valuable that Rivers has been playing him late in games with Redick. However, will that continue if Crawford’s defense turns into a weakness?
DeAndre Jordan: A-
Did anyone see this coming other than Rivers? Jordan is playing with the passion and intensity that Los Angeles Clippers fans have been waiting to see for years. Jordan is absolutely dominant on the glass, but what has changed?
Rivers has instilled his trust in Jordan, giving him a role and the minutes that Vinny Del Negro refused to assign to him. Jordan no longer has to look over his shoulder to the bench when the fourth quarter begins.
Del Negro refused to play Jordan much, if at all, in the fourth quarter due to his shooting woes at the free-throw line. This season, Rivers trusts his athletic marvel of a rim protector, allowing him to play through mistakes and missed free throws. The difference this season has been like night and day.
Rebounding is not the only thing that Jordan has brought to the table. While he leads the league with 14.1 rebounds per game, Jordan also leads the league in field-goal percentage, shooting 65.6 percent, 4.3 percent higher than second place. Talk about a sight for sore eyes, the Los Angeles Clippers’ investment in Jordan has finally materialized and paid dividends.
Chris Paul: A
The "Point God," also known as Chris Paul, started the season with a historic streak of 13-straight double-doubles. Many, including myself, debated whether we were in the midst of Paul’s greatest season ever. Then Paul separated his shoulder on January 3, and many expected the Los Angeles Clippers to falter in his absence; it was quite the contrary.
Paul’s absence did not derail the team’s season, it made it even stronger. Paul could be seen shouting instructions from the bench during nearly every game he was out injured. Just like Paul would typically do under pressure, the team responded.
Fast forward to February, Paul is back, and the Clippers might be better than ever. Furthermore, his stellar run earlier in the season allowed him the opportunity to go back to New Orleans for one more game—the All-Star Game.
Once the All-Star break is over, beware Clippers opponents. Paul will be playing with a vengeance, a cold heart, looking to crush any player or team standing in his way. Just imagine facing a much-improved Griffin, who proved he can carry a team without Paul, hitting on all cylinders along with Paul’s 19.2 points and 11.1 assists. Yikes.
Blake Griffin: A+
Not much needs to be said about the season Griffin is having. Forget the statistics for a second, if you have not watched Griffin play much this season, then you are missing out on one of the biggest improvements any player has made all year.
Improvements in his aggression level and decisiveness are significantly better and quite obvious. Griffin no longer catches the ball at 17 feet and questions shooting. He no longer waits for the defender to close out on him before attacking. Most importantly, he looks confident at the free-throw line.
Now for the statistics, he has a career-high 23.9 points per game, 9.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 53.7 from the field and 70.2 percent from the line. Simply put, Griffin absolutely earned his starting spot for this season’s All-Star Game.
Much like Doc Rivers did with DeAndre Jordan, he has instilled confidence in Griffin. He wants him attacking immediately, shooting without hesitation and being more aggressive defensive. Griffin has responded with his most complete season of his career.