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Power Ranking Every Key LA Clippers Player Before Season's End

Oren FriedmanCorrespondent IIMarch 20, 2014

Power Ranking Every Key LA Clippers Player Before Season's End

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    Blake Griffin and Chris Paul have the Clippers looking dominant.
    Blake Griffin and Chris Paul have the Clippers looking dominant.Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Locked into the No. 3 seed out West, the Los Angeles Clippers can credit their sound coaching and tremendous talent for their success this season.

    Lob City is just one of a handful of teams with two players that should get MVP third-vote considerations in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Late-season additions of Glen Davis and Danny Granger have made this squad even deeper.

    Despite major players like Paul, Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick all missing extended periods of time, Los Angeles has not skipped a beat. The team looks poised for a second consecutive Pacific Division crown and home-court advantage in at least the first round of the postseason.

    Since the turn of the calendar year, Lob City has been trouncing opponents. The team's 112.2 offensive rating is the highest in the league, while the defense has remained among the stingiest top 10.

    Until recently, the Clippers had the best point differential in the entire league, before getting passed by the machine precision of the San Antonio Spurs. Frankly, this is the best Lob City has looked since CP3 bolted New Orleans for Hollywood.

    So how has the Clips’ personnel enabled their success? Do some players deserve more credit than others? Who has underachieved this season?

    Let’s rank the top 10 Clippers of the 2013-14 season. We will take into account their entire season in Los Angeles while also evaluating recent performances and expectations for the playoffs.

10. Jared Dudley

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    Jared Dudley has had a tough time in Lob City.
    Jared Dudley has had a tough time in Lob City.Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    2013-14 stats: 7.2 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.5 APG

    Jared Dudley has been a disaster in Los Angeles this season.

    His 7.2 points per game are the lowest of his career. The sharpshooter's 39.1 percent three-point shooting clip is respectable; however, he has not cashed in on the open looks afforded to him by Paul and Griffin.

    After starting the season at the small forward spot, Dudley has nearly fallen out of the rotation entirely. Hampered by injuries, he has not played since a March 4 win against the Phoenix Suns.

    His in-season drop-off has been tremendous.

    In November, the Boston College product was averaging 28.3 minutes per contest. In February, he averaged just 17.0 minutes per game.

    Dudley should hope that he rediscovers his game over the last month of the season. Otherwise, the newly acquired Granger could replace him in the rotation.

9. Danny Granger

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    Danny Granger is still adjusting to his new team.
    Danny Granger is still adjusting to his new team.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    2013-14 stats since joining LAC: 8.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 0.9 APG

    Just a shell of his former All-Star self, Danny Granger will still be relied upon for his sound team defense and rebounding down the stretch.

    At 6’8” with a 7’1” wingspan, he has averaged 5.1 rebounds over his career. With no major center off the bench, he might be expected to masquerade as a stretch 4. He'll have to battle some bigger forwards for rebounding position as a result.

    Although Granger has been shooting just 43.1 percent since donning red, white and blue, his 18-point, six-rebound performance in a big home win against the Golden State Warriors was promising.

    The Twittersphere also took notice of his breakout game:

    Tonight was Danny Granger's highest-scoring game (18 points) since April 19th, 2012.

    — Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) March 13, 2014

    In fact, in the eight games that he has appeared in, the New Mexico standout has scored in double figures in five of them.

    Continuing to get comfortable with his new teammates and adapting to the offense should yield dividends. Cultivated under the auspices of defensive mastermind Frank Vogel and the Indiana Pacers, Granger could prove most of his worth on defense.

8. Glen Davis

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    Big Baby needs to get in better game shape.
    Big Baby needs to get in better game shape.Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    2013-14 stats since joining LAC: 3.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG

    The Clippers’ new backup big man Glen Davis offers solid team and individual defense for a porous front line that was offering a combination of Ryan Hollins, Antawn Jamison and Byron Mullens as makeshift enforcers.

    The sample size is too small to holistically evaluate Davis’ defensive impact. However, his knowledge of Doc Rivers’ strong-side schemes has aided in his acclimation in Lob City.

    On the offensive end, he has seriously struggled.

    Averaging a career 8.8 points per game, "Big Baby" has scored in double digits just once since joining the Clippers.

    Getting into game shape over the next month will be a major hurdle. Although Davis can still be relied upon to stymie burly offensive front lines (think Memphis Grizzlies), his contributions on offense will also be key.

7. J.J. Redick

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    The Clippers could use J.J. Redick down the stretch.
    The Clippers could use J.J. Redick down the stretch.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    2013-14 stats: 15.7 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.2 APG

    Plagued by injuries throughout the year, J.J. Redick has played in just 30 games this season.

    In the few games that he has appeared in, he has been dynamite. He is averaging a career-best 15.7 points per game. Per ESPN.com, his 17.0 player efficiency rating is also the best of his career.

    Having been sidelined the last 18 games with a bulging disc in his back, Redick finally returned to practice after a Clippers’ loss against the Denver Nuggets.

    Still, as Rivers told reporters before practice, there is still no timetable for his return, per Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles: "If J.J. comes back tomorrow we’re good. If J.J. comes back in three we’re good. If J.J. comes back in eight weeks and we’re still alive, we’re good. I don’t think there is a timetable."

