DeAndre Jordan’s 2014-15 Campaign Will Determine Los Angeles Clippers’ Direction

The Los Angeles Clippers are ready to go as far as DeAndre Jordan can take them.

Sure, there are other pieces to the puzzle, but this franchise’s fate—both for the 2014-15 campaign and beyond—is strongly tied to Jordan’s ability to protect the paint, clean the glass and provide some type of positive at the offensive end.

He is the defensive complement to the offensive wizardry of superstars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Whether Jordan can be a championship-caliber third wheel is still up for debate, though, and the question needs answering by the time he hits the unrestricted free-agent market next summer.

With the Clippers attempting to leap from good to great and Jordan waging a similar war on his own, the futures of both will be decided this season. L.A. isn’t a championship favorite, but it has all the weaponry needed to pose a serious threat to the handful of teams still blocking its path.

For both Jordan and the Clippers, this will be a season of self-discovery.

The team, winners of 113 regular-season games over the past two seasons, hasn’t fully established itself with the NBA‘s elites. The Clippers have made three straight playoff appearances but won a total of two series over that stretch.

Yet their resume still has some of the common marks of greatness.

They have a superstar pair as dynamic as any duo in the league. Both Griffin (third) and Paul (seventh) finished in the top seven of the last season’s MVP voting, becoming just the fourth set of teammates to do so in the last 10 years, via ESPN Los Angeles’ Arash Markazi.

The Clippers finished tied for fourth with 23 road victories. Their net-efficiency rating of plus-7.3 points per 100 possessions trailed only that of the world champion San Antonio Spurs.

But this isn’t a great team, or at least it hasn’t looked like one when it has needed to the most.

Something has been holding the Clippers back. Whatever it was, it could be gone now.

Between last offseason’s coaching swap (from Vinny Del Negro to Doc Rivers) to this one’s welcome regime change (Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer purchasing the team from the disgraced Donald Sterling), the dominoes have been dropping for a full-fledged title run.

This roster still has its limitations, though, and the core isn’t as young as some people would think. There’s a sense of urgency surrounding this team, or at least there should be.

“There’s a danger in assuming that the past few seasons—positively script-flipping though they’ve been for a franchise long considered a league laughingstock—mean happy days are here to stay,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Jim Cavan.

Typical health risks aside, nothing threatens this franchise’s standing quite like Jordan’s impending free agency.

However, it isn’t easy figuring out where the most damage would be done: paying a premium to keep him around or letting him walk for nothing.

Whether Jordan stays or goes next summer, he is going to put pen to paper on a significant contract. In fact, Bleacher Report’s Michael Pina opined that the big man is sure to receive a max-money offer from someone:

At least one of the NBA’s 30 teams (including the Clippers) will most likely lob a maximum contract in his direction. Wondering whether the flawed but effective big man will receive a huge offer is a waste of time. Jordan is a clear-cut starter with playoff experience and Defensive Player of the Year potential. He’ll finish the 2014-15 season with seven years of experience under his belt, and he will still be three years away from his 30th birthday.

Jordan is limited, but last season, his first under Rivers, he found a way to deliver elite-level production despite his deficiencies.

Rivers did two critical things for Jordan: 1) He challenged the big man to take ownership of the defensive end and 2) he didn’t let his offensive flaws dictate his floor time. With more than a 10-minutes-per-game increase from his 2012-13 playing time (35.0, up from 24.5), Jordan set out to live up to the Defensive Player of the Year hype Rivers created shortly after his arrival, via Clippers.com’s Eric Patten.

By season’s end, Jordan had nearly made Rivers look prophetic. Jordan finished third in the voting for the most coveted piece of defensive hardware, two spots lower than Rivers felt he deserved, via ESPN.com’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss:

Jordan led the league in defensive rebounds (783), total rebounds (1,114) and rebounds per game (13.6). He ranked second in total blocks (203), third in blocks per game (2.5), second in total rebound percentage (21.6) and third in defensive win shares (5.8).

