2016-17 LA Clippers Season Preview: Try Getting Some Rebounds… and Hitting Some Free Throws

After five years of false starts and injury-affected seasons, this incarnation of the Clippers could be on its last chance.

Last season by the numbers

  • Record: 53-29 (4th West)
  • Offensive rating: 106.5 (6th)
  • Defensive rating: 100.9 (4th)
  • Pace: 98.0 (16th)
  • True shooting: 55.6% (5th)
  • Turnover rate: 12.1 (3rd)
  • Offensive rebounding: 20.1% (28th)
  • Defensive rebounding: 73.8 (28th)
  • Giveashitameter: 10th
  • Highest PER*: 26.2 (Paul)

(*) – minimum 1,000 minutes.

At a glance

(Converts the above rankings into a rating out of 10).

lac

Recap

I bet you didn’t think that a team with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan would be the league’s second worst rebounding team.

The Clippers were utterly woeful on the boards – ranking 28th on both offensive and defensive rebounding and 29th overall. A big part of the problem was that Jordan was the Clippers’ only regular rotation player with an above average rebounding rate (3rd among centers). From there, Griffin was next best (33rd among 76 power forwards) which illustrated how average Griffin has become in this department – and how the rest of the Clippers were rebounding minnows.

If the Clippers want a good reason why they’re not legitimate contenders, this is it.

That the Clippers were still able to post a top-5 ranked defense despite the poor rebounding is a testament to both Doc’s coaching and the defensive abilities of Jordan, Paul, Reddick, the small forward pupu platoon of Johnson and Mbah a Moute and even Griffin. Having played together for some years, they know what to do and where to be and prove yet again that continuity and chemistry are critical to team success.

The Clippers were particularly good at defending the perimeter, ranking 5th on three point percentage allowed. They were also very good at defending the inside, ranking 6th on two point percentage allowed. However, it came at the cost of sending opponents to the line far too often, as they hacked their way to a 29th ranking on fouls committed and a 25th ranking on free throws allowed.

That said, it all came back to rebounding and one can only wonder what the defense could have been if the Clippers stopped giving opponents so many second chances.

Offensively, it should come as no surprise that a team with Chris Paul running the show was very effective (6th overall) and great at taking care of the ball (3rd). The problem was that they weren’t quite elite – and they should have been. So what was the problem?

For starters, it wasn’t the field goal shooting – the Clippers were very good from outside, ranking 6th on three point accuracy. They were just as good inside, ranking 6th on two point accuracy. At face value, getting to the line wasn’t a problem either as they ranked 8th on FGA/FTA. However, digging deeper, this figure doesn’t take into account the deliberate and rampant hacking on Jordan that other teams shamelessly engaged in. And despite all the in-game practice, Jordan never managed to make opponents pay as he shot a luridly poor 43.0% from the line. In related news, the Clippers ranked 29th on free throw accuracy.

If Jordan could have found a way to be even a 50-55% free throw shooter, it would have added almost a point to the Clippers’ offensive efficiency – and this is before you even taking into account the offensive flow that the Clippers wouldn’t have foregone as teams would have stopped hacking (or not hacked at all). When adding it up, it would almost single-handedly have transformed the Clippers’ offense from very good to elite.

Reasons to be optimistic

When you have Paul, Griffin and Jordan on the same team, you’re going to win games and have at least an outside chance at the title.

The Clippers finally have some credible front court depth behind Jordan and Griffin. After trotting out the likes of Josh Smith, Glen Davis, Spencer Hawes, Ekpe Udoh, Ryan Hollins, the Ghost of Antawn Jamison’s ability, Byron Mullens, a slightly pre-bender Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf, Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin, the Clippers finally have some real bigs to bring off the bench in Speights (PER 17.1 last season) and Bass (17.4).

Mo Speights will be a fantastic addition to the bench and the dude can flat out score.This will give the Clippers’ bench a one-two punch it hasn’t had before and take a lot of pressure off Crawford.

Jeff Green is gone. Do not underestimate this.

Reasons not to be

The Clippers don’t have a small forward that can put the ball in the hole and will have to continue playing the likes of Mbah a Moute and Johnson. Why oh why haven’t either of them learnt to hit a corner three yet? Seriously, I cannot bear to watch Johnson brick another one – even I could stand there and make more then he can and he supposedly practices this shit every day.

Austin Rivers was given a new deal worth $35 million over three years. Let’s be clear about this, Rivers can’t play basketball very well (11.1 PER last season) and is only there because daddy gave him a job after everybody else refused to employ him – largely because he can’t shoot (40th out of 77 point guards), refuses to pass the fucking ball (73rd) and can’t rebound (67th – even Isaiah Thomas out-rebounded him for crying out loud. Are you aware of this daddy?). While giving junior a job may be the nice fatherly thing to do and moderately tolerable so long as he sits deep on the bench, giving out a contract of this value and playing him 22 minutes a game are egregious sins.

Griffin and Paul are on expiring deals and superstars have a habit of forming super teams with their super friends… elsewhere. Something tells me it probably won’t happen in this case, but you can never, EVER, rule it out – especially if the Clippers unexpectedly stink or run into more bad luck.

Major Ins 

Marreese Speights, Brandon Bass.

Major Outs

Jeff Green, Cole Aldrich.

The Dunkyard’s recommended ‘death’ lineup

  • Paul
  • Reddick
  • Some gimp
  • Griffin
  • Jordan

Dave’s lowdown

While not on the same level as the Kermit Washington/Rudy Tomjanovich or Chris Brown/Rihanna punching incidents, the injury and suspension that came from the Blake Griffin/Matias Testi punch completely derailed any championship hopes the Clippers may have harboured last season. I expect something close to a career-year from Griffin this season as he attempts to repay the organisation and his teammates.

Whether this team can finally go any further than a conference semi-final will depend on the production they muster from their problematic SF position. Alan Anderson, Wes Johnson, Luc Mbah a Moute and Paul Pierce will all be part of a small-forward-by-committee while the front office continues their search, which so far has been even less successful than the one for MH370 (Ed: at least they found part of a wing!).

Forecast record: 57-25

Urgency can be a funny thing and things have never been more urgent than they are now for the Clippers. The players know that if they don’t make things happen this season, then big changes will be coming – whether they come from upper management or from Paul and/or Griffin jumping ship.

The Dunkyard sees the Clippers playing with a purpose they have not yet played with this season – which should see them top last season’s disappointing 53 win total. However, only time will tell whether it amounts to anything different when all is said and done.