What to Expect From the New and Improved Los Angeles Clippers
I’m going to be blunt, strictly for the sense of this article and educational purposes; not so I can finally vent my bad blood towards the Los Angeles Clippers: I have never believed their hype. Ever since the acquisition of Doc Rivers (no slight to him) as head coach, many top basketball experts have considered the Clippers to be title contenders every year, but I never hopped on the bandwagon.
A core including arguably the best point guard in the game (Chris Paul) and two one-dimensional big men could not get the Clippers to the promise land under Doc Rivers the past two years just like they couldn’t under their Lob City pseudonym.
In the past two years, the Clippers success has hinged on the development of their two big men, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The same sentiment is true moving forward as this was exemplified by the drama over “re-acquiring”, or keeping DeAndre Jordan.
While the Clippers core three is mostly responsible for their success, so is the rest of the team. In the past year alone the Clippers frontcourt has made leaps and bounds in terms of development (especially Blake Griffin). Still, they were unable to reach their supposed destiny.
In an infamous meltdown against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Clippers were exploited through their lack of depth, youth, and leadership. They’ve addressed these issues in an interesting offseason; let’s see what each of their acquisitions brings to the fold.
Yes, he is 38 years old but there’s no denying the resume and experience that Pierce brings. He is an extremely clutch shooter, which he phenomenally displayed while on the Wizards this past season. Just goes to show some things don’t change with age. With his clutch shooting, Pierce brings inconceivable competitiveness and toughness.
Pierce will likely start in place of Matt Barnes, which is an upgrade due to his qualities listed above plus one more special quality: his basketball IQ. Pierce averaged nearly 12 points per game in his 17th year in the league; the effect he has on teammates and on the game will only be amplified now that he’s reunited with his championship coach with the Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers.
*Photo via NBA.com
Many may look at the disappointment Lance Stephenson served to the Charlotte Hornet franchise and suggest he’ll duplicate this with the Clippers. However, Charlotte’s expectations of Stephenson were far too high as well as misplaced. Stephenson was expected to step in and become the second option for a weak Hornets squad and that’s not the type of player he is.
Stephenson had a tremendous impact for the Indiana Pacers during the 2013-14 season because he was a high-energy role player. He will be exactly that for the Clippers coming off the bench, scoring in bunches when needed, and bringing energy that can turn a game around. He will thrive in this role once again.
After losing to the Rockets in a meltdown series, the Clippers figured they would add one of the pieces that contributed to their demise, Josh Smith. Smith was an intricate part of the Rockets’ success this past postseason and will likely serve a similar role for the Clippers.
Smith, a career starter, will come off the bench for Los Angeles to provide instant offense. He’ll backup Blake Griffin and provide offensive and defensive versatility, something the Clippers have needed off the bench for some time now. For the veterans minimum, Smith was a solid pick up. Let’s just hope Doc doesn’t allow him to shoot threes.
Further down the depth chart
Cole Aldrich will replace Spencer Hawes as the backup center. Aldrich will give the Clippers 15-20 minutes of hustle, rebounding and decent rim protection, which is a hell of a lot more than they got from Hawes. Wesley Johnson and Branden Dawson fill out the roster and give the Clippers depth and more versatility as both players can play multiple positions.
How will these acquisitions help?
Depth, depth, and more depth. The Clippers knew going into the offseason they needed to bolster their bench. They did exactly that. Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith could be huge contributors to a remarkable Clippers team, or they could accentuate the morale issue that has plagued the Clippers for years. I’m sold on the talent aspect of these acquisitions but there’s no denying it comes with baggage and question marks.
Doc Rivers can make it work. He has before with the Celtics ‘Big Three’ and he now has another capable leader to complement Chris Paul in Paul Pierce. The Clippers are sick of being bounced out early in the playoffs. Expect to see them fighting for a title this year like they never have before.