He had never had a better season both in terms of efficiency (18.2 PER) and overall impact (11.1 win shares). And he enjoyed his breakout despite tying the second-lowest field-goal-attempts-per-36-minutes average of his career (6.5).

The defensive fuse that Rivers lit sparked something inside of Jordan. He grabbed the keys to the Clippers defense and never let go.

“The onus is on me,” Jordan said, via Jordan Heimer of ESPN.com. “I like that challenge. When something goes wrong they yell at me, because that’s my end of the floor. … Sometimes it may not even be my fault, but I need to know what happened.”

He made sure his significance was felt on the stat sheet.

Despite a free-throw stroke that doesn’t even grade out as functional (career 42.5 percent) and an offensive range defined by his reach, his defense was so good that his floor time was nearly as valuable as Paul’s and Griffin’s, via NBA.com.

Jordan’s importance is impossible to overlook, and Rivers—who serves as both coach and president of the Clippers—has never hidden his view of the bouncy big man.

“He can single-handedly change a game with his defense,” Rivers said of Jordan, via Markazi. “There’s five guys, and that number maybe too high, that can do that single-handedly with their size and athleticism and he’s one of them.”

Clearly, L.A. plans on re-signing him, right?

Well, it’s not that simple.

“Re-signing Jordan on the open market will push the Clippers and new owner Steve Ballmer deep into the luxury tax,” wrote CBS Sports’ Zach Harper. “They’re slated to be $2.6 million over the tax in 2014-15, but with $71 million already committed for 2015-16, the luxury tax hit to keep Jordan will be significant.”

The Big Three model is hard to sustain. Just ask the Miami Heat.

It’s tough finding enough money for everyone, and the Clippers have already committed major coin to Paul and Griffin. Assuming L.A.’s superstars play out their contracts, the two will take home a combined $166 million over the next four seasons.

Is there any chance that leaves enough for Jordan?

That answer may depend on how this front office really feels about this core’s championship potential.

The Clippers won’t be able to replace Jordan with an impact piece right away. Even without contract options included, they have $63.3 million on the 2015-16 payroll already. And losing a season to wait around for more funds to clear up hardly seems like an option when Paul will celebrate his 30th birthday before next offseason rolls around.

If L.A. wants to stay in the title chase, it needs to keep Jordan around, even if that means overpaying to do so.

But it needs to realistically assess itself before crossing that bridge. Spending large to keep a great team intact is one thing, but heavily investing in a group that maxes out at something less could set this franchise back for years.

The Clippers are at a crossroads, and Jordan’s on-court performance will decide which move they should make.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com. Salary information obtained via ShamSports.com.

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Which Los Angeles Clippers Player Has the Most Upside Right Now?

Upside is often a term thrown around to describe young players who have either accomplished nothing or have yet to scratch the surface of what they might become. This term typically is not reserved for someone of Blake Griffin’s caliber.

But perhaps it should be.

Although Griffin missed his entire first season due to injury, he exploded out of the gates as a rookie, scoring 22.5 points per game to go along with 12.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists. He was assertive with the ball, searching out contact and finishing with power, going to the line a career-high 8.5 times.

His second year was impressive as well. Griffin averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds for the second consecutive season. However, teams became increasingly more physical, beginning to force Griffin away from the rim and further out onto the perimeter.

By his third season in the league Griffin’s scoring dropped to 18.0 points per game and his rebounding fell to 8.3 per game. The arrival of Chris Paul took some of the weight off Griffin’s shoulders to be the primary option, but Griffin’s game needed to evolve in order to be more complete offensive player. Defenses were now frustrating him and leaving him open for mid-range jumpers, expecting him to miss.

The hiring of Doc Rivers might have been the best thing to happen to Griffin, as the head coach refocused the offense around Griffin’s strengths. Rivers, a former NBA point guard who once played a season with the Los Angeles Clippers, has been able to convince Paul to play at a faster pace. This increased pace might not be ideal to Paul, but it has allowed Griffin to flourish in an open-court system.

