ESPN recently rolled out its annual “NBARank”, ranking every player in the league. I did this ranking with the Clippers last year, and man, that turned out to be quite the disaster. I had Lamar Odom ranked No. 3. Whoops. I expected him to have a resurgent season back home in L.A., and he finished the year averaging four points and six rebounds a game. WELP.
The 2013-14 installment of the Clippers looks better and deeper than last year’s edition on paper. The preseason made it evident that they still have several kinks to work through before they’ll be operating at full capacity, but that can probably be said about 99% of the teams in the league.
The largest upgrade they made was likely replacing Vinny del Negro with Doc Rivers, but we’ll wait and see on that one. So, starting with No. 14 (since they still have a vacant roster spot), let’s roll down the roster.
14. Maalik Wayns, PG
Wayns was picked up midway through last season off of a D-League roster on a pair of 10-day contracts before the team decided to keep him for the remainder of the season. The team picked up his club option for this season, although he injured his knee late in the preseason and will miss six weeks to begin the year.
When he returns, Wayns will be relegated to third-string point guard duty behind Chris Paul and Darren Collison. So, clearly, he won’t be seeing the floor much, save for garbage time minutes. Not really much more than a depth guy.
13. Willie Green, SG
Green actually started 60 games last season for the Clippers, due to Chauncey Billups’ struggles to return from various injuries. He shot a fantastic 43% from three-point range, but that’s about all he can do.
He’s undersized for an off-guard at 6’3″, and isn’t the solid defender he once was. When Billups was healthy, Green was relegated to the bench the majority of the time. With LA’s backcourt even more crowded this season, the only floor time Green will likely see will be if anyone in front of him goes down.
12. Byron Mullens, F/C
The Clippers are in need of frontcourt help, but I wasn’t really a fan of this signing. Mullens had his moments last season for the awful Bobcats, but he’s a seven-footer that does little other than fire three-pointers at a high volume. The fact that he shot just 31% from deep is a sign that he should probably not be doing such things.
He’s a sieve defensively, and doesn’t rebound particularly well for a guy of his size. He could play a decent amount, but his limitations may keep him glued to the bench quite a bit.
11. Ryan Hollins, C
Hollins was retained after serving as a decent backup to DeAndre Jordan last season. He gives you nothing but dunks offensively, but he’s proven to be a capable defensive presence and an okay rebounder.
He’s a hustle player that isn’t afraid to mix-it-up in the paint and take fouls.
10. Reggie Bullock, SG
Bullock was the Clippers’ first-round draft choice out of North Carolina, and he actually may be able to provide something useful, unlike lots of picks later on in the draft. He has the potential to be one of those 3-and-D guys that seem to be growing in popularity around the league.
He was hampered by a knee injury and appeared in just one preseason game, but he shot 44% from three last season with the Tar Heels, and was a solid rebounder, as well. Bullock isn’t really one to try and take his man off-the-dribble too often, but he should be able to serve as a decent threat from deep.
He’s a pretty good athlete that excelled as a defender, too, so someone like Danny Green would seem to be a reasonable comparison. He may not play much at first, but I could see him finding a few rotation minutes as the year progresses.
9. Antawn Jamison, PF
Jamison posted career-lows in several statistical categories in his one season with the Lakers last year, but that’s true for a lot of the players on that mess of a team. He’s not nearly the player he was in his prime with the Warriors and Wizards, but he can still do a few things for you.
He’s yet another Clipper that can hurt you with the three-ball, as he shot a respectable 36% from beyond-the-arc a year ago. However, his defense has never been good, and he lacks the athleticism to really keep up with most small or power forwards in the league nowadays. He did average 10 rebounds per game one year with the Wizards, but averaged less-than-half of that last year with the Lakers in fewer minutes.
He’s 6’9″ and should still be able to serve as a big body down low on occasion, but don’t expect many post-ups from him, either.
8. Matt Barnes, SF
Barnes emerged as a great signing last year as a key cog on a Clipper team that set a franchise record with 56 wins, so it was nice to see them bring him back for a second go-round. He averaged a career-high 10.3 points per game off the bench, and added a degree of toughness to a team that had been lacking in that department the season prior. Not that that’s quantifiable, really, but the effect is apparent, nonetheless.
He’ll still be coming off the bench, of course, and while he’s slowed a bit as a defender, he’s still one of the better wing defensive players on the team. Not really saying a whole lot there, considering wing defense is one of the Clippers’ apparent weaknesses, but Barnes is a vital piece.
