LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 26: Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers waits during pregame introductions for the game with the Boston Celtics at Staples Center on February 26, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Celtics won 99-92. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Now that the Clips Nation staff has completed the "Exit Interview" series, Raffo and I now break down the team moving forward, position by position. Today we look at the Power Forwards.
As you all know by now, I'm a young guy. I haven't been around for decades like some of you. While I'm not a "Chris Paul era" new fan, I've been around here around as long as Clips Nation, conveniently. As the power forward slot has been in fairly good hands the vast majority of my time as a Clipper fan. When I started consciously rooting for the Clippers, the now-infamous Elton Brand was the Clippers' star, and he played power forward. When he got hurt in 2008, the team suffered, but there was still an all-star PF on the roster. When Brand, um, became infamous in the 08-09 season, the Clippers filled the void with a 20/10 guy in Zach Randolph and a veteran rebounder and defender in Marcus Camby. PF remained a position of strength. Before Randolph was shipped out, the Clippers came up with Blake Griffin in the draft. And, well, let's hope that there won't be any changes for a while.
According to google, a power forward is "A large forward who plays in the low post and typically has good rebounding skills". PF are becoming hybrids in today's NBA- some are bigs, like Blake Griffn, and some are finesse players who are just bigger small forwards. An old-fashioned power forward has a post game, and can sometimes hit a mid-range jumper.
So what do we look for in a power forward?
- good finisher- how efficiently he scores around the rim
- mid-range jumpshot- how well he converts on pick-and-pops
- athleticism- how well he gets out in transition and finishes on the break
- rebounding- how effectively he boxes out and releases aggressively for the ball
- low-post defense- how well he stops another player on the block by obtaining good positioning
Blake Griffin: 1yr/7.2 million remaining on rookie contract
Blake Griffin is the second half of the one-two punch that starts with Chris Paul. Griffin finishes powerfully with awe-inspiring athleticism both in traffic and on the break. He has led the Clippers in rebounding both seasons he has been in the NBA, and at the tender age of 23 he is already competing for the title of best PF in the NBA (some would say he already is). Just like Paul, Griffin demands the attention of the defense at all times- he's always waiting for a backdoor lob to put you on his next poster. But the best thing about Blake is how well he does the other things. He's an above-average ball handler and passer for a PF (3.5 assists per in his short career). He's always ready to dive for a lose ball or step in for a charge. He's not perfect though. His mid-range jumpshot is still fledgling, and he's got that funky hitch in his free throw. Blake can be lazy defensively and over-aggressive on offense, sometimes taking himself out of the game with offensive fouls. While Blake exhibits impressive footwork in the post, he lacks a go-to hook shot or turn-around. Instead he tends to use his hideous shot-put... don't get me started. He's improving, he's going to keep improving, he's going to keep stunning fans every game, and he is (hopefully) set to sign a 5yr/$95million extension on July 1st to keep him in "Lob City" awhile longer.
That about covers it. To me, it comes down to one critical thing with Blake: Coaching. He's got to develop some money moves and focus on team defense. Those are coachable details.
Trey Thompkins: 2 unguaranteed years remaining on rookie deal
Trey is the same as Travis Leslie in that there isn't a lot for me to judge him on. He didn't play in too many games this season, and when he did play, he barely played. Early in the season, Vinny Del Negro didn't trust him to play minutes over Brian Cook. Remember how horrible Cookie was early in the year? Trey STILL couldn't buy playing time. That says something about either Vinny or Trey- or both. Thompkins, from what I can tell, is a stretch 4. He hit a few threes this season, and his jumpshot looks pretty smooth. We'll get a good look at him in the NBA Summer League, and we can judge him more based on that, where he figures to be one of the best players the Clippers field. I don't know if he can buy minutes this coming season.
Thompkins means nothing to me. A stretch 4? Is that a power forward who shoots threes? How about a power forward who rebounds and plays D.
Clippers Free Agents:
Reggie Evans: Unrestricted coming off of a 1yr/$854K deal
Reggie was simply a rebounding monster. He's relatively unskilled as a pro player, but he has an incomprehensible drive to grab as many (basket)balls as possible in whatever time frame the coaches allow. Evans applies the same fervor defensively, where he makes up for his lack of height, length, and speed with aggressive play and a strong body. When I think of Evans defensively, I think of two plays: one where he hedges a ball handler coming off of a screen and forces a trap, and in the opening round of the playoffs. In game 1, with the Clippers on their heroic comeback, Randolph could not move Evans in the post like he moved Griffin, Jordan, and Martin. Evans lacks finishing tools offensively and you can basically double off of him at will. He can set a solid screen, though. I look for Evans to be back as the fourth big next season.
I'm not sure why we're including Evans as a power forward but whatever. Evans' energy often helps, but his offensive liabilities are painful to watch. And, he's an okay man defender but gets lost on rotations. When he was on the court with Blake Griffin or Kenyon Martin, that was a small front line. Too small. I'd like the Clips to re-sign Evans (at a low number... he was a bargain last year, should be again this year) and I'd like to see him play 5 or 10 minutes as a fourth or better, fifth option.
Free Agent Wishlist:
I guess. I can't see Garnett coming in to come off the bench, but it seems to me if the Clippers retain Kenyon Martin (who's a solid backup 4) then what you need is a monster 5... a true seven-footer who can play ten or fifteen minutes, give you five fouls, and body up guys like Marc Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Clips need a BIG guy... a space eater who fills the lane.
Who will the 2013 Clippers start at PF?
Blake Griffin- and 2014, and 15, and 16, and 17...
It's a stupid question.
Who will the 2013 Clippers bring off the bench at PF?
I think that Reggie will be back and in the rotation as a sparkplug off of the bench. Trey will likely be the 5th big in the rotation, and won't get minutes unless he seriously improves his all-around game.
Kenyon Martin SHOULD be the backup PF. If the Clips don't re-sign Martin, but bring in a seven-foot back-up center (both would be a good idea), then you can find some minutes for Reggie Evans or perhaps Ryan Gomes. Seriously. He works hard, you're already paying him, and, with a little confidence, should outplay a softy like Trey Thompkins (who will be playing in Italy or Russia come December).
It is once again, at least partly a failure of the Clipper's coaching staff that the Ryan Gomes who played very well for TWolves three years ago has vanished. When Reggie Evans heaves up a free throw with the alacrity of a trained seal, a Clipper coach should be whispering in Ryan Gomes ear, "You're better than that guy. Way better."
The Point Guards
The Shooting Guards
The Small Forwards
Check back tomorrow for the Centers