Griffin’s unique ability to create off the dribble, pass, finish above the rim and hit mid-range jumpers are now being taken advantage of in lieu of Paul’s methodical, preferred style of play. The increased tempo allows Paul and Griffin to share playmaking responsibilities without taking away possessions from each other, let alone role players.

New system aside, Griffin’s offensive talents are still in development. That might be a scary realization for the rest of the conference, considering he is already a 21 point per game scorer for his career. But why is his game still improving and which area of his game will be the next to develop?

 

Offense

One of the most blatantly inaccurate talking points surrounding Griffin over the years was that he was merely a dunker. How many times did you hear that Griffin had no post moves, or that he couldn’t shoot outside of 10 feet?

Those who watched Griffin closely over the years were the largest proponents of his development. Fortunately, the numbers back Griffin’s supporters.

Griffin’s jumper has improved noticeably since coming into the league, especially the last two seasons. According to basketball reference, Griffin took 15.4 percent of his field-goal attempts from 16 feet and further as a rookie and made a lousy 29.8 percent of them. Last season, Griffin took 26.7 percent of his field-goal attempts from the same distance, but made 37.2 percent.

The development of Griffin’s jumper is likely to continue to improve. Imagine if Griffin’s range and consistency eventually extend to the three-point line? Griffin will be a nightmare to defend, and that is exactly where his game seems to be heading.

Griffin’s jumper is improving and it is worth noting, according to Grantland’s Kirk Goldberry.

Away from the basket on offense, Griffin has never been great, but this isn’t unusual in young power forwards. The key questions with him involve trajectories: Is he getting better? Is he diversifying his scoring portfolio? The answers there are definitely “yes” and “yes.” His rookie season, Griffin made only 33 percent of his midrange jumpers. That’s bad; as a whole, the league makes 39 percent of these shots. However, his second season that number rose to 36 percent, and this year he’s at 39 percent. In four seasons, Griffin has gone from a bad jump-shooter to an average one.

Griffin’s extended range coincided with Clippers finishing as the highest-scoring team in the league last season. Teams can no longer afford to sag off Griffin on pick-and-pop situations to prevent Paul from attacking the rim. To make matters worse, teams also have to fear Griffin’s playmaking ability.

There are not many forwards in the league who can handle the ball well enough in the open court to beat a point guard off the dribble, let alone prevent said point guard from turning them over. Griffin is one of the few bigs in the league able to handle the ball well enough to create for himself and others.

Need more evidence? Digest this statistic for a second: According to basketball reference, since Griffin entered the league in 2010, only 14 players have shot 50 percent or better from the field while assisting on at least 16 percent of their teammates’ field goals for a season. Griffin and LeBron James are the only players on that list in each of the last four seasons.

Griffin’s court vision and passing ability combined with his physical tools make him an extraordinarily difficult matchup. Furthermore, when sharing the floor with Chris Paul, Griffin’s talents are elevated even further because the defense has to key on Paul just as much. Pick your poison.

While there is plenty for Griffin to improve on offensively—his post moves need more refinement—his upside is also calculated based on the other players on the floor. J.J. Redick and Spencer Hawes are key complementary pieces. Both can keep the floor spread with their outside shooting, but they are also good passers who can set up Griffin for scoring opportunities.

Pieces like Redick and Hawes are key to Griffin’s development. The better Griffin’s teammates complement his skill set, the more realistic fulfilling his upside becomes. His game begins to develop because the other players on the floor are themselves threats when combined with Griffin’s talents.

 

Defense

Never known as a good defender, Griffin’s upside here is somewhat limited due to his physical attributes. According to Draft Express, he does not have a large wingspan (6’11.25”) and at 6’8″ he is of average height for his position.

