LA Clippers' Depth Is Now Perfectly Aligned with Team's Star Power

D.J. Foster@@fosterdjContributor IApril 25, 2014

Apr 21, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; The Los Angeles Clippers huddle before the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors in game two during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers are run by stars in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but the battle-tested depth of the roster has has helped keep things in balance this postseason.

That's not unusual for a team coached by Doc Rivers.

Although the Clippers had limited assets to add pieces this offseason, they took advantage when a few familiar faces were cast aside during the year.

The first pickup was Hedo Turkoglu, a player Rivers saw up close and personal many times in Boston's wars with the Orlando Magic. Although Turkoglu can no longer move as well or create for others, he still understands spacing and can knock down open jumpers.

Perhaps most importantly, there doesn't seem to be any misconception about his role or what he's on the roster to do, as might be the case with a younger player.

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 19:  Glen Davis #0 of the Los Angeles Clippers dives for a loose ball over Hilton Armstrong #57 of the Golden State Warriors in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on Apri
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The next addition was Glen Davis, a player Rivers won a championship with in Boston. Davis filled the elusive "third big man" role that the Clippers had failed to occupy with players like Ryan Hollins and B.J. Mullens.

While it's always tough to find valuable big men on a discount, part of the benefit of having a coach like Rivers is the ability to recruit valuable players when they become available. The playing time probably didn't hurt either.

Finally, the Clippers added Danny Granger after he was bought out by the Philadelphia 76ers.

In Granger, the Clippers picked up another capable outside shooter, once again keeping the focus on spreading the floor while adding versatility and size.

While Turkoglu, Davis and Granger haven't been spectacular, they have each been dependable, low-mistake options off the bench. With Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison handling much of the scoring in the second unit, that's primarily what has been needed.

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 24:  Jamal Crawford #11 of the Los Angeles Clippers shoot over Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on April 24, 2014 in Oak
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Clippers' bench is filled by big names with plenty of experience in pressure situations. All year, when one man has gone down, another has stepped in seamlessly.

Make no mistake, though. This year's bench is less talented than last year's by a wide margin. Last year's unit was one of the best in the entire the league, led by Eric Bledsoe—now a star with the Phoenix Sunsand Matt Barnesnow a starter for the Clippers.

That second unit dominated as a collective, particularly when it came to forcing turnovers, but the pieces didn't always mesh together once they were separated.

Perhaps the biggest example of this came in the last playoff game against the Memphis Grizzlies last year, when head coach Vinny Del Negro was mixing and matching strange lineups in an effort to get anything going, but still ended up losing 118-105. 

Part of that has to do with a lot of the talent and skill sets overlappingparticularly in the frontcourtbut the Clippers never really had a sense of what their best lineups were and which players played well next together.

There's been less variance with the bench this year no matter what lineups are playing together, and we've seen it as the Clippers have been hit with the injury bug.

Chris Paul and Doc Rivers explained to Dan Woike of the Orange Country Register how the injuries have made an impact:

“It doesn’t matter,” Paul said. “That’s why the teams like the Spurs have been so good for so long. Everybody understands the goal, and that’s what we’re trying to build here.”

The foundation for building what San Antonio or any great franchise has is trust, and the Clippers are getting there.

“That’s a belief in the system and in each other,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I say it all the time; we pay everyone, not just a few guys who get all the accolades. We pay them all, and everybody has to be ready.”

By not changing much regardless of who is on the court, the Clippers have built a template for expectations, and that’s helped players fill in when called upon.

“One thing I’ve had a really opportunity to learn and enjoy this season is regardless of who is coming in or no matter what coach is talking to us, it’s always one voice,” Paul said. “Everyone is on the same page. Anybody who comes in has to understand that, and that’s how it’s gone.”

One of the more difficult aspects of being a bench player is never really having a steady role and having those expectations change every game, but the Clippers have done well to retain consistency even while bringing in new faces.

The contributions might not be noisy, but we've seen the bench hold leads and maintain momentum in the playoffs against the Golden State Warriors and go up 2-1 in the series.

Of course, it doesn't hurt when the role players can focus on the little things, as Blake Griffin has been carrying a great deal of the scoring load against Golden State's smaller lineups.

Collison spoke with Bill Plashcke of the Los Angeles Times about Griffin's huge performance in Game 3:

"He's everything to our team right now,'' said Collison. "He's playing with so much enthusiasm and focus and power and mental toughness."

Collison shook his head.

"Blake understands he can't be stopped, and sometimes that's scary, you know what I mean?" Collison said.

Ultimately, the responsibility is being shared properly for the first time in Los Angeles.

Griffin has stepped up his play dramatically, becoming equals with Chris Paul and making life easier for his injured, flu-ridden point guard. Paul, meanwhile, has stepped up in the clutch, as you'd naturally expect.

Still, don't discount what's happening while Griffin is on the bench and Paul is pacing himself. With shooters all over the floor, Davis providing solid minutes to spell the starting bigs and everyone being on the same page, the Clippers' bench appears to be strong enough to help the Clippers make a title run. 


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