The Los Angeles Clippers training camp will look quite different this season, despite winning a franchise-best 56 games last season. The team will attempt to win their second straight Pacific Division title, but will be led by new head coach Doc Rivers and a cast of new players.
Despite performing extremely well during the regular season, the team fell in the postseason to a newfound rival. The Clippers failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs, falling to the Memphis Grizzlies in six games.
Now it’s time to clean the slate and start again. Newly re-signed Chris Paul will again lead the Clippers into battle, flanked by Blake Griffin. A new cast of backcourt mates are ready to join forces, hoping to hold off the Golden State Warriors in the division. Meanwhile, the Clippers will be pursuing the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder atop the Western Conference.
Clippers 2012-13 Results
- 56-26 record (.683)
- 1st in Pacific Division
- 4th in Western Conference
- Lost in Western Conference Quarterfinals to Memphis Grizzlies (4-2)
Key Statistics: The Good and Bad
The Clippers offense was one of the most efficient in the league last season, finishing fourth (107.7) in offensive efficiency according to hoopdata.
This can be attributed to Paul’s stellar play at point guard, Griffin’s ability to attack off the bounce and the team’s elite bench scoring. The team should sport one of the most efficient offenses again thanks to the additions of JJ Redick and Jared Dudley to help space the floor.
For as well as the offense performed last season, the rebounding was unable to follow suit. The Clippers finished tied with the New Orleans Hornets and Phoenix Suns for 17th (41.6) in total rebounds per game.
Doc Rivers will make controlling the glass a focal point for DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and the rest of the front court. The more defensive rebounds the team pulls down, the less second chance opportunities are available and more transition opportunities are created.
Biggest Storylines Entering Training Camp
As has been the case the previous two seasons, the Clippers are only going to go as far as Blake Griffin carries them. Chris Paul is one of the best point guards in the league, but he needs some help, meaning the focus turns to Griffin.
So how much has Griffin’s game improved from last season? Has his jumper improved? Will he put in more effort on the glass? Has he developed his post moves? The answers to these questions are vital to the team’s success this season.
Meanwhile, let’s not forget that Griffin has also been hurt the previous two postseasons. In 2012, Griffin played against the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs with a torn medial meniscus in his left knee. In 2013, Griffin could not even start in a vital game six against Memphis due to a badly sprained ankle.
While health is certainly a concern, Griffin needs to show off an improved game if the Clippers are to make a run this spring. Paul may be otherworldly but he needs his superstar power forward to help break down opposing defenses.
The second story to follow, much like Griffin’s development, is DeAndre Jordan’s development. Jordan will be relied upon by Doc Rivers to set the defense and be the backbone on that end of the floor.
Additionally, Jordan’s free-throw shooting woes need to be corrected or else his time on the floor will, once again, be limited. Jordan’s development, or lack thereof, could mean the difference between him remaining on the roster and being dealt at the trade deadline.
Key Additions & Losses
Key Additions: JJ Redick, SG (Four years, $27 million remaining); Jared Dudley, SF (Three years, $12.75 million remaining); Reggie Bullock, SG (Four years, $5.85 million remaining); Darren Collison, PG (Two years, $1.9 million remaining); Antawn Jamison, PF (One year, $884 thousand remaining); Byron Mullens, C (Two years, $2.01 million remaining); Doc Rivers, head coach (Three years, $21 million remaining); Alvin Gentry, associate head coach; Armond Hill, assistant coach; Kevin Eastman, assistant coach; Tyronn Lue, assistant coach
Key Losses: Eric Bledsoe, PG (One year, $2.62 million remaining with PHX); Caron Butler, SF (One year, $8 million remaining with MIL); Chauncey Billups, PG (Two years, $5 million remaining with DET); Ronny Turiaf, C (Two years, $3 million remaining with MIN); Grant Hill, SF (Retired); Vinny Del Negro, head coach; Mark Iavaroni, assistant coach (Hired by TOR); Robert Pack, assistant coach (Hired by OKC); Bob Ociepka, assistant coach
Biggest Addition: JJ Redick
The Clippers' management has been searching for a shooting guard to pair with Chris Paul for two years; they finally found him.
The team pulled off a three-way trade with the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns to land Redick and small forward Jared Dudley. While the Clippers had to give up on the promising Eric Bledsoe and mainstay Caron Butler, the team looks better on paper.
Redick’s shooting ability is something the team desperately needed. Teams have been sagging off players like Bledsoe, Butler and Willie Green the past few seasons to help defend Paul and Griffin’s pick-and-roll.
Redick’s ability to connect off pin-downs and spot ups as well as attack off the dribble should open up the floor for everyone else.
Biggest Loss: Eric Bledsoe
It sure was fun while it lasted. Eric Bledsoe’s impact on the Clippers was easy to see. His hounding defense, highlight-reel plays and contagious energy will surely be missed.
Unfortunately, the Clippers could not warrant matching the kind of offers Bledsoe is likely to receive next summer, as he becomes a restricted free agent.
