The dog days of summer are here, the big name free agents have been signed and the rosters have been mostly set. Naturally, the citizens of Clips Nation have begun to turn their attention to predictions for the upcoming season. With a new bench, a bunch of rookies, and a new head coach, there's a great deal of uncertainty heading into 2010-11. A look at some numbers from last season show just how bad the Clippers were last season, but there may still be hope, at least for the optimists among us. Everyone else should crack open a box of tissues and pour yourself your favorite libation, because it might be quite a long season.The Clippers were, well, disappointing last season. With a tough opening schedule that pitted them against 4 playoff teams in 5 nights, including the defending champs on opening night, the Clips looked decent, but ultimately lost all 4 games. They won the next 3 games, then failed to sustain any consistency for the rest of the season, and were 2 games under .500 at the halfway point. Things began to fall apart with the now infamous Memphis game, at which point most reasonable observers concluded that God hates not only the Clippers, but also all of the fans who support the team.
The wrath of a vengeful God aside, it is possible that there were other reasons for the teams' frustratingly inconsistent play. A look at some stats from last season:
Free throws attempted: 1867, 26th overall
Free throws made- 1362 - 28th overall
Free throw %- 73%- 26th overall
Free throws per Field goals attempted- 20.6% 26th overall
3pt%- 33%- 27th overall
Turnover%- 14.8% 29th overall
Opponent steals: 29th overall
The offensive numbers were, well, bad. This team was sloppy with the ball, couldn't earn or convert free throws, and was sub par from the three point line. The biggest bright spot there was finishing 9th in total assists, which is promising, and surprising considering we weren't known for having great ball movement and that we didn't score all that much.
Defense wasn't really a bright spot either. We ranked 3rd in blocked shots, which was nice, but we also were 26th overall in opponent turnovers and 27th overall in opponent assists. We were 22nd in opponent 3 pt%, allowing opponents to shoot over 36% on the year. The Clippers had the 2nd fewest fouls of any team last season, which I believe is a reflection of our lack of aggressive play on defense, particularly from the guard spots.
Our offensive and defensive rebounding percentage was decent, with the clippers ranking 11th overall in both categories.
For the Clippers to be successful this season, they need to change their style of play to make up for deficiencies, namely their lack of shooting. It's easy to say the Clippers should run more, but realistically, they need to move better without the ball in the half-court. I think that the the Bulls actually did this fairly well under VDN, and those teams showed solid interior passing. The way this team plays defense is crucial. This is one area where the Starting 5 has no real deficiencies (from a team defense standpoint) When Baron Davis and Eric Gordon put pressure on the ball they can be extremely disruptive to any opposing back court, and there's no reason why the Clippers can't cant be among the league leaders in blocks and rebounds. If the defensive intensity picks up, the Clippers can control the pace of the game, something they were rarely able to do last season. If Griffin is going to have a big impact on this team this season, this is where it will be. Defense leads to easy scoring opportunities, and with a shortage of great shooters on the roster, this is going to be extremely important.
This doesn't mean the Clippers can win the championship this season if they just play harder, but there's no reason this team can't be better than last year. Blake Griffin may very well be a rookie of the year caliber star, Gordon is poised to have a breakout season and Baron and Kaman can give you at least as much as they gave you last season. I believe that Gomes is an upgrade as a starter over Butler. The bench is no worse than last year. In fact, Smith, Sual, and Foye is a decent core bench unit. VDN has his work cut out for him to get this team playing more disciplined on both ends of the floor, but the tools are there to get it done.