This is my take on the Clippers' players and how well they have done this year. The grades are not along the same scale, but based more on what was expected of them, and how much they have contributed to wins.
LIke a lot of my writing, this is more for me to write all of my thoughts down, but here you go. As always, feedback is appreciated.
Courtney Fortson: C/C+: Courtney (Lil Wayne) has come off the bench in a time of need at point guard and provided some useful minutes. Not because he did anything particularly well, but just to keep Chauncey, Foye, and Mo from keeling over in exhaustion. He can seemingly not keep his dribble alive against any sort of pressure, and was really nervous overall. His shot looked fine, but he was extremely unwilling to shoot, and because he passed up open shots, the possessions when he was on the floor tended to be very bad. If he would have actually shot the ball, his grade would probably be a B-. His hounding defense on opposing ball handlers was nice, but it never really amounted to much, and he is way too small (5’11) to be a plus defender. He looks exactly like what he is: a 3rd or 4th string PG who has never played in the NBA before. Hopefully he gets a shot with another team, but his stint with this team will probably be over when Eric Bledsoe returns.
Travis Leslie: N/A: Leslie has played about 21 minutes this year in only 4 games. He has done basically nothing of note, but he does have athleticism and could be a good defender in this league given time. However, the very fact that he was buried behind Fortson on the depth chart does not bode well. While they play different positions, almost all of the lineups with Fortson could have featured Leslie instead because of all the combo guards on our roster. Nonetheless, he has not impressed enough to get any time over the very unimpressive Fortson. I still don’t know why he isn’t in the D-League getting some actual playing time, unless he is just going to get cut later this year for a veteran acquisition.
Trey Thompkins: C+: He was considered a steal late in the 2nd round draft, and I can see why. His shot looks very smooth, though it hasn’t resulted in many made shots, and his range does extend to the 3 point line. Unfortunately, like our other stretch four, the infamous Brian Cook, Thompkins has been ice cold this year, shooting 32% from the floor and 15% from 3. He is also not a very good rebounder- 1.7 per 8.5 minutes of playing time, which would be roughly 7 rebounds per 36 minutes, which is awful for a big man. His defense is also utterly unimpressive, though he has the length and athleticism, like Leslie, to be a good defender. He will probably end up being a slightly better and more athletic version of Brian Cook, but he is still young and could reach greater heights. He, like Leslie, should be in the D-League getting minutes. He is not any better than Cook, and with Cook back, we now have 3 big men off the bench (4 if you count Gomes as a stretch 4).
The Big Men:
Brian Cook: C-: Brian Cook has never been very good. He has always been an 11th man on the bench, waving around towels and playing in garbage minutes. This year, with limited amounts of skilled bigs, he has been pressed into duty, and promptly reminded everyone why he is an end of the bench player. His rebounding is below par, his defense is well below par, and he couldn’t hit water if he was on a boat in the middle of the ocean. His shooting from the field this year confirms the eye test and more: he is shooting 18% and just 21% from deep. He has actually managed the difficult feat of having a negative PER, which is very, very, bad. The past few games, even recovered from his ankle sprain, he has been nailed to the bench, and that can only be a good thing moving forward.
Solomon Jones: B-: Jones has somewhat impressed me so far this year- he actually resembles a rotation center. His defense doesn’t look all that great, but he has had some nice swats and takeaways, and per 36 minutes, would be averaging about 3 steals and 2 blocks per game. He is a total non factor on the offensive end outside of put backs and layups/dunks set up for him by his point guards. His rebounding, however, has been grotesque- his per 36 numbers would be around 3.2 rebounds per game. This could be because he is often placed alongside of rebounding vacuum Reggie Evans, but his career numbers are higher, and I suspect they will not always be so poor. He is definitely not a great option at C or PF, but so far, he has proven himself to be far better than either Cook or Thompkins.
Reggie Evans: B+: He came to this team to rebound, and that is exactly what he has done. He is probably the best percentage rebounder (amount of rebounds he gets per rebounds available) in the league outside of maybe Kevin Love or Dwight Howard, and he has been a big boost off the bench. His ability to do anything on offense is approximately nil, and he is another target to hack as his free throw shooting has been awful. He is not a very good defender, but he is enthusiastic and energetic, which is well over half the battle right there. His energy off the bench has been great, and his acquisition might be key for the playoffs, where rebounding and possessions are crucial against the top teams.
The Guards and Wings:
Eric Bledsoe: N/A: Eric has been out the whole year so far recovering from surgery, and his energy and athleticism off the bench has been missed. Once he gets back, we will start remembering all of those wild plays and out of control speeds that marked Eric last year, but right now, seeing him gets Fortson’s 5-6 minutes a game, plus a couple of Foye’s, would be great.
Randy Foye: B-/B: I complain about Foye a lot, and his play has been up and down this year, but he has stepped up when needed and done some good things. He has been known for his scoring ability, never for his efficiency, but hopefully his shooting numbers go up. Right now he is sitting at 37% from the field and 37.8% from 3. This is inexcusable given the fact that he takes 7.5 shots per 22 minutes of playing time. His free throw shooting, at 90% last year, has this year plummeted to 71%. This team has needed scoring off the bench, and Randy has been unable to provide it. His rebounding is utterly woeful, but his defense has improved a little this year, upgrading from hideously bad to merely below average. However, he has been getting a nice number of steals and blocks, which lead to Clippers’ fun time on the fast break. His assist totals have also been nice, and he hasn’t been a huge chucker this year. These grades are based on overall contributions to the effort, and Randy has certainly contributed nicely this year, despite the terrible shooting.
