Since trading for Chris Paul back in 2011, the Los Angeles Clippers were among the best teams in the NBA league. That is, during the regular season. With CP3 and Blake Griffin together „the other Los Angeles team“ has won at least 60% of its games, including franchise best 57 wins in the 2013/14 season.
More importantly, they become the best team in the city of angels, something that was the exclusive right of the glamorous Lakers.
It's Not Enough?
The Clippers are still lacking championships, furthermore, they have yet to make the NBA Finals appearance. But it looked like they are on the right path and the time was their ally. Paul is one of the Top 3 point guards in the game, alongside Westbrook and Curry.
Griffin developed his talents and now he’s the premier forward, capable of scoring 25+ points, crashing the boards, creating for his teammates and even defending on a decent level. Center Jordan, who has played the lead role on the past summer’s ugly drama with the Mavs, is the reigning rebounding champion and solid rim protector, even though he is a bit overrated and overpaid.
The Clippers were an offensive juggernaut, leading the NBA in offensive rating for two consecutive years. Masterminded by Paul’s court vision, the athleticism of Griffin and Jordan and unlimited shooting range of Redick, every Clippers action and attack was dangerous and fruitful. No matter how good opponent’s defense was, the Clips would have somehow found an opening and score. Not even the motion offense of the Spurs or overwhelming shooting potential of the Warriors were good enough to overthrow the Clippers as the league’s most prolific offense.
They could run standard pick n roll sets. They have two go-to scorers in Paul and Griffin who can win games by themselves. They could overpower rivals by getting enough looks for their centers, and that’s a luxury in today’s game. Finally, they had an opportunity to outshoot anybody providing Redick and Crawford had gotten hot from the outside.
Ok, but Where is a Problem?
This season that is not the case. Yes, they are holding the 4th seed in the West, but standing at 17-13 they are closer to the 8th seeded Jazz than 2nd seeded Spurs. For example, the Pistons have the same record and they are No. 8 in the Eastern conference. Except for the free throw attempts, the Clippers are not among the Top 5 in any statistical category in the ongoing season.
Last year they were in the Top 5 in field goals made, overall FG percentage, 3-pointers made, both 2-point and 3-point accuracy, free throws attempted, assists and total points (counting only positive categories). Despite playing with the similar pace and without major roster changes, the Clippers are scoring almost 7 points less per 100 possessions than in 2014/15 (via basketball-reference.com).
They have former Finals MVP Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, Wesley Johnson and ambiguous but talented Lance Stephenson. It goes without a question that they are deeper and stronger than ever. All members of their Fantastic 4 unit (CP3, Griffin, DAJ, Redick) are playing similar like in the previous season and close to the expectations. They can do it better, sure, but there is no reason for concern. As expected, Crawford’s game declined, but that’s just Father Time knocking on his door. Then why they are not as great and explosive as they used to be?
The Adjustments: Hey Doc, What are You Waiting For?
First of all, the game is changing and evolving. Being in the shadow of the Golden State, Cleveland and San Antonio could be a good thing for the Clips. Aforementioned additions didn’t quite work well so far and there is an issue named „Who to start at the small forward“ which Doc Rivers must solve rather soon.
Griffin has yet to significantly improve defensively and Paul is battling few minor injuries. The Clippers are committing way too many turnovers at the moment. Some of the shots that went in, in the past, didn’t go in this year. And after the prolonged offensive excellence, the rivals adopted new strategies to contain them.
Chris Paul said a few days ago: "We’re not a team that anybody needs to be worried about, I’ll tell you that.”
If there was a basketball MENSA, Chris Paul would have been its president.
The first step to fixing some problem is to admit there is one. The Clippers have done that. Now it's time to get in shape in prove doubters wrong.