Los Angeles Clippers Players Making Strongest Case for More Minutes

Michael C. Jones@MikeJonesTweetsContributor IIIDecember 2, 2014

Los Angeles Clippers' Spencer Hawes, right, controls the ball against the Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

As the Los Angeles Clippers navigate through the 2014-15 season, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan will need all the help they can get out of their supporting cast. 

Aside from reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford, newcomer Spencer Hawes headlines the second unit. That group will be a key component in seeing Los Angeles reach its goal of winning an NBA title should it come to fruition. 

Those two, along with some others, are among the players who deserve more minutes. Either their on-court performance or team circumstances warrant it. 

Either way, Los Angeles has significant talent that goes well beyond its Big Three. It's time to see which players deserve to see more action, and why. 

The circumstantial case

The Clippers have issues when it comes to defending wing players. Though they've improved of late, the void at small forward is a major concern.

Matt Barnes is the incumbent, so much of the blame for the inability to slow down perimeter players falls on his shoulders.

He's matching his career-worst defensive rating of 109 points allowed per 100 possessions, and he is netting the lowest steals total of 109 per 100 possessions with just 0.9 after averaging 1.7 for his career. 

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER 29: Matt Barnes #22 of the Los Angeles Clippers celebrates during a game against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena on November 29, 2014 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

In the five games heading into the Clippers' 127-101 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night, opposing small forwards are averaging 16 points per game and shooting 44.2 percent collectively against the Clips. 

A snapshot: 

Gordon Hayward1118.61130
Trevor Ariza513.38513
Josh Smith 717.41217
Marvin Williams25.4007
Courtney Lee410.40013

That's why Doc Rivers would do well to give Reggie Bullock a longer look within the framework of the rotation. Defensively, the Clips need help on the perimeter. The major question is whether Bullock's young legs can be part of the solution to bolster the defense. 

He's got potential on offense, too. 

The second-year pro has proven he can knock down the three-pointer with consistency. In 11 games, he's posted a 42.1 percent mark from beyond the arc. 

That's enough improvement over last year's 30.1 percent mark to warrant an opportunity to see what he can do with extended minutes. With nearly 13 minutes logged on Monday, his time may be approaching. 

The bottom line is that there's enough upside given his youth and play thus far to suggest he's earned more chances.

Playing their way into the mix

Hawes and some other role players have shown they deserve more run in the rotation this season on merit alone. Hawes has the sixth-highest player efficiency rating on the team with a mark of 13.0.

He's tied for fourth with Griffin in the team's defensive win shares behind only Paul and Jordan. 

That's what the Clippers need out of their third big. Giving him more minutes means keeping the starting frontcourt healthy and fresh for the stretch run. 

The conundrum that Rivers finds himself in as both a coach and an executive is that the Clippers are top-heavy. Hawes has to fight for those minutes with two other players in their prime. 

He acknowledged an understanding of his new complementary role going in. To this point, he's done his job more than capably and deserves more run. 

Nov 2, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Hedo Turkoglu (15) fouls Sacramento Kings forward Carl Landry (24) as he goes up for a shot defended by Los Angeles Clippers center Spencer Hawes (10) during the fourth quarter at Staples Cen

Similarly, Hedo Turkoglu has been a bright spot among the bigs. As of Dec. 1, he leads the team in three-point percentage with a 60 percent clip from deep. The three-point shot is a big part of the Clippers' winning formula. They're fourth in the NBA in terms of percentage with a 37.6 mark. 

Turkoglu is limited on defense at this stage in his career, but when grouped in the lineup with Crawford, Griffin, Jordan and Paul, Los Angeles is a whopping plus-33.3. 

That's substantial enough to explore further, especially given his size and long-range shooting ability. 

Addressing a key deficiency

The Clippers are the worst in the league when it comes to offensive rebounding. While they managed relative success last season as the 21st-ranked squad in that regard, the downward trend has to be a concern. 

Enter Ekpe Udoh, who with a paltry 0.4 player efficiency rating has had little overall contribution. But where he does excel is on the offensive glass.

The 6'10" journeyman has a career metric of 4.1 offensive rebounds per 100 possessions. 

This season, he's not hitting that number, with just 3.4 in six appearances. But the potential to make an impact in an area where the Clippers need substantial improvement has to justify some more time in the lineup. 

Oftentimes, opportunity alone can dictate what a player does from a numbers standpoint. An example of such comes from across the hall at Staples Center in the case of Nick Young. 

The Los Angeles Lakers' version of Crawford managed a career-high 16.0 PER on a team that featured him often without an ailing Kobe Bryant in the lineup in 2013-14. He played the third-most minutes in his career during his age-28 season and earned himself a four-year contract in the process. 

The Lakers had a franchise-worst season and needed scoring in the absence of Kobe. Young was in the right place at the right time.

Opportunity matters. 

Udoh might not be the next Young for these Clippers, but he fills a need. He needs to be on the floor more than 2.5 minutes per game. 

Should the sixth man see more minutes? 

Crawford isn't just getting better with age, he's peaking. It's early still, but through 15 games, he's averaging a career-high 23.4 points per 36 minutes. Of the Clippers' 10 most prolific five-man combinations, he's a part of seven of them. 

But he's also averaging 28.7 minutes, his fewest as a Clipper. 

At age 34, the decline in floor time is expected to a degree. However, there's an easy case to be made for giving him a bump in minutes after seeing 30.3 per contest a season ago. 

J.J. Redick's health has a lot to do with keeping Crawford's minutes low, but the scoring machine may have earned it anyway. 

Final thoughts

The Clippers are in the conversation of being among the best in the NBA. On teams as good as this, it's difficult to find minutes for everyone who may deserve it. 

Fundamental problems at the 3 position could very well earn youngsters like Bullock (and perhaps finally C.J. Wilcox) some time at center stage. Elsewhere, role players like Hawes and Udoh are proving their worth in niche roles. 

Each can lay claim to more floor time. 

That's the challenge for Rivers. He's got the unenviable task of making it all work to put out the most efficient squad possible. 

That won't be easy, but it's what he'll be tasked with moving forward. The bright side of all of it is that his fundamental problem is having a lot of options and supreme talent.

It could be much worse.

All advanced statistics via Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.


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