|2015/2016 NBA Regular Season|
|November 2, 2015, 7:30 PM|
|Staples Center (Los Angeles, California)|
|Fox Sports West 2, FSAZ, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM|
|Win-Loss Breakdown (2015-2016)|
|Eric Bledsoe||PG||Chris Paul|
|Brandon Knight||SG||JJ Redick|
|PJ Tucker||SF||Lance Stephenson|
|Markieff Morris||PF||Blake Griffin|
|Tyson Chandler||C||DeAndre Jordan|
|104.1 (11th of 30)||Pace||104.8 (9th of 30)|
|95.6 (25th of 30)||ORtg||105.7 (4th of 30)|
|96.3 (12th of 30)||DRtg||94.8 (9th of 30)|
The Clippers at 3-0: While it is nice that the Clips haven't lost a game yet, their play so far has been a bit worrying. To be more specific, the revamped bench looks more like a disaster than the transformative tool that would push the Clippers over the top. The good news is that they have managed to hang on and win all three games, and that their key players look absolutely fantastic. The Kings are going to be a lot better this year, so two wins over them is nothing to sneeze at, but the Clippers will need to improve to start winning against tougher opposition.
The Phoenix Suns: Pegged by most basketball analysts as a team that would be challenging for the 8th seed in the Western Conference, the Suns are right on schedule, beating the rebuilding Trailblazers twice and losing to the Mavericks at home. They struck out on LaMarcus Aldridge over the summer, but did land a few new pieces, and have several promising youngsters. Phoenix is thus in a good place for a playoff push- they have veterans who have been there before, and young guys who could either break out or be traded for a final piece- and are one of my two candidates to get the 8th seed in the West (the Jazz are the other).
The Metrics: While three games is a tiny sample size, even for one season, the Suns have not been good so far on offense, ranking 25th out of 30 teams. This is a bit odd for a squad that boasts several dangerous threats and has a pretty good coach to utilize said weapons, but is most likely just due to poor shooting in a game or two. They do however boast the 2nd lowest assist percentage in the league, ahead of only the hapless 76ers. That could be an interesting trend to watch for as the season progresses: teams without a superstar that don't pass much either probably aren't going to be great on offense. The Clippers are already towards the top of the league on offense and should remain there for the rest of the season. The CP3 and Blake/DJ pick and rolls are basically unguardable with Redick spacing the floor, and Stephenson has added some nice new wrinkles as well.
Battle of the Backcourts: While the Clippers usually enjoy an advantage in guard play almost every night by starting Chris Paul and JJ Redick, the Suns boast a talented duo as well. Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe aren't necessarily the greatest playmakers, but both are quite good on defense and can cover several positions. They mesh well on offense too: Bledsoe is a terror attacking the basket and Knight spaces the floor well with his shooting. Both are averaging 20 or more points per game right now, and while it is unlikely they remain at that rate throughout the year, it is not impossible. As for the Clippers, CP3's shooting is down right now due to his broken finger, but he is doing everything else about as well as he always does, and Redick is making up for the shooting with a blistering 59/55/100 line. This should be a fun matchup.
DeAndre Jordan versus his prototype: Back in the day, DJ was always getting compared to Tyson Chandler as a negative. "Here is what you should be doing, but aren't". Now he puts up far bigger stat lines than Tyson ever did and is a front runner for the DPOY award. How times have changed. Tyson is the role model for DJ though. Most of his offensive game relies on lobs and putback dunks, and his post game is rudimentary. His value, like Jordan's, mostly comes from defense and rebounding, and he remains proficient in both areas. Hopefully DJ is able to dominate his elder counterpart in their battle for the paint.
Suns youngn's: Unlike the Clippers, the Suns have quite a bit of young talent on their team. Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin, Alex Len, and T.J. Warren are all relatively recent draft picks, with Len and Warren being key parts of their rotation. These prospects are all on a different tier from the Clippers' late 1st and 2nd round picks, and are important parts of Phoenix's long term goals. I especially like Warren, who doesn't have shooting range or athleticism but is an incredibly crafty and effective offensive player. He makes great cuts, can post up smaller defenders, and is adept at tricky shots around the basket. His lack of a three point game limits his overall package, but he can explode off the bench as a pure scorer.
Speaking of benches......: The Clippers' bench has been awful so far this year. Austin Rivers is providing defense but still can't hit shots. Jamal Crawford is missing from deep and not getting to the line. Paul Pierce and Wes Johnson aren't really providing much of anything. And Josh Smith. Oh Josh Smith. He is 2-11 from the floor so far this year while turning the ball over 2.7 times in an average stint of 14 minutes per game. His defense is still good, but he absolutely needs to play better on offense, as do the rest of the subs. Honestly, just about everything in regards to the bench needs to change. Except for Cole Aldrich's hook shot, which is perfect. The good thing for tonight is that the Suns' bench isn't a world beater itself, especially offensively. If the Clippers' bench can just hit a few open threes they should come out on top.
Blake Griffin is amazing: It is only three games, but Blake Griffin looks simply incredible right now. He is averaging 32/9/4 on 64/72 shooting and is getting to the line over 9 times a game; a reversion to the aggressiveness from earlier in his career. He is making midrange jumpers, he is posting guys up, he is getting out in transition, and he is absolutely attacking defenders off the dribble. He probably won't be able to keep this pace up, but Griffin is most certainly capable of winning an MVP award, and this could be his year.
My prediction: Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight are able to do a lot of damage, and Chris Paul's shooting struggles continue. Fortunately, the Clippers' bench has a breakout game against a mediocre unit of Suns' reserves and Blake Griffin takes Markieff Morris to town. Clippers win on the road 105-94.
The bad guys: For a look at things from the other side, check out the Sun's blog over at Bright Side of the Sun!
NOTE: Hi, this is Justin Russo here. Our friends over at Bright Side of the Sun are doing a really awesome thing this season. In two weeks, on November 14, they're going to be sending underprivileged children to a Suns home game against the Denver Nuggets. Sounds awesome, right? It is! Rather than just applauding them for it, let's help them. Here's how it works: you donate $16 to send a child to the game on November 14. If you donate $160, which is ten tickets, you also get a pair of lower-bowl tickets of your own. There's no telling how many of our readers live in the Phoenix area so if you can't use those tickets yourself, you can either give them to someone else that you know or donate those ones, as well. As of Friday afternoon, they had sold 377 tickets. If you would like to donate, you can visit this link right here and find out how. It's pretty simple, really. I think it's a wonderful cause and something we should try to help out with. If you don't want to help, that's fine. If you do, awesome. It's just $16. Money is tight with some people, so we get it. But let's try to help our friends over at BSotS and give back to children who could really use this gesture. Thank you.