Fortunately, physical abilities do not solely make a good defender. Griffin’s focus during his first three seasons was scoring as much as possible, in as many ways as he could. Rivers is attempting to change that mindset and already seems to be making progress, according to Los Angeles Times reporter Broderick Turner, who quoted Griffin as saying:

The past few years or so, all I’ve ever heard is everything I can’t do…I take pride in those things people say I can’t do, and [defense,] that’s one of them. There’s a long list…So, I just use that as motivation and try to get better. Obviously there are areas I need to get better in, but at the same time, I think sometimes people get a little carried away.

The fact that Griffin realizes what his deficiencies are and is now using them as motivation to improve says a lot. There are plenty of players who knew exactly what they needed to improve upon early in their career, but never were able to do so.

Heck, Dwyane Wade still can’t shoot threes.

Griffin’s attention to detail, understanding of Rivers’ defensive principles and nightly commitment on the defensive end of the floor seemed to be improving as the 2013-14 season came to a close. This season, Griffin must take the next step as a defender, because the Clippers are going to need him engaged to force stops and close out tight games.

What Griffin needs to focus on is his awareness and effort level defensively. Far too often Griffin was slow to hustle back on defense, or rotate properly, thus allowing an easy basket. Those are the types of effort plays that Rivers will demand from his entire team, because they will be the difference between reaching the conference finals and failing again to advance past the second round. Additionally, that level of commitment will be critical if Griffin is to reach his potential on defense.

Adding up the sum from both ends of the floor it is clear that Griffin has, by far, the most upside of anyone on the roster. At age 25, he has already developed into one of the league’s best players. Still, demanding more from him is certainly a legitimate request.

Griffin’s desire to improve is the final characteristic that sets his upside apart from anyone else’s on the roster. Combining all of the aspects above with hard work will allow Griffin’s upside to be realized; converted from myth into reality.

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Everything You Need to Know About Los Angeles Clippers’ Joe Ingles

Dante Exum isn’t the only wonder from down under who’s set to debut in the NBA during the 2014-15 season. According to Eurobasket.com’s David Pick, Joe Ingles, a teammate of Exum‘s on the Australian national team, will join the Los Angeles Clippers on a one-year, guaranteed deal for the league minimum.

That, in itself, is more than Ingles originally anticipated. “I won’t be on a guaranteed contract and will be trying to make the team but that in itself is motivation for me to go in and work,” Ingles told The Courier-Mail‘s Boti Nagy during the recently concluded 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.

Ingles, though, isn’t just another international veteran trying to find a niche for himself in the Association. The 26-year-old native of Happy Valley (not the one in Pennsylvania, of course), who also holds a British passport, happens to be one of the most accomplished Boomers around and may well make a significant impact as a rookie come fall.

Ingles certainly knows a thing or two about making a splash right off the bat. In his first game with the South Dragons of Australia’s National Basketball League, Ingles, then all of 19, scored 29 points—an NBL record for a player debut—to tip off a campaign that would conclude with him as the league’s Rookie of the Year. All in all, Ingles averaged 15.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and three assists per game that season, per FOX Sports Pulse.

Prior to that, Ingles spent two years at the Australian Institute of Sport, the same school that produced Exum and Andrew Bogut. Ingles was preceded in stardom at AIS by Brad Newley, a second-round pick of the Houston Rockets in 2007.

Ingles was never drafted by an NBA team, though his upcoming time in L.A. won’t be the first he’s spent in affiliation with the Association. Ingles was a member of the Golden State Warriors‘ Summer League squad in 2009 and 2010 but failed to garner a suitable contract from either stint.

Instead, Ingles opted to bolster his game and his credentials overseas. He led the Dragons to what would be their first and only NBL title in 2009; the club was dissolved shortly thereafter.

From there, Ingles jumped to CB Granada in Spain’s prestigious Liga ACB. He immediately emerged as one of the team’s most productive players, averaging 11 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.1 steals in 29.2 minutes.

But Granada, as a whole, struggled. The squad went just 15-19 during the 2009-10 campaign and soon found itself unable to afford Ingles amidst its crippling debt. As a result, Granada offloaded Ingles to Barcelona Regal just seven games into the 2010-11 season.

