Los Angeles Clippers
The looks of the Los Angeles Clippers representatives in the photo above may sum up the total range of failure that was felt across the organization last season. While losing Montrezl Harrell to their biggest rival and defending champion would appear to only deepen the disappointment, the Los Angeles Clippers may not have been too upset at having him go, albeit probably not to their city mates. LA was reportedly shopping Harrell in sign-and-trade proposals while some felt he was more concerned with his personal stats, lacked the same effort on defense that he showed offensively, and didn’t like the way he went public over issues the Clippers would have preferred he keep in-house. A move seemed inevitable, but also like a mutually beneficial decision.
Their other losses were important role players, but role players nonetheless; and with the additions of Nicolas Batum, Serge Ibaka and Luke Kennard, the Los Angeles Clippers have brought in better 3-point shooting, versatility and players who know their roles. While chemistry issues are yet to be fully worked out, it would seem these players realize the opportunity that the Los Angeles Clippers provide them to win and none are known to be particularly provocative when speaking to the media or in an NBA locker room.
Ibaka seems like a direct response to some of the big men they will face and the Lakers’ interior dominance. He may yet prove to be one the best off-season pick-ups within the NBA’s Western Conference with his defensive presence and stretch possibilities. His familiarity winning a title with Leonard in Toronto would appear to alleviate some of the chemistry issues that plagued the Clippers last year; as do running it back with their core still together and the hiring of a coach who knows the full situation, including what went wrong, pre- and post-bubble.
Batum gives them another point-forward, shooter and switchable defender while Kennard is shooting at the coveted 50/40/90 level. Although he’s only averaged 8.8 points so far, he’s still figuring out his role with the team and is down four percentage points in usage rate despite the increased encouragement to be the play-maker he was with the Pistons. The Los Angeles Clippers have considerably slowed their pace down to 27th in the NBA, but they have been so efficient in the half-court, that it works to their advantage by limited their opponent’s possessions and ability to get out in transition off of made baskets.
Although they still rank in the middle of the league in 3s attempted, same as the year prior, they are shooting the NBA’s best percentage and are taking three more shots behind the arc with three less inside of it per game. Ten of the 11 players that average double-digit minutes also average at least 2.5 attempts per game. Even though the Los Angeles Clippers didn’t go out and get the traditional point guard that Kawhi Leonard was said to have wanted in the off-season, they do have a wealth of play-makers who are all adept at driving for kick-outs, which is what they primarily do, evidenced by their being only 22nd in free throw attempts, but first in percentage. The fact that the older and oft-injured roster doesn’t take the full-effect of the punishment that is meted out on drives all the way to the basket is probably a good thing.
The Clippers got better defensively, more efficient offensively and seem to have the makings of a more cohesive team on and off the court. Of course, there are always caveats, and the health of their superstars is an ever-presence concern no matter how well they are playing. Despite Paul George’s incredible first month of the season that has put him in the NBA’s early MVP race, there was real doubt among some Clipper players about Playoff P’s true mettle in that first year and until he proves it in this upcoming post-season, the perplexing performance of Pandemic P may still be in the back of some minds.
Also, there’s always that thing in NBA circles that jump-shooting teams can’t win the big one. The Warriors dispelled that theory to some degree, but they were also uniquely positioned to do so with the best shooting backcourt the NBA has ever seen. The Los Angeles Clippers are not so uniquely situated although they seem to know what they want, made some moves necessary to get there, and after another season together following their one of organization-wide failure, are better suited to get it.