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NBA Season Preview: Los Angeles Clippers Team Preview


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Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.


The Los Angeles Clippers’ offseason story unfortunately revolved around matters outside the court. But now with the Donald Sterling era over in L.A., new Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is insurmountably excited for the year to come. As electric as this Clippers team should be, the changes during the offseason were incremental. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not taking the right steps to get over the hump and reach the NBA Finals.

Most Important Player: Blake Griffin
While Clippers brass will tell you that Chris Paul is the driving force behind the Clippers’ recent success, the most important player entering the 2014-15 season is forward Blake Griffin. Griffin was third in NBA MVP voting just l last season and is looking to improve on that. Of course, the NBA MVP voting is more indicative of individual success but Griffin’s presence court alongside DeAndre Jordan makes this Clippers front court one of the best in the league. This is especially important with the Western Conference so stacked with talented big men duos.

X-Factor: Spencer Hawes
As productive as Blake Griffin has been throughout his relatively short career, he needs to get some rest. This would not be a problem if the Clippers had a formidable substitute that can come off the bench and maintain the offensive and defensive production of Griffin. Unfortunately, that has not been the case for a few years as the Clippers’ backcourt has had the more explosive bench players.

That will change this upcoming season with the acquisition of Spencer Hawes in free agency.  Hawes managed to put up 13.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season in his stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers. His points and rebounds per game last season were also a career high for Hawes, which means he’s progressively improving. Hawes can back up Griffin as well as Jordan and make for some interesting rotations throughout the season.

Rotations: The starting five is set with Paul, J.J. Reddick, Matt Barnes, Griffin, and Jordan. Jamal Crawfords’status as the team’s sixth man is set in stone at this point, so look for him to be the driving force coming off the bench. He won’t be alone in this, however. While Crawford deals with the backcourt, Hawes will look to dominate the frontcourt while the starters rest. Even Hedo Turkoglu, who didn’t see much playing time with the Clippers last season, can provide some  spark off the bench now that Jared Dudley is no longer with the team. Farmar is a capable backup for Paul and can run the Rivers’ offense. This leaves Reggie Bullock, Douglas-Roberts, and Glen Davis with the responsibility to keep up and exceed expectations.

What Needs to Go Right: The Clippers need to find some chemistry. It seems as though the Clipper swap out more than half their bench every offseason and expect instant chemistry between the new players and the established veterans. They still have this problem but the level of talent this year is undeniably greater than previous years. Expect a few growing pains early on in the 2014-15 season, with everything blending in nicely together as the season closes. The Clippers are in definite need of consistency. If they need a primer on how to do this, they can look at their Western Conference rival in the San Antonio Spurs.

It’s Really Bad If: Trading Jamal Crawford would make the Clippers’ recent success all for nothing. It might even stop them from competing in the Western Conference. As recently as July, the Clippers were in engaging in trade talks involving the 34-year old Crawford. This would deplete the spark off the bench that they have relied on and it would also hinder the team’s chemistry.

Bold Prediction: The Clippers have solidified most starting positions with the exception of one: small forward. The team let Jared Dudley go for cap space with the hopes of signing Doc River’s old confidant in Paul Pierce. Unfortunately, that did not work for Clippers as Pierce signed with Washington. Matt Barnes will now be the team’s starting small forward, with Reggie Bullock and Chris Douglas-Roberts backing him up. This leaves room for one of the backups to exceed expectations and replace Barnes as the starter in the middle of the season. Expect this player to be Reggie Bullock.  He is young, more athletic with a nice jumper, and has defensive energy to burn.


Matt Barnes, SF
Strengths: Great defense. Dominant presence on the court.
Weaknesses: His toughness can be detrimental to the team at times (especially if it results in a techincal foul or ejection). As long as he keeps his cool, the Clippers should be fine.
Season Prediction: His role in the Clippers will gradually change from an tough starter to an explosive bench player when needed.

Reggie Bullock, SF
Strengths: Can spread the floor and make open shots. Shows hustle on the defensive end.
Weaknesses: Not as quick as other small forwards in the league.
Season Prediction: Despite the lack of playing time, Bullock made the most of his rookie season by setting a career-high 15 points. With the lack of depth at small forward, expect Bullock to excel.