Ingles tasted plenty of team success with the Blaugrana, even as his own output declined. Barcelona won five domestic competitions and contended in the Euroleague during each of Ingles‘ three seasons with the club. In none of those campaigns, though, did Ingles average more than 6.3 points or 20.1 minutes per game, per DraftExpress.

That didn’t really change this past season, either, when Ingles made his way to Maccabi Tel Aviv. He put up 6.8 points per game during the regular season in Israel, 2.9 points in the playoffs and 6.4 points amidst Maccabi‘s surprising run to the Euroleague crown under David Blatt.

In Ingles‘ defense, European club basketball isn’t exactly conducive to putting up big numbers. The team-oriented, sharing-is-caring style of play that the San Antonio Spurs have perfected was about as close as any NBA squad has yet come to replicating the continental basketball culture on American shores.

That being said, the Australian national team has long been the driving force behind Ingles‘ career ascension, and this year was no different.

Ingles first appeared on the international stage at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with an 11-point fourth quarter against Team USA. His star rose another step at the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey, where he put up 10.3 points, three rebounds and 2.2 assists on the Boomers’ behalf. 

Come 2012, Ingles was a bona fide cornerstone of the Australian team. He put up an impressive line of 15 points, five rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting a scorching-hot 63 percent from the field. Ingles bested even that efficiency at this year’s World Cup, where he nailed 70.8 percent of his field goals, including 66.7 percent of his threes—albeit during an abbreviated run for the Aussies.

Still, Ingles has clearly come a long enough way to warrant more than a tryout in the NBA. He hit better than 40 percent of his threes in Europe last year, thereby quelling lingering concerns about his perimeter shot. 

He’s always been a good athlete who can create off the bounce, be it for himself or for his teammates. Now that he can shoot, Ingles brings to the table the sort of skill set with which he can become another valuable “3-and-D” guy. Here’s how then-Australian coach (and current Philadelphia 76ers head man) Brett Brown described Ingles‘ game back in 2012 (via The Daily Telegraph‘s Jim Tucker):

“Joe’s got a body like (Detroit Pistons‘ small forward) Tayshaun Prince. He’s long, left-handed, multi-faceted at guard or small forward, he’s stepped up in defence to take personal pride in guarding people and you’ve seen his competitive spirit here.”

Does that mean Ingles is going to be a key cog for the Clippers this season?

He certainly could. L.A.’s wing rotation has thinned somewhat with the Jared Dudley trade and wasn’t all that exciting to begin with. Beyond Matt Barnes, who’s had his own issues with inconsistency over the years, the Clippers will count on a host of youngsters (Reggie Bullock, C.J. Wilcox) and fringe types (Chris Douglas-Roberts, DeAndre Liggins) to fill out their wing rotation.

That may well afford Ingles enough opportunity to prove his worth in the NBA. Then again, on a Clippers club that’s already so close to championship contention, Ingles will probably have to work that much harder and shine that much brighter for anyone to take notice.

But Ingles hasn’t had much trouble garnering attention yet. Who’s to say that will change now?

 

For more on the Clippers, find me on Twitter!

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Los Angeles Clippers Season Preview: ‘Ceiling Is to Get There and Win It All’

The Los Angeles Clippers will hope to end the upcoming NBA season in more harmonious fashion than last year, when they made their exit from the playoffs under a cloud of off-the-court drama. Is it finally time for Chris Paul and the Clippers to capture an NBA title?

Howard Beck and Ric Bucher break down the Clippers chances when they join Adam Lefkoe in the video above. 

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Ranking the Top 5 Uniforms in Los Angeles Clippers History

The Los Angeles Clippers franchise doesn’t have a history of winning in bunches, but in terms of uniforms, their tradition is as rich as it gets.

The Clips have won many times in the looks department, and part of the intrigue in their success lies in the fact that they’ve had two substantial relocations to San Diego from Buffalo in 1978 and from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984. 

