The Clippers have talent. Figuring out why this talent is not translating into wins is somewhat tricky. Kevin Arnovitz over at clipperblog.com made some interesting observations, citing shot selection, base defense, and passing. Clearly, when a team wins 19 games (injuries or no injuries) they have all these problems and then some. But in my opinion these problems are not insurmountable, nor is the Clippers roster, as presently constructed, fundamentally flawed.
I think that these two categories are very closely related. Ball movement leads to good looks, good looks lead to increased shooting percentages. It's basketball 101. The Clippers did not grasp this concept last season. The clippers settled for bad shots time and time again. Baron Davis would pull up from the 3 point line in transition or take that horrible turnaround fadeaway jumper on the left baseline. Marcus Camby's favorite shot was the 18 footer from the top of the key, which in addition to not being a great shot percentage-wise, kept Marcus away from the basket, meaning he wasnt getting offensive rebounds, which means the Clippers werent getting second chance opportunities. Al thornton is an amazing athlete, he needs to learn to take the ball to the rim. Arnovits seemed to think these are problems the Clips can fix, and I tend to agree. I disagree however with his assertion that Randolph is a vacuum. Zach Randolph was far and away our best offensive player last season. He needed to be aggressive and put the ball up. His 2.3 assists per game arent far off from Elton Brand's 2.6 assists per game in 06 (Amare Stoudemire averaged 2.0 assists last season, pau gasol 2.6, dirk nowitzki 2.4, Carlos Boozer 2.1). It is the nature of the position, power forwards are not typically asked to create fro their teamamtes. Zach does however need to take a higher percentage of his shots underneath the basket, but I dont mind him having a 10-12 foot jump shot as part of his arsenal, particularly when he is on the floor with Chris Kaman (which in my opinion, needs to happen a lot more). Team passing is the greatest concern, but I believe that this is something that any team can accomplish. This is on Mike Dunleavy. Moving the Ball is something yo can tach kids to do. The Clippers have two post players who are regulalry double teamed. As such, perimeter players should be able to get good looks on a consistent basis. the kind of passing the Clippers need to get better at does not require John Stockton and Magic Johnson. Anyone can do it, it just needs to be done.
ZBO has never been known as a great defender, but there is more than enough talent on the roster to make up for that. Kaman and Camby are both great shot blockers. Gordon appeared to be a pretty capable defender last season, and I see no reason why Al thornton can't be a solid defender (he is a young player with al the defensive tools, just needs to be a little more disciplined. Baron Davis didnt look the part last season, but if (I understand this is a big if) he is healthy/motivated next season he has the ability to be a pretty dynamic defender on the perimeter....I dont expect this lineup to be a top 10 team in the league defensively, but theres no reason why they cant be middle of the pack. It is often said that good defense can spark offense. It works the other way around as well. Good offense can energize and refocus a team on defense. The Clippers have plenty of weapons on offense, no one can deny that. This team just needs to put it together.
Moving forward, I would be in favor of the clippers picking up another wing player ( Ideally, we could do this without giving up AT, who could be a great piece coming off the bench). Tayshaun Prince, Caron Butler would be some great choices (mike miller is also a free agent this summer I believe.). Of course these are options for competing right now, which I am definitely in favor of (as opposed to trading for cap relief in the future... not that this is a bad idea, just not what I would do).
The talent is there. With a boost to the bench (griffin helps a lot) and a little bit more energy/effort on both ends of the floor (and minus some of the injuries), I fully expect next seasons Clippers to be a playoff team.