Which Other LA Clippers Are Stepping Up Around Chris Paul?

Ehran Khan@@ekhansworldContributor IIINovember 14, 2013

Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford have given Chris Paul all the help he can desire.
Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford have given Chris Paul all the help he can desire.Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Clippers' supporting cast is determined to pick up Chris Paul this season and ensure that another early-round playoff failure doesn't come to pass.

The knock on the Clippers over the past couple seasons has been that they rely too much on Paul to carry the team, especially in the playoffs.

The aspect of other players failing to support Paul has been tabbed as the biggest reason why the Clippers have not won even one second-round postseason game since CP3 came aboard.

Apparently, that message has been received loud and clear in the Clippers' locker room.

Paul is still Lob City's main attraction though, already building a strong case for MVP consideration two weeks into this season. 

He sits in the No. 4 spot in NBA.com's latest Race to the MVP Ladder and has masterfully orchestrated the league's second-most prolific offense, in terms of points per possession, going into Wednesday night's action.

Paul's numbers are up across the board. He leads the NBA in assists and ranks second in steals, posting career highs in both categories. He's scoring more than 20 points per game for the first time in five years and had missed just two of 57 free-throw attempts through his first eight games.

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He also became the only player since at least 1985 (as far back as Basketball-Reference.com can track such stats) to record 40-plus points, 15-plus assists and five-plus steals in one game.

All that per-minute productivity has him ranked fourth in the league in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) at 28.4, also his highest mark in five years.

He hasn't had to go it alone though. Here are four other Clippers who have stepped up their play in the embryonic stages of the season.

Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin is the key to the Clippers' success.

In order for L.A. to make the deep postseason run that their fans have come to expect, Griffin has to play like the superstar that he has been marketed as by the franchise.

So far this season, he has risen to the challenge.

Griffin is back to being a nightly 20-point, 10-rebound machine. He has posted five 20/10 games in the season's first eight contests after pulling off that feat just 17 times total in 2013.

He's also shooting a career-best 57 percent from the field en route to those 22 points a game and has cut his turnover rate to a career low.

It's been a pleasure to see Griffin's progress on the offensive end. He's shooting 55 percent out of the post and was ranked sixth in the NBA in points per possession on post-ups by My Synergy Sports' database going into Wednesday night's game.

Blake Griffin is punishing opponents down on the block.
Blake Griffin is punishing opponents down on the block.Noah Graham/Getty Images

The perennial All-Star has also looked more comfortable with his jump shot.

According to NBA.com, only LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay have attempted more shots between 16 and 24 feet out among NBA forwards. Of the 18 forwards with more than 15 such attempts, Griffin is sixth in field goal percentage, ahead of more renowned mid-range marksmen like Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett.

As much of a weapon as he is on the offensive end, it's Griffin's evolution on defense that will matter the most to the Clippers.

He has yet to master Doc Rivers' defensive schemes the way Garnett did in Boston, but according to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com, Griffin is making strides towards that goal as well. So far, the Clippers have been 14 points per 100 possessions stingier on defense with Griffin on the court, per NBA.com.

DeAndre Jordan

To the mockery of NBA pundits everywhere, Rivers tried to push DeAndre Jordan as the third component to the Clippers' "Big Three" this offseason.

While he's got a long way to go to reach that level, Jordan is playing like he believes he's deserving of the label.

The charismatic center is averaging a double-double for the first time in his career and currently sits third in the league in rebounding heading into Wednesday night's tilt against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

DeAndre Jordan is third in the NBA in rebounding, just behind Dwight Howard.
DeAndre Jordan is third in the NBA in rebounding, just behind Dwight Howard.Bob Levey/Getty Images

When Jordan is within range of a rebound, he sucks it right up. According to NBA.com's snazzy new player tracking data, Jordan is fifth in the league in rebounding percentage when within 3.5 feet of the ball.

He's also setting career highs in steal rate and assist rate while turning the ball over less frequently than before.

Unfortunately, his foul shooting is still a disaster.

With no reliable backup bigs on their roster, the Clippers are leaning heavily on Jordan's defense and rebounding, especially late in close games.

If poor performance from the stripe forces him out of those tight contests, the Clippers will be vulnerable in protecting the rim and the glass. 

J.J. Redick

New addition J.J. Redick has brought an extra dimension of outside shooting to the Clippers lineup. Rivers can use him in a fashion similar to the way he deployed Ray Allen in Boston.

Redick is averaging a career-best 16 points per game and is tied for fifth in the league in total points out of catch-and-shoot situations. Although his three-point stroke is still below his career mark, Redick is shooting a sizzling 59 percent on his two-point shots.

J.J. Redick is proving that he's more than just a standstill shooter.
J.J. Redick is proving that he's more than just a standstill shooter.Noah Graham/Getty Images

He's also shown a penchant for making plays off the bounce when defenses overplay his shot. Redick flies around screens and turns them into impromptu pick-and-rolls, getting into the paint for kick-outs and drop-off passes.

Remember that neat stat about Jordan being fifth in the league in percentage of rebounds per opportunity? Well, Redick is first in that metric.

He's usually leaking out early in transition, but when he sticks around to rebound, he can help on the boards, too.

Jamal Crawford

Jamal Crawford is doing what Jamal Crawford always does, but his efficiency has never been higher.

Through eight games, Crawford is shooting 49 percent from the field and a blistering 47 percent from three-point range, good enough for a true shooting percentage that blows his previous career best mark out of the water.

He's putting up a career high in points per minute as well, and his PER is the highest it has been since 2010—when he took home the NBA Sixth Man of the Year trophy.

In addition to creating his own shot and carrying the offensive burden for a bench-heavy lineup, Crawford has also functioned as a secondary playmaker and deadly catch-and-shoot option when taking Jared Dudley's spot with the starting unit.

The Clippers' five-man lineup—which Rivers likes to finish games with—is absolutely pummeling opponents, averaging 125.4 points per 100 possessions and outscoring the opposition by 31 points per 100 possessions (albeit in a tiny sample size), according to NBA.com.

If these four Clippers keep their play up all season in conjunction with Paul's nightly brilliance, L.A. will be one of the most feared teams in the Western Conference heading into the playoffs.

*Note: All stats updated through Tuesday, Nov. 12.

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