Small Ball 2016-17 Season Previews: Los Angeles Clippers

53-29

Additions: Alan Anderson, Brandon Bass, Raymond Felton, Marreese Speights, Devyn Marble
Departures: Cole Aldrich, Jeff Green, Pablo Prigioni, CJ Wilcox, Branden Dawson

Year after year I’m always disappointed with the Los Angeles Clippers. I’m not even a fan of the them–I just don’t understand how or why they always choke in the playoffs year-after-year with the talent they have. Superstars/All-Stars including Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are just too good not to have at least one ring together. JJ Redick usually finishes with a top 3 point field goal % in the league every year too. They even added the late, great Paul Pierce. But they still might be missing “that guy”.

The Clippers tried to bolster their roster by adding Kevin Durant as part of a big-4 pitch ; but he rejected the offer and instead joined another big-4 in the West. The Clips dominated the first two games of the playoffs against the Trail Blazers (winning both games by 20+ points) but went on to lose four in a row to get eliminated in the first round.

It’s almost like there’s a curse on them when the playoffs come. Los Angeles is hoping that the additions of Brandon Bass and Marreese Speights will add some size so Griffin can focus more on scoring this year. They also hope that Brice Johnson can be another Blake Griffin-type player in the NBA, so we’ll have to see what we get out of him.

Returning Players: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Paul Pierce, JJ Redick, Jeff Ayres, Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, Wesley Johnson, Luc Mbah a Moute

Quick question: Why on Earth did they offer Austin Rivers more money than Jamal Crawford at first during this offseason? Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford should be in for another big year after signing his 3 year, $42 million dollar deal. After averaging 14.2 points, 2.3 assists and 1.8 rebounds per game in the regular season, Crawford averaged over 17 points in the playoffs. When JJ Redick isn’t shooting well (which is rare), Crawford is usually the guy that comes in to be clutch and gives solid minutes to back him and Chris Paul up.

They have a really deep bench with guys like Crawford, Johnson, Rivers and now Felton, Speights and Bass. One problem with the Clippers is they often have one of the tougher schedules. When the Warriors are in your division and it seems like you play the Thunder or the Spurs every other night, it can be hard to finish with a high seed. The Clippers usually finish anywhere from a 4 to a 6 seed, which means a tough matchup in the first round, second round you likely play the 1 seed, and then the Western Conference Finals before facing off with the Eastern Conference’s best. They’re always a threat to be a top team in the West and make a Playoff push, but will this be the year that they can actually manage to pull it off?

G– Chris Paul is still a top five point guard in the game. Last year, he averaged 19.5 points, 10.0 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game to live up to his 18.8 points and 9.9 assists per game career average. It doesn’t seem like he’s slowing down either, although last year he got hurt and missed time in the playoffs with a hand injury. That, along with Blake’s injury, was no doubt the main reason why they lost the series to the Blazers, as Paul scored over 25 points in each of the first three games while they were up 2-1.

With other guys like Redick and Crawford, along with Rivers, Anderson and Felton, the guard pool is pretty deep for the Clippers. Unfortunately, no one knows what the Clips were thinking when they Drafted David Michineau in the second round from France, since guys like Demetrius Jackson or Jake Layman were still on the board. He averaged under 14 minutes per game and had poor stats last year in France. They even traded their 33rd pick for picks 39 and 40, and instead of any of the college guys they went with the unproven Michineau. If he makes the roster, he will be a deep bench guy. Wesley Johnson is the only other guy that can play at the guard spot but they all come together to make one heck of a core at the Guard spot for the Clips.

F- Despite all the rumors of Blake Griffin being traded, he is still in LA and is coming off a broken hand in an altercation with a teammate and also a reinjured quad. He averaged 21.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game, but only played in 35 games all year. He was back for the postseason however, where he averaged 15.0 points 8.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. They need so much more from him as the leader of this squad with Chris Paul.

With Paul Pierce signing another year and the addition of the 25th Overall Pick Brice Johnson, the forward spot will be strong for Los Angeles this year. Johnson averaged 17.0 points and 10.4 rebounds for Roy Williams’ University of North Carolina last year. He has serious potential to be a future star in this league alongside Griffin. When they traded the 33 pick for 39 and 40, they got Michineau with the 39th pick, and Diamond Stone out of the University of Maryland with the 40th pick. The 6’11 power forward/center will add some size and a big body down low for them.

They could go really big with Jordan at the 5, Stone/Speights at the 4 and Griffin at the 3. An interesting addition (and another grinder) is Brandon Bass. Him and Speights will be the guys who will realistically see the minutes behind Jordan and Griffin this year over Stone. Mbah a Moute, Johnson and Ayres add the depth to what should be a really good core of forwards–especially if Brice Johnson can step up and be a stud.

C– DeAndre Jordan is one of the most dominant centers in the game. He had the best field goal percentage in the league last year, by far, with an astounding 70.3%, and was 2nd in both rebounds and blocks. Jordan averaged 12.7 points, 13.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. Every year we get to look forward to the hammer dunks and alley oops from Chris Paul that he throws down; but DeAndre is worth so much more than that to this team.

He’s arguably the best rebounder in the league and is an absolute force on the glass both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Jordan was an absolute animal in the playoffs, averaging 11.7 points, 16.3 rebound and 2.7 blocks per game. He’s not necessarily the dominant scorer like Anthony Davis or DeMarcus Cousins; but DeAndre is a top-three center in the game with his size and the mismatches he makes.

Mo Speights was brought in to replace Cole Aldrich as Jordan’s backup, and can actually give really solid minutes off the bench like he did for Golden State last year. Should Diamond Stone make the roster and get some minutes, he may be able to add another solid body into the mix of dominant rebounders that Clippers have. It should be another really high quality year for Jordan again if he stays heathy.

Overall

The Clippers have a real good shot this year to make a solid playoff run if they all manage to stay healthy. They lost Blake Griffin for most the season last year, and lost Chris Paul in the 4th game of the Playoffs along with Griffin. Those two are the key to this team along with big 3 member DeAndre Jordan and his dominant rebounding ability.

If there’s any team in the league that can beat the Warriors in a 7 game series in the West besides the Spurs; it’s the Clippers. Last year, they were up 2-1 on the Trail Blazers when they lost Chris Paul–if they won that series; they would have played Golden State next. The Warriors lack size and rebounding ability, so the Clips could just body everyone on the Warriors down low, and make their shooting ability or Draymond Green beat them. The problem would be that they don’t want it to be a high scoring game, as they won’t be able to score with Golden State. Redick can shoot with anyone and Pierce is a true veteran to help the team along with offseason additions like Brandon Bass, Raymond Felton and Mo Speights. If Brice Johnson can be a force in the NBA this year in his freshman year; the Clippers could make some serious noise in the playoffs, and even against the Warriors (should they finally get their chance).

Prediction: 54-28

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