As for the criteria, the goal is to look at the five best looking outfits. One thing to note is that these have nothing to do with the success of the team that wore them, though there’s plenty of background info for context alone.

Which jerseys belong in the all-time top 5 in franchise history? Let’s take a look, starting where it all began. 

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Clippers re-sign free agent F Turkoglu (Yahoo Sports)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Clippers have re-signed free-agent forward Hedo Turkoglu, who played in 38 games with the team last season.

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Clippers’ Chris Douglas-Roberts Announces He Will Bring Back the Short Shorts

While many current NBA players are big fans of long uniform shorts, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Douglas-Roberts prefers the old-school shorts.

Douglas-Roberts made a pretty big announcement Monday. 

That’s right, the 6’7″ Clipper will be wearing medium shorts on the court this season. 

This is apparently his fashion role model:

For those of you wondering why he would choose to wear shorter shorts, here’s Douglas-Roberts’ explanation:

This should be a sight to see this season. Lob City already gets enough attention, but this development should make for an even better version of it.

[Chris Douglas-Roberts]

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Breaking Down LA Clippers’ Shooting Guard Position for 2014-15 Season

The Los Angeles Clippers have talent at almost every position up and down their roster. Shooting guard isn’t top-heavy with top-10-caliber dominance, but it’s arguably the team’s deepest spot, with a pair of skilled veterans capable of scoring points from all over the floor and an “old” rookie looking to forge his way.

Here’s a look at how the shooting guards on this year’s Clippers squad differ from last year’s, the current group’s strengths and weaknesses and how they can help Los Angeles become a champion in 2014-15.

 

A look back in time

Los Angeles began the 2013-14 season with a healthy J.J. Redick in the starting lineup, eventual Sixth Man of the Year award winner Jamal Crawford offering an unparalleled punch off the bench and several other fill-in role players who drifted in and out of Doc Rivers’ rotation. 

When Redick suffered a fracture in the small bone of his right hand and a tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament against the Sacramento Kings only a few weeks into the season, the suddenly deep off-guard spot looked rather thin. 

For the next seven games, journeyman Willie Green found himself in the starting lineup, but the team went 3-4 during that stretch, and Rivers finally succumbed by replacing him with Crawford. Doing so threatened to hurt Los Angeles’ scoring power off the bench and ruin its solid rotations, but it still went 10-4 during those remaining games before Redick returned to the starting lineup on Jan. 10.

That didn’t take for long, though. Doctors discovered a bulging disc in the three-point marksman’s back in early February, the effects of which kept him sidelined through April, into Los Angeles’ late-season run for a No. 1 or 2 seed in the playoffs. 

In only 34 starts, Redick still did his job, shooting 39.5 percent from beyond the arc and averaging a career-best 15.2 points per game with a career-high 16.6 player efficiency rating. Already boasting the best offense in basketball throughout the regular season, the Clippers outdid themselves with Redick on the floor, averaging 113.1 points per 100 possessions (as opposed to a still-very-good 108.2 with him on the bench).

Here’s Redick’s shot chart from last year. 

Crawford held things down nicely, too, even at 33 years old. He shot 36.1 percent from deep while attempting the most threes per 36 minutes in his 14-year career. Crawford also added a different dimension to Los Angeles’ offense.

Apart from Chris Paul, the team had nobody who could create for themselves on the perimeter. Owner of perhaps the most impressive handles in the league, Crawford got where he wanted, when he wanted, and was always a threat with the ball in his hands.

 

Who’s the new guy?

As long as everyone can stay healthy, most of the on-court offensive success Redick, Crawford and the team had with that pair manning the 2 spot last season should carry over into 2014-15. 

There’s a new face, too: C.J. Wilcox, selected with the 28th overall pick in June’s draft. The 23-year-old shooting guard is obviously old for a rookie (he turns 24 on Dec. 30), but that may actually turn into a good thing for a basketball team that clearly wants to win right away. Should Crawford or Redick go down again, having a more mature player step in rather than a wide-eyed 19-year-old isn’t a bad thing. 