7. Darren Collison, PG
Collison thrived as the backup to Chris Paul as a rookie with the Hornets, but struggled a bit in two subsequent seasons as the primary starter for both Indiana and Dallas. Now, he’s back as the backup to Paul, and he looked fantastic during the preseason.
Expectations will be lowered again now that he won’t be depended upon as the primary offense initiator, and he should be able to replace the departed Eric Bledsoe pretty well. They’re not very similar players outside of each having amazing speed, as Collison is more of a spot-up shooter while Bledsoe’s game depends largely on athleticism. It’s a defensive downgrade, but the Clips’ offense should operate just fine whenever CP3 is off the floor, which was an area of struggle for last year’s bunch.
6. Jamal Crawford, SG
Crawford was reborn with the Clippers last season after a miserable season in Portland in 2012, averaging nearly 17 points a game on 44% field goal shooting. 44% isn’t phenomenal, but he shot 38% the year prior with the Blazers. His slight frame makes him a minus defender, but he’s a fantastic ball handler capable of running the offense.
He’s a reliable player in crunch time, and gives the Clippers an off-the-dribble scoring punch they don’t really have otherwise.
5. Jared Dudley, SF
Dudley was a part of the trade that sent Bledsoe to Phoenix, and he’ll come in and start at small forward. The San Diego native is yet another Clipper that can stroke it from deep, as he shot 39% from deep last season. A career 40% three-point shooter, Dudley will help the Clips spread the floor.
He’s not a great defender, but he’s shown flashes of being able to man-up on that end of the floor. He’s not a fantastic athlete, but he’s a smart player that knows where to be at all times.
4. DeAndre Jordan, C
Jordan is entering the third year of his massive four-year deal, and Rivers has high expectations for him. He grouped him in with Paul and Griffin as part of the Clips’ “Big Three”, and the talent is tantalizing enough to make people believe he can still live up to the potential.
His shot-blocking has always been hi greatest tool, and he looked as spry as ever defensively in the preseason. His offensive game is still his major hindrance, though he has shown a few post moves here and there. Jordan will still get the majority of his points off of easy dunks. The key for him is free throw shooting, of course. His unreliability from the charity stripe meant he was relegated to the bench in late-game situations last year, which crushed the Clippers’ defense and rebounding ability.
If he can even shoot somewhere in the 60s in terms of free-throw percentage, his game will take a massive leap. While that’s still a pretty awful percentage, this is a guy that shot 38% on free throws a year ago.We shall see.
3. J.J. Redick, SG
Redick was the big acquisition of the offseason, coming over from Milwaukee in the aforementioned Bledsoe deal. He signed a four-year deal worth about $27 million, and he’ll slide into Billups’ spot as the starting guard next to Paul.
He’s developed his game a ton since entering the league, and has turned himself into a respectable defensive player. He doesn’t have great size (6’4″) and isn’t an explosive athlete, but, like Dudley, he’s able to get himself into good positions on the floor.
Redick is a career 39% shooter from three, though it wouldn’t be shocking to see him improve on that clip with L.A. He’ll have plenty of wide open looks in this offense, and should be able to capitalize. He was curiously buried on the bench during the Bucks’ postseason run, which shouldn’t happen with the Clippers, fortunately.
2. Blake Griffin, PF
While Jordan’s free throw improvement will surely be one of the most crucial aspects regarding the Clippers’ potential success, additional improvement from Griffin is also high on the list. He’s essentially been the same player for each of his three seasons. There’s not really much wrong with that, considering he’s a dynamic offensive threat, but he’s still fairly unrefined. The jump shot has improved, but he’s still no David West in that area. Free throws are also an area of concern, of course.
He has improved defensively, but he still curiously doesn’t use that great athleticism to block many shots. Will he ever add that aspect to his game? Hopefully, because there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t be great in that aspect of the game.
The pick-and-roll with Paul will still be the focal point of the offense.
1. Chris Paul, PG
The Clippers’ primary offseason objective was, of course, retaining Paul, which they did as soon as free agency opened. He’s remained healthy in his two years in L.A., and is still only 28.
He’s been their go-to scorer in late-game situations, and has an uncanny knack for getting himself into the paint and finding easy scoring opportunities. He’s completely reversed the course of the Clippers’ franchise almost single-handedly, and hopes to transform Los Angeles into Clipperville.
The season opens Tuesday as the Clippers go “on the road” to take on the Lakers.
About the Author
Written by Taylor Smith
Taylor Smith is a writer for the Los Angeles Clippers.