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The Good, the Bad, the Ugly: The Clippers Through Ten Games

The Clippers are 6-4 through their first 10 matches, and the quality of play has some people freaking out. While there are things to be concerned about, I think that the positives outweigh the negatives so far, especially since the Clippers best or second best player, Chris Paul, hasn't been healthy yet this season. Here are my takes on some things to be happy, sad, or downright depressed about.

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These are ranked in order of most to least on each range. So the first "good" is the best thing for the Clippers so far, whereas the first "ugly" has been the worst thing.

The Good:

Blake Griffin: Blake has played at an MVP level to start the season. It is that simple. He has looked far better than his  26.6/9/4.3, which is pretty damn incredible. His shot, handle, and passing ability all seem improved, and most of the time he just dominates his opponents. The only thing that could use any improvement is his rebounding, which still isn't quite what it could be, but is better than last year. He has picked up the slack for the injured Chris Paul and put the team on his back for the first 10 games. The only forward who has played better than him so far is LeBron James, and the difference is not even that great. Blake is awesome.

Austin Rivers: Austin does not have amazing numbers on the season. However, he has done two very important things for the Clippers. First off he actually gets to the basket, though finishing is a bit of a struggle. Secondly, he plays quite good perimeter defense, unlike most of the other Clippers guards. This combination has made him a valuable addition to the squad, and his trade for the seldom used Reggie Bullock (now on the Pistons) looks like a steal. Despite the stigma and jokes about Austin, he has become an NBA rotation player.

Wes Johnson: Wes does not have stats that jump off the page because he doesn't get that many minutes. But he has been very effective in the time that he has spent on the court for the Clippers. He makes open shots, runs the floor in transition, and plays solid defense at a couple of positions. It is a small sample size, but if Wejo keeps it up, Doc will be forced to play him more.

The Bad:

Doc Rivers' rotations- One of the things dragging the Clippers down this year has been Doc Rivers' coaching. I don't want him to get fired. I still think as a total package he is an above average NBA coach. He just hasn't been good so far, and has had several recurring issues. There is no reason to play all five bench players at the same time. There just isn't, especially on a regular basis. Wes has substantially outplayed Paul Pierce but is still behind him in the rotation. Lance Stephenson brings an element of perimeter defense and playmaking the Clippers haven't seen from the wing in a long time, but he regularly plays limited minutes with Jamal Crawford taking his place. I understand Lance is an experiment of sorts and he is being brought along slowly, but he really should be playing more. The hockey line substitution patterns are generally not used much in the NBA any more, and the only real excuse is for Doc to check out his new pieces, which is valid. But why not mix them in more with the starters, which is what will happen anyway as rotations shorten down the stretch and in the playoffs? Doc should improve as he gets accustomed to his new players and as the team gets healthier, or at least that is what we hope.

Paul Pierce- The Truth is a first ball Hall of Famer and one of the most respected players in the NBA. He is also old for a professional basketball player, and has shown his age this year. Pierce is averaging career lows across the board outside of rebounding, though his shooting should regress positively towards the mean a bit. Unfortunately, he can't get separation or even draw fouls much anymore, and is almost entirely a spot up shooter. He was clearly falling off last season with the Wizards, but everyone forgot about it because of his playoff heroics. The worst thing about Pierce is his defense though: he truly can't guard anyone anymore. Pierce is probably saving himself for the playoffs, which is what the Clippers got him for, but his minutes aren't a pleasant experience right now.

Close Losses in Winnable Games- Outside of the blowout in Phoenix without Blake, the Clippers have been close in all their losses. While a loss to the streaking Warriors is understandable, the Clippers could have won that game, and it would have been a strong statement to start the year. The Rockets loss also doen't look too good, as the Rockets have been horrible this year, and lost to several likely lottery teams. The West actually looks weaker this year than in years past, but home court advantage is still hugely important, and every game counts the same in the record column.

The Ugly:

Injuries- Chris Paul has been the best player on the Clippers since he arrived four years ago. JJ Redick is probably the most important piece on offense for the Clippers. Both have missed and will continue to miss time with injuries, and Chris was already playing hurt to start the year. Redick has a history of back issues, so as a precaution he will probably be out for a good while. He will then need to play his way back into shape. CP3 is sitting with a groin strain, but apparently his broken finger is still bothering him, and it would be nice for him to be at close to full strength before returning to action. The Clippers need both JJ and Chris, but it is better for them to miss a few extra games in November and December than rush back and take a worse injury. Get healthy guys.

Josh Smith (on offense)- Smoove has been as advertised on defense. Namely, he is above average, and is still capable of pulling off pretty spectacular plays. Sadly, his offensive game is as it always has been (outside of one glorious year in 2009), which is not good. Josh Smith takes a lot of open jumpers. He also misses a lot of open jumpers. That simple fact has been the black mark against Josh for years, and he is an old dog who hasn't learned that particular trick. Fortunately, he does do a lot of other things well, and has been a very solid contributor as a whole. Those jumpers are just killer though.