Playoff Result: Lost in First Round
Key Additions: Chris Paul (re-signed), JJ Redick (trade), Jared Dudley (trade), Doc Rivers (coach)
Key Losses: Eric Bledsoe (trade), Caron Butler (trade)
Predicted 2013-14 Record: 58-24 (1st in West)*
What to Expect: The Clippers made some big splashes this offseason. The additions of JJ Redick and Jared Dudley improved their team immensely, but they still have some problems. While the offense is going to be hot fire, the defense is going to suffer at times. The team will be able to rain 3s and move the ball with ease, but how will all these players mesh with their new coach in Doc Rivers? They also have a bench to be concerned with.
It is in my opinion that no team made a better trade over this offseason than the Clippers when they traded Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler for JJ Redick and Jared Dudley. Two incredibly efficient players, Dudley had an effective Field Goal percentage last season of 54% and Redick had an eFG% of 52%. The two can absolutely stroke it from 3 and are awesome off the ball. They are going to add a lot of movement to the Clippers this season and that’s got to make Chris Paul happy. They aren’t other worldly defenders but Redick and Dudley decent enough on defense. Redick will chase your man all over the court with his speed and Dudley will use his strength to matchup with anybody that tries to overpower him.
The Clippers offense has the potential to be one of the best in the league. With Chris Paul at point and Blake Griffin down low they have a multitude of options. A play they liked to run last season was to give the ball to Griffin in the post where he would work on his man and then pass out. This was extremely effective and created some variety. Their best offensive play set is the pick and roll where they rank top 5 in effectiveness. Last year they ran that with Matt Barnes and Caron Butler. This year they’ll be running it with the superior Redick and Dudley. Then of course they always have lob city, so they’ll be deadly in transition.
The defense next year will be okay…at times. This team has a major weakness. Their starting 5 is probably good enough defensively to make them a contender. Their bench however is not. Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan historically have had problems with fouls and while they’ve improved, the nights they’re in foul trouble will be dangerous. Their big men options on the bench are Byron Mullens, Antawn Jamison, and Ryan Hollins. None of those players can play defense… at all. If I was the Clippers, I’d be looking for a trade to get a more competent defensive big man.
Mathcup with the Hawks: The Hawks and Clippers only play twice in the regular season and there isn’t much of an expectation they’ll be meeting in the NBA finals so this isn’t a crucial matchup. Blake Griffin’s mix of athleticism and quick feet makes him a nightmare for most defenders. The Hawks are not one of those teams. Al Horford and Paul Millsap are quick enough and strong enough to handle whatever moves Blake has for them. Expect Blake to be passing the ball out a lot in the post. He’s also going to struggle with this tandem when it comes to grabbing rebounds. He’s going to have to work really hard to get anything. Deandre Jordan and Griffin are OK defenders, but Horford and Millsap are much better on offense. Expect a lot of high low pick and rolls against the Clippers to try and get Jordan away from the basket. In the frontcourt, the Hawks have the advantage of having the better big man combination.
In the backcourt the Clippers are far and away the better team. Chris Paul, JJ Redick, and Jared Dudley are just better than the trio of Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, and Lou Williams. The Clippers just have more skill here. This isn’t to say that the Hawks backcourt won’t ever get defensive stops or score. They’ll be able to fight and they’ll put up a good fight. But more often than not, the Clippers are going to pull away in games thanks to the backcourt.
*predicted record based on Bo’s ESPN Forecast projections for every team