The Los Angeles Clippers bench has been one of the best in the league thanks to the ability to create offense and having the versatility to match up with other teams’ units.
According to hoopstats, the Clippers bench is second in the league in bench scoring, first in efficiency and first in defensive efficiency. While the bench is one of the deepest in the league, the key to the success of the bench is each player buying into their roles.
Roles are extremely important on championship-caliber teams, because it allows a clear vision for every player on the roster. When players buy into their roles and the team is winning, it is much easier for chemistry to build.
So what is each Clipper’s role off the bench?
Crawford has long been known to be a volume scorer who is capable of filling up the basket in a hurry. His downfall comes when he has asked to fit into a unit that does not need him to take a large amount of shots. This is one of the reasons why he has bounced around multiple teams.
Now that he is a Clipper, his role has become more defined and he has been able to succeed in a situation that most teams have been unable to create. As a result, Crawford ranks sixth in the league in plus-minus.
Finally, Jamal is the go-to player on the second unit. Vinny Del Negro has given him the freedom to seek out his own shot. The attention Crawford receives has only benefited the Clippers’ reserves.
"He's treated like a star," Matt Barnes, the reserve forward who often plays alongside Crawford, told the Los Angeles Times. "They're sending two guys at him, sometimes three, and shading him, and he knows when there's that much attention on him that someone else is going to be open. I've been the recipient of a lot of his good passes."
Mini-LeBron has been on an absolute tear since the playoffs last season, scoring a career-high 8.7 points per game and recording a 19.83 PER. Currently first in the league in steals per 48 minutes, Bledsoe’s defense has been a catalyst for the Clippers’ bench.
Playing next to Jamal Crawford takes some of the playmaking responsibility out of Bledsoe’s hands, which is not a bad thing, considering his lack of a reliable jumper. Without Crawford or Chris Paul on the floor, teams would continually play off of Bledsoe and force him to pull up and shoot the ball.
This season, Bledsoe has consistently been in attack mode, thanks in large to Del Negro realizing that his second unit is better off playing at a faster tempo than his starters.
According to hoopdata, Bledsoe is currently attempting 7.2 shots per game, with 3.2 of them coming at the rim. His athletic ability and strength is allowing him to finish a career best, 61.9 percent of his shots at the rim. Meanwhile, his True Shooting Percentage is also at a career high of 52.8 percent. The athletic guard has become more efficient playing with a legitimate scoring threat in Jamal Crawford.
After spending two lackluster seasons across the hallway as a Los Angeles Laker, Matt Barnes has come alive as a Clipper.
Barnes was signed to a veteran minimum contract in September and was expected to split time with Grant Hill at small forward. Hill has been injured all season and Barnes has taken advantage of his opportunity to contribute by averaging a career-best 10.8 points per game.
The swingman’s versatility and athleticism have allowed him to fit in perfectly on the second unit and serve as the Clippers’ late-game wing defender. Additionally, playing alongside two athletic guards in an uptempo offense has allowed Barnes to utilize his length on defense by trapping opposing guards and leaking out into transition for easy baskets. He is shooting a career-high 3.2 shots per game at the rim, most of them as dunks and layups in transition.
There may not have been a more disappointing player last season than Odom. After being traded from the Lakers to the Dallas Mavericks, Odom’s play spiraled downhill and he eventually left the team. The Clippers, needing a forward to help close out games with Blake Griffin, acquired Odom with the hope that being back home in Los Angeles would spark his competitiveness and turn him back into the Odom of old.
Despite Odom entering the season overweight and out of shape, he has recovered well and is now an important piece off the bench. Since the beginning of December, Odom’s body has begun to regain form and is allowing him to make a much needed impact on the glass. His defensive rebound rate is at an all-time high, according to hoopdata.
Overall, Odom will be counted on to help close out games and split time with DeAndre Jordan. Continuing the Clippers’ theme off the bench, Odom’s versatility is key. He allows the guards to pressure the ball while he plays somewhat of a center field. He also provides the defense to match up in multiple ways because he can guard stretch-forwards and post players.
Turiaf’s main attribute is the energy he provides. No matter if he is on the floor or at the end of the bench, Turiaf is leading the cheers. That might not sound like much, but he is essentially serving as the third big man and understanding his minutes will fluctuate each game is important.
While he may be undersized at only 250 pounds, he is effective playing with the second unit because of his agility and effort. He does not see a lot of touches on offense and is not a standout defender, but he challenges shots at the rim and provides the type of intangibles the team lost when Reggie Evans left.
The Clippers bench was constructed very meticulously. Each individual player fills a major role, even if Crawford or Bledsoe is replaced with Chauncey Billups or Barnes with Grant Hill, the philosophy remains the same.
Most teams do not have the luxury of such a deep bench. Even if they do, often times chemistry prevents them from being effective. That is not the case with the Clippers. Each player complements the other, Vinny Del Negro allows them to play to their strengths and they all play for one common goal, much like the starters: to win.
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