Everybody knows the Lakers recently became championship contenders overnight. They acquired Antawn Jamison, Steve Nash, and Dwight Howard this summer, while giving up Andrew Bynum and Ramon Sessions. But while the Lakers were busy benefitting from David Stern-orchestrated blockbusters, the Clippers were subtly adding meat to their Paul-Griffin skeleton.
The Clippers had good pieces before this summer. Beyond CP3 and the Blake, the Clips competed in last year’s playoffs with Kenyon Martin, Caron Butler, DeAndre Jordan, Randy Foye, Eric Bledose, Reggie Evans, and Mo Williams. And in the early parts of the regular season, they had Chauncy Billups too.
Those guys I just listed, well, in the aggregate they’re pretty good. But when you factor in Chauncy’s injury, Caron’s lack of backup at the small forward, and the offensive woes of some of their big men, you can find holes in their roster (like most rosters, to be fair).
Enter the 2012-2013 season. Things have changed, little by little, and it’s feasible these little changes might add up to a somewhat big effect. Here is a list of the three notable differences between last year’s Clippers and the current Clippers:
- Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin have been replaced by Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf.
- Nick Young and Mo Williams have been replaced by Jamal Crawford and Willie Green (and a healthy Billups).
- Most importantly, the Clippers brought on board Lamar Odom and Grant Hill.
How should we evaluate these changes?
Change #1 is a wash on the surfrace, but makes sense within their team structure. They Clippers lost some rebounding, badassedness, but they increased in size. And this helps because…? Well, because Griffin logs heavy minutes at power forward while DeAndre doesn’t at center, it makes sense that the bigs off the bench have the size to fill in for DeAndre. Plus, with Odom on the squad, the Clippers have a player more than capable filling in for Griffin at the 4-spot, especially from an offensive perspective.
Change #2 is an obvious gain, if only for Chauncy’s return. Trading Nick Young (little defense, zero passing) and Mo Williams (zero defense) for Jamal Crawford (inefficient) and Willie Green (mediocre) is a wash, but Billups played great as an off-guard before his injury, and is better than any of the aforementioned SGs at making his way to the free-throw line and defense. This is especially relevant as the Clipper’s FT/FGA (one of the offensive four-factors) was their only offensive factor below average while Chauncy (slightly) improves their below-average D.
And change #3 is a obvious and massive upgrade. It addresses the team’s biggest issue, which is depth at the small forward position and makes up for Kenyon Martin’s loss.
The Clippers aren’t ready to unseat the Lakers or the Thunder. They don’t play good enough defense, convert too few free throws, and foul way too much. But with improved free throws from Griffin and Jordan (a crapshoot), along with maturation of the defensive end (likely), the Clippers could easily find themselves the third-best team in the West. Watch out.
How do you think the Clippers will fare in 2012-13? Comment on the article or e-mail us at AGRbasketball (at) gmail (dot) com. Don’t forget to follow @AGRbasketball on Twitter and to like us on Facebook.