When it comes to the playoffs, at the end of a grueling 82-game schedule, outlasting your opponents can mean just as much as outperforming them initially. The Clippers roster, with some key additions and players returning to health, are set up to have quality players on floor for all 48 minutes.
On the whole, the Clippers bench hasn't been quite as effective this season as it was the last year.
In the 2012-2013 season, the bench was third in scoring at 40.1 points per game and second in efficiency rating at 46.5. So far this year, the Clippers are 18th and 23rd in those categories, respectively.
Still, the Clippers seem to live and die based on the team's bench performances. The Clippers are 20-3 when their bench wins the efficiency battle, and just 22-16 when they lose in this category.
They have winning records either way, but the bench has lost more battles than they have won this season.
Part of this is due to the flux created when starters like Chris Paul and J.J. Redick have gone down, throwing off the normal rotation and testing the limits of the Clipper reserves. The departure of Eric Bledsoe to the Phoenix Suns contributed to the drop-off as well.
That all looks set to change for the better now, as the Clippers made some excellent veteran acquisitions at the trade deadline.
Thanks to Doc Rivers' shrewd tactic of standing back and waiting until the dust settled, the Clippers were able to snag two quality players in Glen Davis and Danny Granger off the waiver wire. This bolsters their roster to the extent that they now have a solid ten-player rotation when everyone is healthy.
Granger is the more exciting prospect of the Clippers' trade deadline coup. It was not long ago that Mr. Granger was averaging over 20 points a game for the Indiana Pacers, but injuries have decimated his playing time and production in recent years. Finally healthy, Granger is ready to take on whatever role is necessary in LA, according to the Associated Press, via foxnews.com:
"The point I'm at now, coming to this team, whatever role Doc sees fit for me is the role that I would do," Granger said. "I'm not one of those players that says, 'I have to do this, or I have to do that.' I just want to play, have fun, shoot some 3s, throw some lobs, go celebrate."
If Granger stays healthy and is able to get playing time as a starter, it allows Matt Barnes (11.2 points per game in February) and Jared Dudley to come off the bench alongside Jamal Crawford and provide a second unit with explosive scoring potential.
The new bodies mean that when players like Redick and Dudley return from injury, the Clippers will be able to spread the minutes around more, and save the starters legs come playoff time.
Last night's utter demolition of the Los Angeles Lakers is a testament to the team's newfound flexibility. The matchup, which resembled a Globetrotters-Generals game more than anything, was a great example of how the Clippers roster is built to last for the remainder of this season.
With Redick, Dudley, and Crawford—second on the team in scoring and sixth man extraordinaire—all on the bench in street clothes, this would have been a potential trap game earlier in the season.
And yet, with Granger and Davis playing meaningful minutes in the rotation, the Clippers bench was able to score 54 points and help the team to a 142-93 victory, the largest in franchise history.
Darren Collison was masterful in the second quarter taking over at point guard, scoring 14 of his 24 points, and Granger and Davis chipped in 10 points each. DeAndre Jordan, who averages 35.8 minutes per game, needed just 22 minutes to make his impact.
The Clippers will face much better competition in the playoffs, no doubt, but last night is just one example of how a long bench full of quality NBA players can help the team play full throttle for 48 minutes every night. This game had the NBA sit up and take notice, and even Denver Nuggets reporter Dillon Thomas was gushing about the quality on display last night.
It is veterans galore on the Clippers bench—NBA fans will recognize Hedo Turkoglu as another veteran reclamation project—and that may be a challenge for them a couple of years down the line. In the short term, and with the playoffs looming, all that experience will do wonders for the Clippers as a team.
If there is one remaining soft spot on the Clippers' roster, it is at center. Jordan is near the top of the league in minutes played, mainly due to the lack of quality options behind him. Mullens wasn't cutting it as a backup earlier in the season, and the Clippers jettisoned him to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Griffin and Davis can both play the five spot, but the only true backup center is Ryan Hollins, who averages just 2.3 points per game.
The biggest problem in the Western Conference may be the Houston Rockets with Dwight Howard and Omer Asik both at center. However, the Clippers have the talent to best their roster at just about every other spot, except for the incredible James Harden.
The road to the NBA championship is still a long one, but the Clippers are ready and full of potential. With a roster this deep, only the sky is the limit.
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