With Paul’s new contract, Bledsoe’s poor shooting and the lack of ample playing time available, management chose to sell high, and it paid off.
*Depth Chart includes players with non-guaranteed contracts or training camp invites
Training Camp Battle to Watch: Jared Dudley vs. Matt Barnes
Ask anyone, look anywhere, try to pick Doc Rivers’ mind, but it is unlikely anyone will give Matt Barnes the starting nod over Jared Dudley. However, a sneaky training camp battle will emerge between the two small forwards.
First of all, no matter who starts, both players will be competing against each other for playing time, not just at one position but two. Doc Rivers has mentioned he will be looking for who fits into his small-ball lineup this season. Training camp provides Rivers his first look at both wings.
Barnes excelled last season in the small, fast-paced lineups the Clippers used. In fact, Barnes led the Clippers bench in WARP (Wins Above Replacement) with a 6.3 rating, according to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton.
While Barnes may be the better one-on-one defender, something Doc Rivers is sure to enjoy, Dudley is the superior long-range shooter. The Boston College product is a career 40.5 percent three-point shooter and has excelled by spotting up in corners for another elite point guard, Steve Nash.
Additionally, Dudley is a solid defender, but does not have the same athletic ability as Barnes. So while Dudley’s shooting is a major asset, Barnes’ defense and energy are the yang to Dudley’s ying. Expect Dudley to earn the starts, but Barnes to be employed in the small-ball lineups.
Battling For A Roster Spot: Amundson vs. Davies vs. Wayns
The Clippers currently have 13 guaranteed contracts heading into training camp. With only two roster spots available, there is sure to be some competitive practices as the BYU rookie Brandon Davies competes against recently invited Lou Amundson for the likely final front court spot.
Meanwhile, Maalik Wayns will look to clinch the third point guard slot, after being signed late in March of last season. Considering the Clippers already have four players that can handle point guard duties—Paul, Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford and Redick—Wayns will have to impress Rivers and his staff to stay on the roster.
Meanwhile, there have been rumors of the team inviting Gilbert Arenas to camp. While rumors of his inclusion to the training camp roster are still up in the air, Arenas’ presence would put a lot of pressure on Wayns to make the cut.
Biggest X-Factor: DeAndre Jordan
There is no doubt that Doc Rivers is going to do everything in his power to help DeAndre Jordan turn into the team’s defensive anchor. But will Jordan be able to take the coaching and translate that knowledge into production on the floor?
Jordan is a more than capable shot blocker, finishing tied for 15th with 112 blocks last season. The problem is that he will overcommit to blocking a shot, thus leaving his man open for an easy dunk or offensive rebound.
Best-case Scenario: Jordan improves on his 42.4 percent free-throw shooting, and improves his defensive awareness. Due to his improved defense, Jordan plays a career-high 32 minutes per game, continues to shoot over 64 percent from the field and transforms the Clippers defense into one of the league’s best.
Worst-case Scenario: Jordan’s foul shooting haunts him again this season, making it nearly impossible for Doc Rivers to play him late in games. Jordan is also unable to improve his defensive awareness and his rebound rate slips for the second straight season. Due to his inability to anchor the defense, Jordan is traded at the deadline.
Clippers Best-Case Scenario in 2013-14
Blake Griffin’s improved jumper transforms the Paul-Griffin pick-and-roll into the league’s deadliest combination. The Clippers offseason improvements pan out thanks to the hot shooting of JJ Redick and Jared Dudley. Finally, Doc Rivers’ defensive system transforms the Clippers into an elite two-way team.
The Clippers win a franchise best 60 games, run away with the Pacific Division and advance to the Western Conference Finals.
Clippers Worst-Case Scenario in 2013-14
Griffin is unable to improve his jumper, and his post game diminishes due to crowded lanes from teams not respecting their perimeter attack. Paul once again has to carry the team’s offense, but without anyone to score one-on-one in the post, he is unable to lead the Clippers to their second-straight Pacific Division title.
The Clippers finish with a 49-33 record, placing them as the sixth seed and finishing the season with another disappointing first round loss.
Improving off a season which saw the Los Angeles Clippers win more games than any other team in franchise history is going to be difficult. Fortunately, the roster looks to be improved, there is ample depth at nearly every position and Blake Griffin can only get better.
Look for Chris Paul to reemerge as a viable MVP candidate this season, Blake Griffin to average a double-double for the season and the role players to provide exactly what Doc Rivers needs from them.
The Clippers have plenty of work to do in order to prove they belong among the NBA’s elites, but barring unforeseen setbacks, the Clippers should officially reach that level this season.
Prediction: 58-24, No. 2 seed in West, lose in conference finals.
The NBA season is long and grueling, but as training camp approaches there is nothing but hope and potential surrounding one of the most talented rosters the Clippers have ever put on the floor.
All that is left is for the players and coaching staff to give everything they have and play the cards they are dealt. Regardless, it’s going to be a fun season for Clippers fans. Sit back and enjoy.