Enemy Lines: A rival scout sizes up the Clippers
2012-13 Record: 56-26; lost to Grizzlies in Western Conference first round
Coach: Doc Rivers (first season with Clippers)
The Clippers need improvement from Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan or the results are going to be the same as last season, when they lost in the first round of the playoffs after winning 56 games. Chris Paul can't advance by himself.
The top priority for new coach Doc Rivers has to be getting Griffin and Jordan to buy into what he wants to do. Their mental makeups are not very strong. They have gotten the blame the last two years, and you can tell it has worn on them.
You can talk a lot about what Rivers' system is going to be, but until someone takes the ball out of Paul's hands, it is going to be all pick-and-roll. If they want to go anywhere in the playoffs, they can't run pick-and-roll all the time. The problem is, they don't have bigs to space the floor. They have two who can only roll, can't make free throws and can't pick-and-pop.
Last year, Paul didn't trust Griffin to make a big shot -- you could see that. He has to learn to face up and shoot. That part of his game has to become consistent so that he can rely on different things offensively. Griffin needs to be like what David West was to Paul in New Orleans, where West would set a side pick, slide, catch and make a 15-footer. A guy who can pick-and-pop takes the pressure off Paul to make plays. Griffin is so talented, but he has to round out his game for the Clippers to take the next step.
Rivers has to massage Jordan's ego. Jordan needs to be patted on the back. He kept getting knocked down mentally so many times last season. He was getting pulled out of games, not being put back into games. It beat him up. Paul was always right, and Jordan and Griffin were always wrong. I like that Rivers is giving Jordan a lot of responsibility on defense. It will be interesting to see how Jordan responds.
J.J. Redick's ability to come off screens and shoot will take pressure off Paul. Ray Allen and Redick are totally different players, but they can run the same plays in Doc's system. Allen would come off double and triple screens; that's what Redick will do.
Jamal Crawford isn't a good sixth man on a winning team. All he wants to do is hoist up shots. That kind of player will kill you in the playoffs.
Matt Barnes was great last year with his defense, energy and spot-up shooting. He brings a competitive edge that goes so well with Paul's. There is something to be said for a guy who busts his ass with one goal in mind -- winning the game. He's not going to create his own shot, but Paul will set him up on spot-ups or basket cuts. Barnes is going to be the ass---- you don't want to play against.
Swapping Jared Dudley for Caron Butler will be a positive. Butler wanted more shots; Dudley doesn't care about that. He accepts his role. He'll defend and be a solid teammate, along with spotting up for three-pointers. He will add character to the locker room and root everyone on from the bench.
Their lack of reliable big men behind Griffin and Jordan is a problem. I'm not sold on Byron Mullens as a real contributor on a good team, but he might be a pick-and-pop option for Paul. Antawn Jamison is too old and Ryan Hollins is soft.
I like their other backup guards a lot more than their backup bigs. Darren Collison proved in Dallas that he is not a starter, but he is a solid backup point guard. New coaches always come in thinking that Willie Green isn't going to play. But coaches who have had him say he works hard at every practice and outplays teammates. He's a pro's pro. He does his job and doesn't complain.