Due to my lack of being able to watch any preseason games (because of the Fox vs. DISH debacle) I had not written any thoughts on this season's Clipper team. I was pretty much horrified watching ESPN Wednesday. After watching tonight's game (thankfully Fox and DISH came to some agreement this afternoon and restored all Fox programming) I thought I might vent a little and see what the rest of CN thinks.
I don't think I've felt this hopeless as a Clipper fan in years. Why?This Year's Roster May Be the Worst Combination of the 2000s
Sure, there are INDIVIDUAL names that seem pretty good but as a collection this team feels woefully weak.
Baron's success and exciting play seem more and more to have been the product of Don Nelson's freewheeling mindset of outscoring opponents. He shined in that system but the Clips aren't built that way and therefore cannot play that way. Not his fault and I'm not picking on him. Shawn Marion also comes to mind as a player who looked INCREDIBLE in Phoenix in the D'Antoni/Nash system (so much so he got the nickname "The Matrix") but looks sadly average in Dallas in their Dirk based system.
Gordon has looked much improved this year so far. His attacks to the basket seem more decisive and it looks like he's finishing better. However these first two games have brought to my mind weaknesses that may be hard or even impossible to overcome and they have nothing to do with anything in his control.
He is slightly short for today's NBA shooting guard position. Top guards like Kobe, Roy, Ray Allen, Kev Martin, Tyreke Evans, J-Rich all have around 3-4" on him. Let's face it. Everyone EJ's height that is awesome is a point guard and Eric just does not have PG skills. Could he develop them? Maybe in time. Maybe.
Sure Cuttino played the 2 guard spot and was only an inch taller than Gordon but he was crafty and a veteran when the Clips signed him. Can Gordon be just as effective as Cuttino at the 2 spot? Maybe someday but I doubt he will reach that level this season. Gordon to me is a maybe great someday type of player. Clipper Nation can hope all they want but it seems far from realistic to think he can reach Cuttino's level of play so young in his career.
Chris was actually one of the main reasons I became a Clipper fan. When I first saw him play I could see the potential for him becoming a dominant big man, which is a vital part to building a championship caliber team I think. Paired with Elton Brand I was totally convinced that the Clips were headed in the right direction.
Well, it's been seven long years later and I have to say I am getting very disappointed. For him to still be showing up as Mr. Flippy in 2010-2011 is sad to me. He has the ability to overpower and dunk over many opponents, dare I say, over MOST opponents. So when his jump shot is not falling, when his 2 foot finesse shots aren't dropping why won't he just dunk it? I've asked that year after year with no real answer and so my hope in Kaman has faded. I still think he's a decent big man when he's having a good night. But it's more than apparent that he does not know how to positively affect the game in other ways when his offense is not working. He did not learn from Camby. Man, I miss the effort and attitude of good old Marcus...
Quite a while back Clipper Nation seemed to be dying for a "glue guy". According to some media reports that's what Gomes is. A vanilla type of player who plays within himself and the system and makes good basketball decisions while being a solid defender.
Tonight Ryan Gomes met Dorrell Wright who happened to go for 24 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists. This is glue guy defense?
Sure Butler defended some against Wright but at least Butler has some redeeming value in that he's a three point threat on the other end. Butler, even with all his weaknesses has a very definite identity. He is what he is and you are happy when he gives you what he's known for and when he doesn't you chalk it up to an off night and move on.
So back then, I was actually against the Clippers going for a glue guy. Why? I just didn't think the Clips had enough scorers. Adding one more guy who can't score just seemed like a bad idea at the time. So then many in the nation said well just because a player's a glue guy doesn't mean he can't score - and thus a debate began as to what exactly the definition is of a glue guy.
Fast forward to the present, Ryan Gomes may be a nice guy and teammate, a reliable do-what-the-coach-says type of player but I don't think he fits on this current team. After watching the first two games I believe more than ever before that the Clips need a BIG TIME SCORER in the SF slot. As much as we hated Al's incessant jab stepping he could bust out 20 points on any given night and was tantalizingly athletic.
For years we had good ol Uh-Oh Maggette-O. Mr. Clipper for life. As much as he frustrated me at times he was a very above average SF and a reliable scorer. How many free throws did we see Corey make? How many 20+ point games did he have with 5 FGAs? A gazillion. Where's the scoring now? Who's gonna get to the free throw line and stop the clock, extend the game, break up opponent runs now? Cue the crickets.