Ryan Gomes: B-: Another guy that I complain about a lot, but who has also pulled through this year to contribute nicely off the bench. He is not shooting that well at 40%, but compared to many of our other bench players, this seems red hot. He is also stepping in from the 3 point line, where he has been struggling, to take the midrange shot, and it has been falling at least somewhat frequently. His rebounding has been fine this year, and he is probably one of the better defenders on the team. He plays better as a stretch 4, but he is the only guy on the roster besides Caron who can play SF, so that is where he has been. He doesn’t make that many mistakes with the ball, he plays fine defense with some steals added in, and makes the occasional shot. He is fine as he is this year: the 7th or 8th man on the team, getting around 18 minutes a game.
Mo Williams: A: I don’t know where this team would be without Mo this year, but the win loss total would probably not look as good for sure. He is shooting absolutely lights out, especially in the last three games where he totaled at least 25 point in each. He is playing only 27 minutes per game, but averaging 14.5 points, 4 assists, and a very nice 1.2 steals in those minutes. His shooting can’t possibly stay this hot: 54% from the field, 45% from 3, with 91% from the ft line. He can probably keep up the free throw shooting, but I suspect by the end of the year the rest of his shooting will have dropped to about 48/40/90, which is very nice nonetheless. He is absolutely feasting on team’s 2nd units, and his conditioning and work ethic over the summer have really paid off. This has lead to a much better defensive player, as he has been able to chase players around the court, and harry the ball handlers. He has been on non-stop run mode it seems, and his energy and scoring off the bench has carried the teams several times this year. Barring an injury to one of our frontcourt players, I don’t see him being moved this year at all. Right now, he is the 6th man of the year, and it isn’t even close.
Caron Butler: A-: Caron has played great this year, and been a force on both ends of the floor. He is a steadying influence on offense, draining shots right when the Clippers need them most. He has been great from mid range, and solid from 3. He is one of the few players on the Clippers who can attack the basket (and score, Randy Foye, cough) and he draws a lot of free throws. He is probably our best defender, though he is a bit slow after all the knee problems, and has taken on all of the tough assignments on the wings. If he could rebound the ball a bit better (only 4.2 rebounds per 34 minutes), and was less of a ball stopper, his grade might be an A+. As it is, he has been crucial for the Clippers success this season, and we need him to stay healthy.
Chauncey Billups: B: He has had his moments, particularly the game winning shot, but I have never been a big fan of his, and he has been awful offensively this year. He is shooting 34.5% from the floor, and just 37% from 3, while his free throw numbers have dropped to around 90%, which is still very good. The only thing he has done really well this year is draw fouls and make free throws, and these skills, while useful, will not carry a team anywhere. His defense is also bad, mainly due to his lack of speed, which can be forgiven because of his “advanced age” at 35. While he does take far too many shots for his awful percentages, he is confident in his ability, and his numbers will almost certainly rise by the end of the year. He is still a decent passer, though he turns the ball over a fair amount (2.1 turnovers per 31 minutes), and his decision making isn’t great. Nonetheless, his presence has been great for this ball club, and he has been a welcome addition.
DeAndre Jordan: A-: DeAndre has improved his game a lot from last year. He is a better defender, a better rebounder, and a better offensive player. His rebounding is up to 8.6 per 30 minutes, he is swatting 3 blocks per game, and stealing another 0.8, while also improving his man to man defense. His presence in the paint has been obvious, and the Clippers defense tanks when he is out of the game. Meanwhile, he has flashes of offensive game: several times this year he has worked a little 6 foot hook shot, and it looks pretty smooth. He is shooting 68% from the field, mainly due to all of his dunks, but he has also been able to hang on to tough catches under the basket better, and has risen up stronger instead of throwing up a weak shot or passing back outside. If his offense game (and free throw shooting) improves some more, he will easily be a top center in this league. In fact, he might be one already.
Blake Griffin: B+: Blake has been his usual sensational self, treating us to some great dunks already this year. His rebounding has also been great, with 11.5 boards in 37 minutes per game. However, there are some warning signs in here. His assists are down from 3.7 from last year to 2.8 this year, reflecting a lack of awareness about the double team, as well as passing out too early. Meanwhile, his turnovers are up to 3 a game, mainly from all of the wild moves he makes to try to score. His post moves from last year have seemingly vanished, and he now is reliant on free throws, dunks, and his growing mid range shot to score points. I am very happy that he is getting that shot down, but if he actually rolled off the pick and roll (or set a good pick for that matter), he would score more and be more efficient in the process. His free throw shot is also broken, as he is shooting just 51% from the line, which is awful considering all of the foul shots he gets per game. His defense has improved somewhat, but is still very bad, and he doesn’t rotate well at all. His goals this year need to be to improve his foul shot, improve on his defense, and learn how to actually run the pick and roll with the best pick and roll player in the game! Which leads me too…..
Chris Paul: A: CP3 has simply dazzled this year, leading this team to several victories they never would have won without him. His presence and leadership alone are enough to warrant a good grade, but both his passing and scoring has been amazing. He is shooting almost as well as Mo: 52% from the floor, 45.5% from 3, and 86% from the free throw line. He is also averaging 8.4 assists and 2.8 steals in 37 minutes, many of them leading to dunks or 3 pointers, the two most efficient shots in basketball. If need be, he will take over on the offensive end, keeping his dribble alive the whole possession before firing up a somehow wide open shot. The only reason his grade is not higher is because in several games he has seemed too timid to take over and actually score the ball. His defense has been great as well, with all of the steals leading into easy fast break buckets for the Clippers. Come back soon CP3, and lead us to a championship!