From his Draft Express scouting report, Wilcox could handle minutes early on if he’s called upon.

Wilcox is one of the best shooters in this draft class, as he made 43% of his catch and shoot jumpers on the season, which is second best among prospects in our Top-100 rankings. More than just a one-dimensional shooter with his feet set, he is excellent coming off screens (40%, 6th best in Top-100), and also makes a solid 35% of his pull-up attempts (8th best in Top-100).

While not a crafty ball-handler or an overly prolific shot-creator, Wilcox has improved his ability to operate in transition, pick and roll and isolation situations this season, which was sorely needed on a Washington team that was lacking for talent this season in the very deep Pac-12.

Wilcox ended his four-year career at the University of Washington shooting an impressive 38.9 percent from behind the three-point line. He was above 40 percent in his freshman and sophomore seasons, too, and his scoring average rose each year he was in school, which is obviously a good sign. 

Redick and Crawford will fill the bulk of Rivers’ minutes at this position, but Wilcox’s game could be a seamless fit. 

 

Some glaring weaknesses 

The main worry about the entire trio comes on the other end, where neither Redick nor Crawford are considered lockdown defenders. Redick’s work as a small piece in a larger pie is solid, but chucking a pick-and-roll and sticking with James Harden on an island are two very different things. 

Crawford is poor in both areas, to the point where outside of those quick hands, he’s a downright liability. Wilcox has a solid wingspan nearly stretching to 6’10”, but he’s still a rookie who needs to learn Rivers’ complex system and adjust to guarding the very best of the very best. 

The Clippers have DeAndre Jordan patrolling the back line and helping with pick-and-roll coverage, but the lack of athleticism on the perimeter is still a problem. Last season, they were better on defense when both players took a seat, allowing just 101.3 points per 100 possessions with J.J. Redick on the bench and 100.6 with Crawford right beside him. The latter number was good for a top-five defense. 

The Clippers’ clear strengths are at point guard and power forward, where Paul and Blake Griffin may both finish the 2014-15 season as the best players at their respective positions. No matter how well Redick, Crawford and Wilcox play, this team can’t win it all unless its two best players are at the top of their game. 

But shooting guard is still important for a team that needs spacing on offense via respectable to entirely deadly three-point accuracy. All three of these guys provide that, but they can’t produce if they’re hurt. Staying healthy is key, and if that happens (along with Wilcox emerging as a solid two-way contributor), this group could give Los Angeles the firepower it needs to finally win it all. 

 

All statistics are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com or NBA.com unless otherwise noted. 

Michael Pina covers the NBA for Bleacher Report, Sports on Earth, FOX Sports, ESPN, Grantland and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelVPina. 

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Predicting the Los Angeles Clippers’ Best 5-Man Lineups in 2014-15

One of the most important aspects of coaching in the NBA is determining a team’s best lineups. Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers will face that challenge early, as multiple new additions to the roster have uprooted Rivers’ prominent units from last season.

In fact, according to NBA.com, the league’s fifth highest scoring lineup no longer exists due to the trade of Jared Dudley to the Milwaukee Bucks. Fortunately, the other four players in that unit—Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan—are still on the roster.

New additions such as Spencer Hawes, Jordan Farmar, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Ekpe Udoh, allow the team more flexibility than last season. Now it is up for Rivers and his staff to put the pieces together to find their top five-man lineups.

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Will Los Angeles Clippers Become the Next Hot Free-Agent Destination?

In the past, once Donald Sterling was actually willing to spend some money on the team, there was always a stigma attached to joining the Los Angeles Clippers as a free agent. When you have one of the elite organizations in all of sports in the same building, it can be difficult to stand out.

Even though the Clippers have fixed a lot over the last few years in terms of appearances, there was always a faulty infrastructure, mainly because it was Sterling who had built it.