    Although the Clips have weathered the storm sans Redick, they really need him to make a deep playoff run.

6. Matt Barnes

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    Matt Barnes has been outstanding since the trade deadline passed.
    Matt Barnes has been outstanding since the trade deadline passed.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    2013-14 stats: 9.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG

    After a tumultuous start to the season fending off injuries, Matt Barnes is back to his stellar self.

    Since the trade deadline passed, he has been averaging 15.4 points per contest on 42 percent shooting from the field.

    In that time, he has scored in single digits just once, in a 110-100 streak-snapping loss to the Denver Nuggets.

    Barnes’ timely cuts and sound perimeter defense will be important down the stretch. If he can continue his hot shooting, the Clippers’ lethal offense will be all the more potent.

5. Darren Collison

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    Darren Collison has been enjoying a great season.
    Darren Collison has been enjoying a great season.Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    2013-14 stats: 10.8 PPG, 3.5 APG

    Coming into his own after Chris Paul went down with a shoulder injury, Darren Collison has been a more than serviceable backup point guard this season.

    Since January 1, he has been averaging 13.3 points on a remarkable 48.3 percent field-goal shooting. The UCLA standout has been averaging 5.1 assists per game in that time frame as well.

    He is still susceptible to being beaten by quick guards with explosive first steps, but his team defense is a manifestation of his high basketball IQ.

    DC has served something of a utility threat for Lob City as well.

    Coming off the bench for most of the season, he stepped into the starting lineup when Paul went down. After Redick and Crawford were injured, Collison even had some starts at shooting guard alongside CP3 in the backcourt.

    Recovering from a stomach virus that saw him sidelined in games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Nuggets, he should be ready for the rest of the season.

4. Jamal Crawford

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    Jamal Crawford is having another solid season.
    Jamal Crawford is having another solid season.Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    2013-14 stats: 18.7 PPG, 3.2 APG

    The man with the smoothest crossover in basketball, Jamal Crawford has been lights out for the Clippers this season.

    His 18.7 points per game are the third-highest of his career, while his 42.1 percent shooting is the fourth-best.

    Even advanced statistics back up his solid season.

    His 17.6 PER is second only to his 18.4 PER in the 2009-10 campaign. That season saw Crawford win the Sixth Man of the Year Award as a member of the Atlanta Hawks.

    Like Collison, he has also been something a utility man. He has been pushed into the starting lineup in light of injures to Redick. He has already started in 23 games this season.

    Assuming that Redick returns from injury, Crawford should be able to resume his normal role off the bench.

3. DeAndre Jordan

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    Will DeAndre Jordan win the Most Improved Player of the Year Award?
    Will DeAndre Jordan win the Most Improved Player of the Year Award?David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    2013-14 stats: 10.2 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 2.4 BPG

    A contender for the Most Improved Player Award, DeAndre Jordan has been a beast for the Clippers this season.

    He is averaging a double-double of 10.2 points and 13.8 rebounds. He leads the league in boards, averaging a full rebound more than big men Kevin Love and Andre Drummond.

    He also leads the league in field-goal percentage at 66.4 percent and is fourth in blocks, averaging 2.4 per contest.

    Even his free-throw shooting has improved. Jordan is shooting 45.7 percent from the charity stripe this season, which is up from his 43.3 percent career average.

    Jordan’s game has been a revelation for Clipper Nation this season. Continuing his improved play through the playoffs will be critical in measuring his incredible development.

2. Chris Paul

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    The Clippers are 13-3 since CP3 returned from injury.
    The Clippers are 13-3 since CP3 returned from injury.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    2013-14 stats: 18.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 10.9 APG

    The perennial MVP candidate, Chris Paul continues to be the gold standard for point guards in the league.

    His 10.9 assists per game lead the league by a hefty margin. His 2.44 steals per game are just behind Ricky Rubio’s league-leading 2.45 steals per contest.

    Although Paul’s 25.8 PER is the lowest of his three seasons in Los Angeles, the Point God is playing on the best team of his career.

    Since CP3 returned from a shoulder injury, Lob City is a sterling 13-3.

    Paul has the Clippers playing at an elite level, as they chase the Oklahoma City Thunder for the coveted No. 2 spot in the Western Conference.

1. Blake Griffin

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    Blake Griffin has been the Clippers' MVP this season.
    Blake Griffin has been the Clippers' MVP this season.Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    2013-14 stats: 24.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.7 APG

    Lob City’s MVP this season, Blake Griffin should finish third in league-wide MVP voting, behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

    He really came to his own while Paul was recovering from injury.

    Since January 1, he is averaging a ridiculous 26.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists. He is also shooting 53.8 percent from the field and 70.8 percent from the charity stripe.

    Griffin looks comfortable on the block or at the high post. He has been able to initiate the fast break and dominate slower or smaller opponents in the half court.

    He has been especially adept in the 4-5 pick-and-roll. His elevated passing makes him a challenge for opposing 4s and 5s.

    Operating out of the high post, he can either drive to the basket or throw the soft lob to Jordan.

    Of course, his usual pyrotechnics are there as well.

    Given Griffin’s development this season, Lob City might be the only team in basketball that can boast of featuring two of the best players at their respective positions.

     

    All statistics accurate as of March 20, 2014. Statistics used from NBA.com/Stats, ESPN.com and Basketball-Reference.com.

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