Clip Show: The L.A. Clippers are still a team going nowhere fast

Posted: December 14, 2010 in NBA
Tags: , , , , ,

See this article with photos on Bleacher Report

Prior to the season, I actually predicted that the long-suffering Clippers would be a playoff team in the Western Conference. Oops. Well, now that we’re 25 games into the season, I can see two things about this team clearly: One, they do have two All-Star caliber players. And two, the rest of the roster in incredibly thin and made up of inexperienced youngsters and over-the-hill vets. My mistake was that I actually expected Baron Davis and Chris Kaman to be a third and fourth All-Star type players this season. Double Oops.

There are two opposing back court-front court duos in Clipper-land that tell the tale. Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin are the future of this team. Both of these guys are fantastic, explosive players improving by the day. It is nearly inexplicable that a team with two young, athletic, legit All-Star type guys could be the worst team in the league. But it is the Clippers. For every positive, there is an equal and opposite negative.

With this club, that negative is the duo of Baron Davis and Chris Kaman. These guys were supposed to be the veteran leadership on a young, improving squad. But instead, they’ve both been injured and relatively ineffective when they are on the court. And aside from a couple guys with bright upsides, there’s not much else on this team. Here’s a look at where the Clippers stand, position by position.

Point Guard

Baron Davis is making a strong case to become the next Latrell Sprewell, Stefan Marbury and Allen Iverson; that being a very talented, former All-Star who can’t get out of his own way and ends up closing up a career far too soon. He has been putrid since coming over from Golden State three seasons ago. This year, he’s out of shape and playing with little or no fire, leaving what could have been a surprise team in the strong Western Conference a bottom feeder once again. Davis has played in only 11 games so far, and has been reinserted as a starter just in time to put up a stunning 4 point, 6 assist night against Orlando. With that kind of production from the point, it’s a wonder L.A.’s other team has even managed to win the five games they have.

Rookie Eric Bledsoe has show flashes filling in for Davis, but he is still way too young and inexperienced to lead this team. Certainly, he has exceptional potential, and he is just 21 years old, but it’ll take at least a couple seasons for him to fully flesh out his game. Of course, the Clippers have a long history of suiting up guys with great potential who never figure it out. In the mean time, Davis, if healthy, will man the point for this team. I’m not certain that’s a good thing.

Shooting Guard

As I mentioned before, Eric Gordon is an All Star waiting to happen, and that could possibly be this year. Gordon, after his experience with Team USA this summer, has emerged as a prime-time player so far this season. His points and assists have both improved considerably in essentially the same number of minutes. Gordon is sporting 24.5 points and 4.5 assists per game thus far and, along with Griffin, have been the only constants for the Clippers this season. In his last game against Orlando, the same game where Baron Davis put up 4 and 6 in 33 minutes, Gordon put up 28 points and 8 assists in 41 minutes. Which one would you rather have under contract for the long term?

Gordon’s backed up at the two spot by journeyman Rasual Butler. Butler, while having the experience of a nine-year NBA vet, is putting up a brisk 6.7 ppg in 20 minutes of burn, almost half of his production of last season in L.A. I would go more into detail, but Butler is essentially a placeholder until someone better comes along. Barring a major injury (always a possibility with this team) Gordon has this position locked down for the foreseeable future.

Center

Chris Kaman, the other former quality vet on this team, has been and continues to be injured. He’s only played in 10 games thus far, putting up 10 points and 7 boards while shooting a pathetic 38% from the floor, especially bad for a supposed big man. But then Kaman’s never been a dominant post player. He’s not expected back until sometime in January at the earliest, and that leaves a gaping hole in the middle for the Clippers.

Third-year man DeAndre Jordan has taken the starter’s role while Kaman’s been injured, and his line of 5 points and 5 rebounds is a little less than inspiring. Jordan is blocking about a shot a game, but that’s not making up for his lack of production in other areas. For a third-year guy who was a originally a top-five draft pick, Jordan has show remarkably little improvement. While Kaman has shown some offensive chops in the past (he’s actually been an All-Star) Jordan looks as though he’s never going to be more than a back up center, likely in the mold of an Erik Dampier, if he’s lucky.

And for now, while Kaman continues to sit out, Jarron Collins is backing up Jordan. Yikes!

Small Forward

Worst team in the league, three rookies as starters for much of the year. Coincidence? Probably not. Al Farouq Aminu is getting some of the starts at this position, and his production is beginning to pick up a bit as the season goes on. He’s scored in double figures over the last half-dozen games, and with his energy (and somewhat surprising three-point stroke) he’s a good bet to ultimately take over as the starter from Ryan Gomes. Aminu, like Bledsoe, has a bright upside, but he’s only 20 years old, and, also like Bledsoe, it will take time to flesh out his game.

Gomes, for a six-year vet who signed with L.A. this season, has regressed. So far this year, he’s posting career lows in virtually every major category while still playing consistent minutes. Gomes can be a serviceable backup, but he is definitely not a starter. If Aminu continues to progress and learn some consistency, Gomes will be back on the bench where he belongs.

Power Forward

In his first 25 games in the NBA, Blake Griffin has already established himself as a 20-10 player with an exciting, athletic and energetic game. In fact, he has the look of a guy who could be pushing 25-15 type numbers once he reaches his prime. That is, if he can figure out how to shoot free throws. Is it possible that the worst team in the league could have two All-Stars? Probably not, but both Griffin and Gordon and definitely deserving, but because the team is so bad, at least one of them will not be making the trip. Griffin has shown steady improvement as the season has gone on, a trait that will likely continue, leading to an excellent opportunity for the Rookie of the Year honor over fellow rookie phenom John Wall.

Griffin’s backup at the four is Craig Smith. Have I already mentioned the fact that the Clips have no depth? Enough said. Good thing Griffin is every bit as advertised.

Prognosis

The Clippers have and are going to continue to stink this year. While they have two potential superstars in Gordon and Griffin, they also have two albatross’ in Davis and Kaman. Huge contracts and injuries are going to make it extremely difficult to move either of those guys, but that is what needs to happen for this team to progress.

Guys like Bledsoe and Aminu and going to be fixtures as starters by the end of this season, and with the addition of another likely high lottery pick, the eternal laughing stock of sports is going to have an enviable base of talent to build around for a change. Bench guys like Gomes, Butler, Smith, Randy Foye and Brian Cook and strictly place-holders until better players can be had and ,when you’ve got two exciting young all-stars playing in L.A., the Clippers could actually be an attractive destination for free agents in a year or two.

While 2010-11 at first looked to be a breakout year, in actuality, it is yet another rebuilding season in Clipper-ville. However, with another high draft pick coming, if they can move Davis and Kaman, spend wisely on free agents and dig up an actual useful center somewhere, it may be their last rebuilding season for quite a while. Of course, it is the Clippers. Something will come along and screw it up, I’m sure.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s