Now, those days are long gone.

With Steve Ballmer replacing Donald Sterling as owner, Doc Rivers locked up on a long-term deal, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin both on lengthy contracts and the concerns of the Clippers’ on-court success being a flash in the pan safely put to rest, the team can assume its spot as one of the league’s premier free-agent destinations, once cap space permits. 

It probably should have always been this way. The Clippers play in Los Angeles, after all, one of the most popular places for players to have offseason homes and train during the summer and one of the biggest media markets in the world. There are advantages in Los Angeles that other cities simply can’t offer, no matter how good their teams are. 

Sterling always dragged the Clippers down in a lot of ways, even when he wasn’t making national headlines for asinine, racist comments. 

Here’s Arash Markazi at ESPN.com:

There rarely was anything positive about the Clippers when Sterling was the owner. Even when the team succeeded on the court, Sterling was the lingering black cloud that hung above it, always capable of raining on any kind of success, as he did during last season’s playoff run.

It is likely Los Angeles always will be a Lakers town, but Sterling never really gave the city a chance to embrace the Clippers as one of its own. That changed Monday. Perhaps the fortunes of the team will change next.

“It was 30 years ago this summer that the Clippers moved to Los Angeles from San Diego,” said Ralph Lawler, the Clippers’ longtime announcer. “I think now this city can now open its arms to our basketball team. They can embrace this team without any reservations at all. We’re here to stay, we’re here to play and we’re here to win championships.”

With Ballmer as owner, the Clippers get the fresh start they’ve always needed.

There just doesn’t seem to be much of a reason to leave anymore, and there aren’t a whole lot of reasons not to come.

Here’s Steve Perrin at ClipsNation.com:

Steve Ballmer is here, and he’s passionate, and his passion comes across as sincere and sustainable — this isn’t an act. Donald Sterling was the worst owner in North American pro sports. Steve Ballmer may or may not end up being the best owner — but he is the richest.

That much is indisputable, and it may be just as indisputable that he is the most enthusiastic. It remains to be seen how that enthusiasm translates in the product on the floor, but for now enthusiasm is a pretty nice thing for the fans.

Sterling was a very rich man, too, but he was very guarded with his money and loved to meddle in basketball decisions he was highly unqualified to make.

We don’t know what kind of owner Ballmer will be, but it’s safe to say the bar set by Sterling is pretty low. 

Here’s what Ballmer told fans at his introduction, via The Associated Press (via ESPN.com):

“We’re looking forward,” Ballmer proclaimed, having removed his blue Clippers hat. “Everything is about looking forward.” …

“We’re going to be bold. Bold means taking chances,” he said. “We’re going to be optimistic. We’re going to be hard-core. Nothing gets in our way, boom! The hard-core Clippers, that’s us.”

Last year, before and after the mess with Sterling, we started to see the impact Rivers had on the team. During the season, when noteworthy veterans such as Danny Granger and Glen Davis became available, the Clippers were their choice over other franchises that were surely interested.

Those aren’t marquee signings, obviously, but the Clippers should remain a place where veterans will love to come on the cheap. Rivers is a coach with championship experience and the respect of players all around the league, and Chris Paul is the game’s best point guard and distributor. With no dark cloud looming over the franchise any longer, why wouldn’t you want to go there?

It’s highly unlikely that we’ll see the Clippers become a leading contender in acquiring free-agent players in the next few years, but that’s not because they can’t. It’s because they have a pretty loaded roster with two legitimate max players in Blake Griffin and Paul, and another rising star in DeAndre Jordan who should get a big payday as well.

As we’ve seen, though, it’s great to be at the top of the list for superstars who might want out of their current situation and demand a trade. You want guys clamoring to join your team, and you want to be mentioned just like the Los Angeles Lakers are whenever anyone is going to become a free agent, even if it’s an unrealistic or implausible fit.

Given the direction and the positive momentum the Clippers now have as a franchise, it’s hard to see them being anything but a premier destination from here on out.

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