Los Angeles Clippers 2013-14 Preview

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Chris Paul and Blake Griffin

Sep 30, 2013; Playa Vista, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (32) and point guard Chris Paul (3) during a photo session during media day at the Los Angeles Clippers Training Facility. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In what was supposed to be the year it all comes together, the Clippers finished fourth in the Western Conference in 2012-13 and lost in the very first round of the playoffs. The Clippers decided to cut loose coach Vinny Del Negro and completed an unusual trade for Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, sending a 2015 first-round draft pick to Boston. The Clips also added a lot of veteran talent in the off-season, bringing in Jared Dudley, J.J. Redick, Darren Collison, and Byron Mullens and drafting North Carolina standout Reggie Bullock in the first-round.

The emphasis is obviously to focus on winning now. With plenty of talent to work with, Doc Rivers could certainly take the Clippers farther than Del Negro took them but there are still plenty of questions about this team.

2012-13 Ranks:

Wins: 56

Points Per Game: 9th

FG%: 4th

Points Allowed Per Game: 4th

Rebounds Per Game: 18th

Notable Additions: Reggie Bullock, Jared Dudley, J.J. Redick, Darren Collison, Byron Mullens, Antawn Jamison

Notable Losses: Chauncey Billups, Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler

Point Guards: Chris Paul, Darren Collison, Maalik Wayns – Grade: A+

Paul is as good a point guard as you’ll find in the NBA. Last season, he averaged 16.9 PPG, 9.7 APG, and a league-leading 2.4 SPG while shooting a very strong 48 percent from the floor. He finished third in the NBA last season in Win Shares and should be an MVP candidate once again this season as long as he stays healthy.

Collison is a very solid rotation point guard and an efficient scorer. Something of a poor man’s Chris Paul, he averaged 12 PPG, 5.1 APG, and 1.2 SPG while shooting a solid 47 percent. He’s not a starter-level player but makes for a very strong backup point guard.

Wayns suffered a torn meniscus in his knee during a recent preseason game and is expected to miss six weeks. He only played 27 games in his rookie season last year and shot a miserable 29.5 percent so it’s unclear if the team will even have a place for the undrafted Villanova product once he’s healthy.

Shooting Guards: J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Willie Green – Grade: B-

Redick has arguably his best season yet in 2012-13 but that doesn’t mean he’s a starting-caliber player. He averaged a career-high 14.1 PPG and 3.8 APG but shot just 43.4 percent from the floor last year. He takes a lot of long-range shots and is fairly efficient, nailing 36.6 percent from three-point range last year and 39 percent in his career. He’s best suited for a rotation role and, even as a starter, isn’t expected to play 30 minutes per game.

Crawford, at 32, had one of this best seasons in his first year with the Clips. Despite coming off the bench, he averaged 29 MPG, 16.5 PPG, and 2.0 3PPG. He doesn’t do much outside of shoot deep jumpers but he’s a solid veteran to have in the rotation and should go nicely with Redick.

Green was technically the starter at shooting guard last season but only averaged 16.5 MPG and a paltry 6.3 PPG. He shot a strong 43 percent from deep but that’s basically where most of his value lies.

Small Forwards: Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes, Reggie Bullock – Grade: C+

Dudley came over with Redick in a three-team trade with the Suns and Bucks and has become a passable small forward over the last couple of years. While nothing about him is especially stellar, he averaged shot a very solid 47 percent from the floor and 39 percent from three-point range last year, although he averaged just 11 points per game. He’s a solid defender but nothing to write home about. In any case, he’s better than Caron Butler in just about every aspect of the game and nearly $4 million cheaper so it’s an upgrade.

Barnes had one of his best seasons coming off the bench for the Clippers last season. At 32, he averaged 26 MPG, 10.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 1.0 SPG while shooting a solid 46 percent from the floor. He’s a very solid bench contributor and should get his usual 22-25 MPG and 10 PPG again this season.

Bullock was the 25th overall pick in this year’s draft after playing very well in North Carolina. Last year, he shot a very strong 48 percent from the floor and 43.6 percent from three-point range, averaging 13.9 PPG and 6.5 RPG. He’s a very technically sound player and has very good size at 6-foot-7. He’ll have to work on shot creation and driving to the paint rather than relying on the deep ball all the time if he hopes to make it as a starter in the NBA.

Power Forwards: Blake Griffin, Byron Mullens, Antawn Jamison – Grade: B+

Griffin’s 18 PPG and 54 percent shooting is right around what we’ve come to expect from Griffin but his rebounding isn’t what it was when he first broke into the league. He averaged just 8.3 RPG last year after averaging 12.1 and 10.9 over his first two seasons. That shows a lack of aggressiveness, considering DeAndre Jordan doesn’t light the world on fire with his rebounding.

Mullens was banged up last season but that doesn’t excuse terrible play. He’s a rare big man who shoots a lot of threes but he’s not a very skilled shooter. He shot a miserable 38.5 percent from the floor and 31.7 percent from three-point range. His shooting, combined with a pedestrian 6.4 RPG and not a whole lot else clearly means he’s far better suited for a bench role, if that.

At 36, Jamison’s production dropped off drastically last season after coming to the Lakers and he averaged double-digit points for the first time in his career (which started in 1998). He put up 9.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and shot 46.4 percent from the floor last year while playing 21.5 MPG. That’s solid for a third-stringer.

Centers: DeAndre Jordan, Ryan Hollins – Grade: B-

Jordan shot a league-leading 64.3 percent from the floor last year but averaged just 8.8 PPG while playing just 24.5 MPG. His averages per 36 minutes are 13 points, 10.6 rebounds, and two blocks which are all very solid for a center but Jordan can be drastically inconsistent and isn’t the greatest rebounder for a guy who’s 6-foot-11.

Hollins is a poor man’s DeAndre Jordan. He only played around 11 MPG last season but is a solid shot blocker and passable rebounder off the bench who shot a very strong 61.4 percent last season.

Coach: Doc Rivers – Grade: A

The Clippers gave up a future first-round pick for Rivers but if they want to win now, Rivers gives you the best chance. He took Boston to the playoffs in all but two of his nine years there and finished first in the Atlantic Division six times. The Celts won the NBA Championship in 2008 and got to the finals again in 2010. He has the experience and ability to take this team to the next level and it helps that most of the pieces are already in place.

Team Grade: B+

Igor Derysh is Editor-at-Large at XN Sports and has been featured in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sun-Sentinel, and FantasyPros. He has previously covered sports for COED Magazine, Fantasy Alarm, and Manwall.com.
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