Los Angeles Clippers
Coach: Mike Dunleavy
2007-08 Record: 23-59
Pythagorean Record for 07-08: 21-61
Offensive Rating: 101.2 (28th in the league)
Defensive Rating: 109.1 (19th)
Possessions per 48: 92.1 (12th)
Min%: 45.8 (29th)
|Offensive||46.5 (30th)||.137 (22nd)||.231 (28th)||.264 (5th)|
|Defensive||50.3 (18th)||.128 (20th)||.731 (17th)||.236 (17th)|
Roster (Red indicates new acquisition, Blue indicates rookie)
I believe very strongly that Baron Davis should’ve gone down as one of the greatest point guards ever to play the game, but he hasn’t ever completely lived up to his prodigious talent. His physical skills are just mind-blowing for a point guard. He has amazing size (6′3), might be the strongest player at his position in the league, is ridiculously quick given his size, and elevates as well as anyone. He has a tight handle and can really distribute the ball (when he wants to). If you were to build a prototype point guard, it would be Baron Davis. However, Baron has never really put together a whole season where he made good use of those gifts. He’s prone to go down for long stretches with somewhat dubious injuries (though, to his credit, he played all 82 games last year), and his main Achilles Heel is that he shoots an enormous amount of threes, even though he isn’t a great perimeter shooter. Sadly, I think the legend of Baron Davis is going to be one of unfulfilled potential, and I don’t think you can count on him to lead your team.
I’m a Marcus Camby fan. I think he’s one of the few big men who legitimately change the entire face of a defense. He’s probably the league’s best weakside shotblocker, he’s got incredible timing and great length. He’s also one of the league’s best rebounders (trailing only Dwight Howard), able to absolutely dominate the defensive glass. Last of the post defense trifecta, Camby was in the top 20 last year in charges drawn. Yes, he occasionally has trouble matching up with bigger low-post matchups, but that shouldn’t be much of a problem with Kaman to handle stronger post players. Offensively he doesn’t give you much, but he’s also not going to make many mistakes. He generally sets up at the top of the key and either shoots the midrange jumper or is used as a passing post. He’s not a very good shooter, so teams are often better off leaving him open and letting him shoot. However, he’s also one of the league’s best passing big men.
I’m not quite sold on Chris Kaman yet. He certainly looks very talented every time you watch him, but so far it hasn’t translated into great production. Some of that has to do with the fact that he’s been surrounded by a mediocre team most of his career, but you’d like to see at least average-level efficiency from a supposed All-Star center in the making. He’s also been somewhat injury-prone over the course of his career. The one thing that does stand out about Kaman is his defensive improvement. He’s really improved his timing and recognition, increasing his block rate while decreasing his foul rate, both by significant amounts. In addition to his newly-gained prowess as a shot-blocker, he’s also made steady progress on the glass, establishing himself as one of the league’s top rebounders last season. What’s left is for Kaman to prove that he can be at least a semi-efficient main option in the post. The potential is there, but he’s 26 and hasn’t yet put it together, so we’ll see if he can make that leap.
Look, I could tell you all sorts of reasons why Ricky Davis isn’t a player I would want on my team, but lets just stick with this. HE SHOT AT HIS OWN BASKET TO GET A REBOUND!
Cuttino Mobley’s best days are behind him, and to be frank, his best days weren’t all that much to get excited about. He’s not really a threat to do anything but his open jumpers, because he doesn’t have the quickness to beat his man anymore, and he’s never been great shakes at distributing the ball. He’s still a decent defender because he’s very intelligent at that end and has always had good quickness, though he’s losing that as he gets older. He’s not a starting-caliber player anymore, but he’ll have to be the starter this year unless Eric Gordon progresses much faster than expected.
When you’re supposed to be an offensive specialist whose one outstanding skill is his jumpshot, and you can’t even score efficiently when playing with Steve Nash, you might not be so good. In case you’re wondering, yes I am referring to you, Tim Thomas.
X-Factor: Al Thornton – I’m a big Thornton fan, have been for a few years now as I watched him play through college. Despite the fact that he’s old for a second-year player (25), Thornton made large leaps every year of college, and he’s still very much developing. He’s a fantastic athlete with a lot of tools, but he’s still learning what a good shot is and how to properly play defense. He’s very strong, very quick, and can absolutely jump out of the building, the physical tools are huge. He’s also a pretty good shooter and can finish at the rim. The big problem with Thornton is shot selection and decision-making. As much as he can catch fire and dominate a given game, more often than not he was bogged down by turnovers and poor shooting performances because he tried to force too many difficult plays. Thornton’s success going forward is largely going to depend on whether or not he can become a smarter player. If he improves enough to give the Clippers a solid third scoring option, it’ll help them out a lot.
Two years ago, the Clippers were a game away from the Western Conference Finals, and things were finally looking up. We should’ve known better than to get our hopes up. Just behind death and taxes, the Clippers sucking is about as dependable as it gets. Since that postseason run, LA has lost their point guard of the future (Shaun Livingston) and their star forward (Elton Brand) to injury. Now neither one is one is on the roster. Last season was effectively over once Brand went down with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon. Without their star and with a starting point guard who wanted out of town (Sam Cassell), this team was really, really bad. They ranked in the bottom half of the league in almost every important category (except getting to the free throw line; thank you Corey Maggette). The good news is, help has arrived. The Clips were hoping to pair Davis with Brand, but that didn’t work out when Brand bolted for Philly. They were able to salvage the situation somewhat by getting Camby from Denver for basically nothing (two second-round draft picks). They may not set the world on fire, but things are at least moving in a positive direction with their offseason moves.
My vote for “Most Dysfunctional Team of the 2008-09 Season.” Ricky Davis, Baron Davis, Tim Thomas, a coach who is already on the hot seat, does this seem like a good idea to anyone? There’s certainly talent here, but it’s not particularly well-balanced, and they’ve also got quite a few injury-prone players. The starting lineup of Camby, Kaman, Thornton, Mobley and Davis is actually pretty strong, but you can’t rely on Camby, Kaman or Davis to play all 82 games and Mobley is getting too old to be effective anymore. Off the bench, do you trust Thomas and Davis to be effective contributors, cause I don’t. I think they’ll struggle mightily on offense, they’ve got too many high usage, low efficiency guys. The one positive is that they might be a top 10 defensive team if they can stay healthy. Davis, Mobley, Kaman and Camby are all above-average defenders and Thornton has the potential to be an excellent defender with his athleticism. However, there are too many wildcards here for me to think they’ll finish anywhere near the playoffs.
xphoenix87 is a Contributing Writer for BallerBlogger.com. He’s a veritable encyclopedia of NBA knowledge. He’s writing season previews for all 30 NBA teams. Check back in tomorrow for the Lakers preview.