5 Areas LA Clippers Must Upgrade This Offseason
The best season in the history of the Los Angeles Clippers franchise ended with a thud, mainly due to weaknesses that could no longer be disguised. Despite the hopeful jubilance from the addition of Doc Rivers and Chris Paul’s historic double-double streak to open the season, a dark cloud cast by Donald T. Sterling formed. Unfortunately, the cloud coincided with the Oklahoma City Thunder sapping the life from the ailing Clippers and exposing flaws within the roster.
With the offseason now upon the Clippers, Doc Rivers and company must patch holes in a reeling team. Holes which are not only emotional, but which betray physical weaknesses within the roster. The Clippers were exposed for what they could not do on the floor and who they could not defend.
There are five main areas that need to be addressed this summer; a majority of them are the same areas that have plagued the Clippers for the past few seasons.
The position has long been a critical area of need for the Los Angeles Clippers. Last summer, the team re-signed Matt Barnes and traded for Jared Dudley. The thought was that a platoon consisting of Dudley’s shooting and Barnes’ energy and defense, would allow Rivers to adjust his lineups in his favor, pending matchups. That did not happen.
Dudley began the year as the starter but battled tendinitis in his knee all season and shot 36 percent from three, his worst season since he was a rookie. This led to Barnes taking over as the starter, which was a roller-coaster ride, as he shot below his career average from the field.
The Clippers desperately need a long, athletic perimeter defender. Kevin Durant torched the Clippers; much like many other small forwards did this season. Until the team can address the role of a perimeter stopper, the team will struggle to get the stops it needs in close games.
Continuing with the defensive theme, the Clippers struggled mightily on defense during the playoffs. Much like the season prior, their regular season numbers looked fine. According to NBA.com, the Clippers finished eighth in defensive efficiency during the regular season. However, that rating dropped as the team allowed 108.6 points per 100 possessions during the playoffs, which would have ranked 28th during the regular season.
Needless to say, the trade of Eric Bledsoe definitely impacted the perimeter defense. Additionally, Matt Barnes is much more of a pest than a perimeter stopper. Also, DeAndre Jordan needs to improve his rim protection and post defense. For as much as he improved overall this season, his rim protection still needs work.
Jordan allowed opponents to shoot 49.4 percent within five feet of the rim, according to SportVU’s tracking cameras. Compare that against Serge Ibaka’s 43.9 percent and Roy Hibbert’s 41.4 percent, and you can see quite a difference.
Defense is the first thing Doc Rivers will attempt to improve this summer. His team struggled in the playoffs to prevent teams from scoring. Russell Westbrook and Durant were able to finish off the Clippers because of the porous defense.
Rebounding remains an Achilles heel for the Los Angeles Clippers, as they finished 20th in total rebound percentage, according to NBA.com. Despite the athletic talents of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers were again unable to finish in the top half of the league in rebounding.
This has much less to do with Griffin and Jordan, unlike last season. Both performed exceptionally well on the glass, with Jordan leading the league in rebounding. The problem areas come from the bench and the small forward position. The team does not have a reliable rebounding forward off the bench or at the small forward position. This is one upgrade that desperately needs to happen because it is clearly impacting games.
Furthermore, small guard lineups have a major effect on the team’s rebounding numbers. Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick are not known as rebounding guards. The problem compounds when two of those players are on the floor at the same time, which happened quite a bit this season.
Give Doc Rivers credit, he certainly tried his best to help supplement the depth of his frontcourt. Signing Hedo Turkoglu, Danny Granger and Glen Davis helped for moments at a time, but neither of the three was ready to step into a role the team desperately needed. Each one brought a unique skill to the table, but those skills were diminished by the time they suited up for the team.
Moving forward, the Clippers need someone who can spell Jordan or Griffin. Griffin proved that he can handle the rigors of playing as a small five because the Clippers were capable of spacing the floor around him. However, a combo forward who can play with Griffin or Jordan would be a major upgrade.
Additionally, frontcourt depth includes finding another small forward for the rotation. The jury is still out on Jared Dudley’s play, but the Clippers have their own first-round pick this summer and have Reggie Bullock waiting in the wings. Someone else needs to emerge.
According to Hispanosnba.com, the Los Angeles Clippers were the third oldest team in the NBA last season. Believe it or not, they were one-tenth of a year younger than the prehistoric Brooklyn Nets. While the Clippers core is young, the supporting pieces are old and on the decline.
Armed with the 28th pick in the draft this summer, the Clippers need to find a young player to develop. The roster has many areas that must be addressed, so there should be no reason to draft for need, which will allow the team to select the best player available. Adding the 28th pick to the promising Reggie Bullock could give the team a shot in the arm of youth. This is especially important after dealing their 2015 first-round pick to the Boston Celtics last summer for Doc Rivers.