When they got Foye and Gomes this summer, I thought "Wow, add Craig Smith and you have the Timberwolves West Part Deux!" Were they such a successful combo in Minnie that we had to have them here? All that money and cap room we got by not re-signing Steve Blake or Drew Gooden, trading away Camby and Randolph before that and this is what we end up with? But I kept my big mouth shut and thought "maybe I should watch them in some games first." So I watched the first two games. My initial reaction?
Wow! That's what we got in the offseason?
Foye seems average at his very best. Just another average point guard in the long list of Dickau and Hart and other forgettable Clipper backups. At least I was excited about Mike Taylor. And don't even bring up Shaun backing up Cassell. I'm gonna go cry now.
Brian Cook and Jarron Collins
Wow. We're that team now? The team with the has-been, washed up, un-athletic vets? Can you say boring to watch and only mildly effective? At least Skinner had interesting facial hair and remember Walter McCarty? He could sing and play keys!! Yeah!
What a great kid! Emphasis on kid. He dazzles at times and boggles the mind at others. How does he fit into the current style of play the Clippers run? Who knows? What is the current style of play? To the point of boredom, at least Dunleavy focused on being a defensive team. At least in that system DJ could focus on blocks and rebounds, boxing out, etc. Is that how VDN will use him?
DJ maybe great someday. Maybe. But this season? Another question mark...
Craig Smith & Rasual Butler
Great role players. They both seem to know what they are good at and are fairly dependable at it. But they need reliable stars (maybe even superstars) around them to really shine. The Clips don't have that as of now, the start of the season. I believe Smith and Butler will only look better as the season goes on.
Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Bledsoe & Willie Warren
Haven't really seen enough of any of them to get any indication as to whether they can save this season for the Clips. A big unknown. However you look at it, pinning your playoff hopes on a bunch of rookies is most often a road to a big letdown.
How They All (Don't) Fit Around Blake Griffin
So obviously I didn't write about Blake because we all know everything about Blake, don't we? I don't need to write one word because it's already all been written. So the question is how do you fit everything around him?
As I mentioned before I think the Clips have some decent pieces but I am not feeling very hopeful as to them fitting together around Blake in any manner that will get them wins. Let me oversimplify for argument sake.
Baron, EJ, Butler, and DJ would probably be best in a run and gun type of HIGH SCORING system. You need lots of scorers in both your starting lineup and bench to outscore the other team.
Kaman, Smith, Collins, & Cook probably fit better in a slower half court type of system based on defense, limiting possessions by using the entire 24 second clock in a LOW SCORING game. Let's face it All Star Kaman has NEVER scored 30 in a single game in 7 seasons. Lower scoring games would maximize his part in it.
Who knows where all the rest of the players fit in. Probably somewhere in between the two. Either way I don't see how you can build a solid identity with this roster as it stands. Watching these last two games it almost seems like there isn't really any system and thus guys don't know what to do (except for Butler, who seems to always know his job is to shoot) which is actually refreshing now in this what-the-heck-is-going-on system.
Clippers Need Another Scorer
In the postgame Michael Smith said that if Kaman had been playing up to preseason form and made some more baskets the game would have been a lot closer. Pretty sad, huh. Closer. Doesn't that just reinforce the idea of the need for another scorer? Because the idea now is that if Kaman plays better and Gordon or Baron play better they might have beaten the Golden State Warriors? Yikes.
In the second half of the first game against Portland the Clips had another one of their now famous SIX minute droughts with no FGMs. They could have definitely used a guy who can flat out score the ball. But when you look at this Clipper roster you don't see anyone that can stop other teams from going on 10-0, 20-0 runs. Griffin is still a rookie (can't expect that of him just yet) and Baron, Kaman and EJ are just not reliable enough to get you a basket that will stop the bleeding and turn the tide.
So am I overreacting? Probably. But my gut tells me the Clips need to make a trade or find some scoring machine in the D-League soon or this season could be over fast.
Yup. I am not excited when I look at this year's roster. I hope VDN and the FO prove me wrong and somehow make it work but I just can't see it without a major change or addition. What say you Clipper Nation?