Trying to pick an underrated player on the Los Angeles Clippers this year is quite difficult, but J.J. Redick wins the award. Looking at the rest of the roster, most everyone else has received some time in the spotlight.
DeAndre Jordan was in contention for Defensive Player of the Year. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were both in the Most Valuable Player discussion at different points this season. Then there is the marvelous Jamal Crawford, who was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year. Redick stands out as the most important piece that received the least attention.
Don’t get me wrong, Darren Collison played great, and if Griffin had not been in the MVP discussion the last few months of the season, he would certainly have had a great case. That said, look at Redick’s resume this past season.
According to 82games.com, Redick finished third on the team in simple rating, 2.3 points ahead of Crawford. Redick also posted the highest PER of his career (16.6), usage percentage (21.8) and second-highest true-shooting percentage (59.8), according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Although injuries plagued Redick for a majority of the season, he was extremely effective in the 35 games he did play. He was a major reason why the Clippers offense was so dynamic. Not only did his shooting help spread the floor for Griffin and Paul to maneuver, it also kept defenses from overloading Griffin’s side of the floor. Also, his ability to run off pin-downs and screens kept opposing defenses honest.
How important is Redick’s movement and efficiency to the Clippers offense? Doc Rivers weighed spoke about it to the Los Angeles Times’ Broderick Turner.
I think missing him [Crawford] and J.J. [is big]. It's funny. We're still scoring points, but you feel like scoring is much harder. And I really feel like down the stretch of games, scoring becomes really hard for us because [opponents] are taking stuff away because they know guys aren't there. So, it's not something I want to get used to.
Not only does Redick make it easier for everyone else on the floor to operate, he also takes some pressure off Paul to be the primary ball-handler. Redick’s handles have continually improved each year as a professional. The Redick we see today is fully capable of running pick-and-roll sets or attacking off the dribble via kick-outs. Redick’s offensive game is multi-dimensional and the perfect complement to the Clippers’ primary offensive threats.
Not known for his defensive prowess, Redick has constantly worked on his defensive skills and awareness. Certainly, playing for Stan Van Gundy with the Orlando Magic early in his career allowed him to develop his defensive tools. While he still may not be known for being a good one-on-one defender, he definitely is a good team defender.
Although Redick’s individual defensive stats contradict each other, they are worth noting. According to 82games.com, Redick held opposing shooting guards to a player efficiency rating of 10.8. That number is a bit misleading when measured against his defensive rating from Basketball-Reference.com. Redick’s mark of 109 is nothing to brag about, but his actual defensive impact lies somewhere in the middle.
Team defenders are underrated. They aren't going to make the breathtaking block or hold a player scoreless. However, quality team defenders know the defensive rotations, when to cover and where they should force players that attack off the dribble. Van Gundy puts it very succinctly, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Arash Markazi: “He's always in the right spots on defense.”
The impact Redick has had on the Clippers this season has been easy to see. His constant movement off the ball transformed a good offense to an elite one. His shooting was sorely needed, even though he played just about a third of the regular season. His defense was also important, as the team rushed to learn Rivers’ strong-side system.
It is easy to wonder just how well the Clippers would have fared during the regular season with a healthy Redick for 82 games. The fact that they were able to clinch the third seed with him out most of the year says a lot about the resolve of this team. However, we only saw glimpses of what this team was capable of during the first 82 games. Now the true test comes, as the Clippers will need their most underrated player in order to advance out of Round 1 of the playoffs.