The Scouting Report: Los Angeles Clippers
Projected starting line-up: Chris Paul, JJ Redick, Matt Barnes, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
Additions: Steve Ballmer, Spencer Hawes, Chris Douglas-Roberts, CJ Wilcox, Ekpe Udoh, Jared Cunningham, disgruntled Lakers fans.
Departures: Donald Sterling, Darren Collison, Danny Granger, Jared Dudley, Ryan Hollins, Willie Green.
Following a 17-point drubbing by the Golden State Warriors, Clippers coach Doc River laid into his team, calling them soft and dropping a few expletives. The Clippers were expected to be a contender coming into the season and while they’ve started 3-2, there are still plenty of questions about their play.
What probably should be and is Rivers’ biggest concern is the Clippers 23rd ranked defense. Chris Paul is a crafty and able defender able to disrupt ball handlers and is a great pest. But, their big men still leave things to be desired on the defensive end.
DeAndre Jordan has flashes of defense where he looks like the best defender in the league and other times where he’s too far out on a shooter or is late helping or getting worked on the block. He’s shot only 6 free-throws this season so it’s still early to determine whether he will improve on his 42 percent career mark from the line. Blazers coach Terry Stotts isn’t afraid to do the Hack-A-(Insert bad free throw shooter) and he could use to change the flow of the game.
The other big concern for the Clippers so far this season has been on the wing. JJ Redick can’t hit the broad side of a barn from the outside and Matt Barnes isn’t shooting a much higher percentage, attempting 11 fewer threes than Redick so far this year. They just haven’t found a ton of consistent play on the wing.
Jamal Crawford is still a force off the bench, averaging 20 points per game in the four games he’s played this season. Also, Jordan Farmar has enjoyed some success from the three-point line to start the year.
Early numbers on Blake Griffin’s midrange jumpers show him shooting around the league average on those shots according to Basketball-Reference. But, the improved shooting hasn’t resulted in a much better offense as they are currently 11th in offensive rating in the league. It could have more to do with the other shooters around Griffin struggling. But one concern is the amount of long two’s he’s taking. 40 percent of his shots are long two’s according to Basketball-Reference and only 22 percent are coming at the rim, very low by his standards.
Their biggest free agent acquisition, Spencer Hawes, has already proven that he’s a game-changer off the bench. He can shoot, pass and run pick and roll with Chris Paul. His three-point shooting is already providing good spacing when he’s on the court. With the way Portland’s bench played the last few games, this should be a good reserve match-up.
You’ll expect that the Clippers are going to come out hungrier and more physical on Saturday afternoon. They have racked up some wins but they haven’t been all that impressive. They squeaked out a win against a Thunder team that was without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for more than three quarters. They beat the Lakers and they also beat the Jazz, who are better, but young and unproven.
They are still searching for a signature win of their early campaign. DeMarcus Cousins dominated them last Sunday and Aldridge presents a major match-up issue. Their expertise and talent in transition will also prove to be a major challenge for the Blazers, who feel like they’ve come along on that end.
Should be a nice matinee.