What’s up with the Clippers?

It all started on February 18th. The Clippers lost to the Spurs in overtime and then lost their next game to the Warriors. This was the first time the dynamite combination of Paul and Griffin had lost two in a row since losing to the Spurs and Bulls at the very start of the season. After a 19-9 start and a spot at the top of the Pacific division, the Clippers went 8-12 over their next twenty games. The Lakers retook their spot at the top of the division and we were left to ask what happened to the Clippers? Was it chemistry, coaching, nerves? The answer is much more simple.

Los Angeles Clippers from February 18th 2012 to March 25th 2012 ordered by minutes per game
PLAYER POS G MPG WP48 WP POP/48 POP/G
Chris Paul 1 20 37.2 0.305 4.73 6.4 5.0
Blake Griffin 4.4 20 35.6 0.144 2.14 1.4 1.0
Nick Young 2.6 5 29.9 -0.026 -0.08 -3.9 -2.4
Caron Butler 3 19 29.3 -0.083 -0.97 -5.7 -3.5
Mo Williams 1.6 19 28.9 0.012 0.14 -2.7 -1.6
Randy Foye 2.2 19 27.4 0.02 0.22 -2.4 -1.4
DeAndre Jordan 5 20 24.5 0.246 2.5 4.6 2.3
Kenyon Martin 4.5 19 19.6 -0.062 -0.48 -5.0 -2.0
Bobby Simmons 3.3 14 18.9 -0.001 -0.01 -3.1 -1.2
Reggie Evans 4 20 15.1 0.184 1.16 2.6 0.8
Eric Bledsoe 1.9 19 8.8 0.063 0.22 -1.1 -0.2
Ryan Gomes 3 7 3.7 -0.218 -0.12 -9.9 -0.8
Travis Leslie 2.8 2 3.3 0.202 0.03 3.2 0.2
Trey Thompkins 4 7 1.7 -0.141 -0.04 -7.5 -0.3
Brian Cook 4 4 0.7 0.648 0.04 17.1 0.3
TOTAL 20  243  0.093  9.48  -0.9  -0.9 

We can easily rule out any chemistry myths about Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. While we’d hope a young Griffin would improve a bit in his sophomore season, the fact is both Paul and Griffin are playing at the same levels they were last year. Using Points over Par we can see how valuable this is. Starting Paul and Griffin gives the Clippers a six point edge each game. Additionally, DeAndre Jordan and Reggie Evans have been playing great as well. Age is definitely an excuse for not playing Evans more. However, why the Clippers aren’t giving more minutes to a 23 year old center putting up terrific numbers is beyond me.

That brings us to the rest of the Clippers. Much like the Sunsthe Clippers are four good players and nothing else. Paul and Griffin are a dynamic duo. Guess what? Their contribution is completely undone by Butler and Young each game. Jordan is a fantastic young big. His contribution is wiped clean by K-Mart’s time on the court. And after all of that the Clippers still play Mo Williams, Randy Foye and Bobby Simmons, who all hurt the Clippers even more than Reggie Evans’ limited time could hope to undo.

The question is if any of these players should be a surprise. Here’s a quick rundown of unproductive players that the Clippers are trusting with major minutes as they looked last season:

PLAYER TEAM POS MP WP48 WP
Kenyon Martin Denver 4.0 1233 0.114 2.93
Randy Foye LA Clippers 1.9 1551 0.018 0.60
Caron Butler Dallas 3.0 867 0.019 0.34
Bobby Simmons San Antonio 3.0 16 -0.325 -0.11
Nick Young Washington 2.6 2034 -0.010 -0.44
Mo Williams Cleveland-LA Clippers 1.0 1788 -0.022 -0.81

Other than Kenyon Martin the rest of the players were not good. Kenyon Martin is also old and as we’ve pointed out: players over 30 age like milk. The Clippers have definitely done well to give major minutes to Griffin and Paul. Making DeAndre Jordan share minutes with Kenyon Martin doesn’t make a lot of sense. Giving the rest of the minutes to unproductive players is a recipe for disaster.

If we look at the Clippers in terms of Arturo’s Half Baked Theory they’ve already done most of the hard week. Here’s a recap:

  1. Get a superstar to have a shot at contending (check)
  2. Get a strong top three to have a shot in the playoffs (check)
  3. Get a strong top six to be a playoff force (working on it)
  4. Get depth to survive the regular season (working on it)

The hardest part of being a contender in the NBA is getting great players. The Clippers have taken care of that. The next step is just getting average players to round out the team. The Clippers have failed miserably here. Of course, replacing players with average players is a far simpler task than getting great players. While the trade deadline has passed and the Clippers made some questionable moves, the Clippers can easily rectify things in the off season. For now my advice is to increase DeAndre Jordan’s minutes, glue Nick Young to the bench and get Chris Paul the ball and minutes come playoff time. As Arturo has stated “With Chris Paul, you always have a shot.” and I agree. That is of course, you try to play Nick Young and Caron Butler lots of minutes.

-Dre

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