Jamal Crawford, SG
Strengths: Shoots like a mad man, but an effective one for being the 2014 NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
Weaknesses: Shoots like a mad man, but he’s getting old.
Season Prediction: Headlines will run amok about trading Crawford, but his explosiveness off the bench will keep him on the Clippers for now, who need him for their run at a championship.

Glen Davis, PF
Strengths: Reliable rebounder, decent free throw percentage for his position.
Weaknesses: He’s big at 289 lbs. and might not be able to keep up with the Clippers’ fast-paced play.
Season Prediction: Last year as a starter, Davis averaged 12.1 points per game. Coming off the bench, he only scored 4.2. Expect more of the latter this season.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, SF
Strengths: Slowly improved in his role as a backup with the Bobcats last season. A slasher who can put points up in a hurry. Also, the unquestioned leader of the short shorts resurgence!
Weaknesses: Can’t really spread the floor given his lack of a three-point shot.
Season Prediction: CDR will have playing time to prove his worth on the Clippers given the lack of depth at SF. But because the Clippers have second-year player Reggie Bullock, CDR might be outshined.

Jordan Farmar, PG
Strengths: Spot-up shooter. Great distributor. Can easily be a starter if needed.
Weaknesses: Injury-prone. Only played 41 games last season as a Laker.
Season Prediction: In a team already loaded with exciting talent, Farmar will provide the leadership for the second unit.
Blake Griffin, PF
Strengths: One of the swiftest power forwards in the game. Can score at will. Also, he dunks like it’s nobody’s business.
Weaknesses: Below average free-throw shooter. Needs to be more aggressive.
Season Prediction: Griffin will have an excellent season if he stays healthy. Whether he improves on last year’s productivity all depends on his assertiveness on the court.

Spencer Hawes, C
Strengths: Excellent passer. One of the better shooting centers in the NBA with range extending to the three-point line.
Weaknesses: Can often play overly aggressive and compromise his game. Can be foul-prone.
Season Prediction: He could be a starter on many other teams, but will provide a much-needed spark off the bench to the Clippers’ frontcourt.

DeAndre Jordan, C
Strengths: Rebounding machine; complementary companion to Blake Griffin’s game.
Weaknesses: Needs to improve his free throw percentage in order to not be a liability on the court in the last few minutes of a game.
Season Prediction: If this is the year Blake Griffin asserts himself and becomes a top-2 player, Jordan needs to follow suit. If he doesn’t, he might be expandable given his large contract and the acquisition of Hawes. But I doubt it.

Chris Paul, PG
Strengths: Arguably the best distributor in the game, but can offensively take over games if needed.
Weaknesses: He can be too caring; seriously, Paul often opts to pass the ball instead of scoring himself for the sake of team, even if the shot is the best option.
Season Prediction: Now with one season playing for Doc Rivers under his belt, Paul’s on-court facilitation will mature via Doc’s system.

J.J. Redick, SG
Strengths: One of the best free throw shooters in the NBA, hitting 91% from the line last season. Knock-down shooter with range.
Weaknesses: Often has trouble creating his own shot.
Season Prediction: Could find himself in an expanded roll if Jamal Crawford is traded.

Hedo Turkoglu, PF
Strengths: Already knows the system since he sat on the bench last season. Can work the post and shoot the three on occasion.
Weaknesses: (Takes a page from the big book of Gregg Popovich) Old.
Season Prediction: He’ll get his playing time right behind Davis and will contribute just enough. Not too much. Not too little.

Ekpe Udoh, PF
Strengths: Will get you 2-3 rebounds a game and provide a defensive presence in the paint.
Weaknesses: Aside from his first year in Milwaukee, his offensive production has decreased every season.
Season Prediction: Udoh will find very little playing time considering that he will be playing behind Spencer Hawes, Glen Davis, and potentially Hedo Turokglu.

C.J. Wilcox, SG
Strengths: One of the best shooters taken in the 2014 NBA Draft. Can create spacing.
Weaknesses: Not a force on the defensive end.
Season Prediction: With the slew talented guards already on the Clippers, Wilcox will find trouble getting playing time but will have a great group of mentors in his rookie season.

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