The fact the Los Angeles Clippers will likely have to play the remainder of the 2013-14 regular season without shooting guard J.J. Redick, who is likely out until the playoffs with shoulder and back injuries, is going to hamper lofty aspirations to improve upon a record-setting 56-win campaign the season prior.
With Jamal Crawford battling an ailment of his own with a strained left calf, those goals figure to prove even more difficult to attain.
That's because the Clippers assembled a team built to compete for Western Conference supremacy by methodically upgrading the areas where they were deficient.
A coaching change in Doc Rivers coupled with Redick's signing paid dividends in the areas of set plays and catch-and-shoot brilliance (rendering Redick a de facto second coming of Ray Allen) until the injuries derailed Los Angeles' momentum.
A Match Made in Clippers Heaven
Redick is the ideal complement to superstar Chris Paul and the Clippers' offense. When he's out, Crawford has the scoring ability to pick up the slack.
With both guards out indefinitely, it's going to require newcomer Danny Granger to be thrust into a position where he has to contribute right away. That's a lot to ask of an oft-injured player who hasn't logged significant minutes since his heyday with the Indiana Pacers.
With Paul back and healthy after missing 19 games, the point guard will have to accelerate the learning curve that goes with integrating Granger into the offense.
Redick is one of the best spot-up shooters in the league and has proven himself to be as efficient as ever playing under Rivers, posting a career-high 17.1 efficiency rating according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Replacing his special set of skills is going to prove difficult, and with Crawford out as well, the challenge will be greater.
After a first-round playoff exit that saw the Memphis Grizzlies eliminate the Clips with a 4-2 series win, the deficiencies were clear. Los Angeles ranked 16th in three-point percentage in 2012-13 and needed a perimeter player to take advantage of Paul's ability to open up the floor with dribble penetration.
In addition, Redick is a master at moving without the ball similar to Allen. What's more is that his teammates were finding him in bunches as evidenced by a gaudy 85.7 percent of his field goals coming off assists, per NBA.com.
With an elite point guard to hit him in his favorite spots, Redick has thrived, helping vault the Clippers into a firm position as No. 1 in the Pacific Division through 61 games. Without him in the lineup, the Clippers simply aren't as good.
Crawford Can't Come Back Fast Enough
For his part, Crawford has proven capable in Redick's absence, recently propelling the Clips to a signature win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Feb. 23. He turned in a masterful performance including 36 points and four assists on 13-of-20 shooting from the field.
In 23 starts this season, Crawford has scored 20.6 points per game and shot 40.2 percent from the field, proving that when Redick's out, the Clippers' offense can still function at a high level.
Crawford's scoring from everywhere, as he usually does, so the Clippers will bank on getting him back to form in order to keep the offense flowing.
What to Expect from Granger
Now, the questions start to pile up as to where the production will come from. Rivers could thrust more offensive responsibility upon Granger once he can finally get onto the court and showcase how he fits.
The former All-Star hasn't averaged over 25 minutes per game since the 2011-12 season and may need to log substantial time immediately.
The answers are coming to the question of whether or not he's up to the task. But fortunately, the Clips will have their leader to weather the storm.
Paul is the catalyst to both Redick's resurgence and the Clippers' success as they enter the final portion of the regular season. As long as he stays in the lineup, Los Angeles will survive until the reinforcements of Crawford and Redick arrive.