As a team this season, I think a C seems like a fitting grade. They've been an average team this far, which their 13-9 record reflects. They've had the 4th best offense paired with the 16th best defense, which results in a net rating of 11th, only a little better than average on the season. The team has stretches of great play and a lot of stretches of terrible play with big weaknesses exposed. In all, a C, with a note from the professor that you can do better, seems appropriate. The saving grace may be that if the Western Conference was graded on a bell curve, or had Harvard's grade inflation, this would probably be closer to a B since despite all of that, they are the 4th seed and still only .5 a game out of the 3rd seed.
Blake Griffin: A
Really one of the only brights spots so far this season for the Clippers. Going into the season I said Blake Griffin had overtaken Chris Paul as the team's best player and I'm sticking to it. Not only has he been the team's best, but he's arguably been the best power forward in the NBA this season, because of the middling, by expectations, performance so far of Anthony Davis. Blake is putting up 25/9/5 splits (per 36) on 52% shooting. Hell he's even shooting 36% from three, and 100% on alley-oop threes. He's cooled down a bit from a scorching start, but that is probably due to a slight tweak from the Blazers game and injury to other key starters.
Chris Paul: B+
Going into this season, many people were wondering if now 30 year old Chris Paul would finally lose a step. Pairing that with what was in many a career year offensively last season, I was prepared to see some regression. But that hasn't happened this year as Paul is about at his career averages accumlating 19/10/4 per 36. The hesitation is that he's doing it on 45/34/88 splits, much lower than last year. The good news is that these numbers are likely more the result of nagging injuries to the hands/fingers/ribs/groin that have been constant since preseason rather than being over the hill. While Paul may not be playing at his best right now, he's shown flashes that when he wants to, he can still hit that superstar gear. I expect him to only get better.
DeAndre Jordan: B
After EmojiGate this summer, I was hoping DJ would come into this season ready to show the league he was worth all the chaos. In the preseason he looked like a man possessed, but so far in the first quarter, he's just been alright. His numbers are pretty equivalent to last year so far 12/15/5 per 36 on 68% dunking and 38% attempting from the foul line. While DPRM may put Jordan 2nd, just from watching, he hasn't been as consistent defensively from an effort or production stand point. He's shown spurts of engagement defensively, but the teams needs a consistent anchor; the Clippers have been worse defensively this season, and DeAndre is part of that.Offensively he's perked up lately, most recently murdering Greg Monroe, and may be the Clipper hurt the most without Paul in the lineup. If DJ can show a more aggressive offensive game with consistent levels of defense he had against the Spurs, he'll start to be worth that max contract.
J.J. Redick: A-
Redick, like Paul, has been injured this season, which makes it a little hard to properly grade his performance. Even missing 4 games, Redick still leads the team in threes, and accounts for about 22% of their makes from deep; to say they heavily rely on his ability to stretch floor is an understatement. He's averaging 19.8 points per 36 on 49/45/88 shooting, pretty damn good. There's been games where he has shown considerable rust, and I only expect him to continue to get better as the season goes on. Also, have defenses somewhat figured out J.J.? He's getting chased off the 3 a lot more this season resulting him him shooting 39% of his field goals in long twos, up from 30% last year, while seeing his three point field goals dip from 49% to 45%.
Luc Mbah a Moute: C
My flirtation with Luc is over. In his first game he hit some threes and I thought if he can do that consistently and play defense and rebound that sounds like it could be a good fit in the starting lineup. He even showed a couple sneaky athletic plays. But reality set in as I realized just how damn slow Luc's shot is, which pisses me off just a little less than Barnes's old hitch, and how it prevents him from getting a shot off most of the time. If he's playing with the starters he needs to be able to make shots, not just pump fake and drive into a crowd. The Bucks should've been called for multiple illegal defenses for camping in the lane with him on the weakside. I like him as a situation-dependent defensive player and think there's a role for him somewhere on the bench, but the flirtation is over and the prince turned back into a frog.
Wesley Johnson: A-
Wes has been the surprise of the season for the Clippers. In limited time, Wes has 13/4.5/1 per 36, but the most incredible part has been his shooting. While Wes may only be about 38% from deep (42% before a stinker last night), he's hitting an incredible 75% from the right corner on 16 attempts; set up a tent and please just camp out there the whole game. His defense has been passable enough to where I'm now firmly entrenched in the start Wes Johnson camp. Wes with the starters has a freaking +19.5 net rating; let's see more of that.
Jamal Crawford: C+
I get that Jamal is shooting terribly. 37% from the field and 33% is... not good. The only redeeming qualities I can have for Jamal is that he has helped them win 3 games now, largely due to his play, and with Paul and Redick going down, has been about the only competent player able to run the offense and a decent pick and roll with Blake. I think that counts for something, as well as just watching him play I don't think he's been the same iso, only terrible shot Jamal as before. It may be just me but I've seen him distributing a lot more to different players when he first comes into a games, before he gets stuck bailing out the reserves late in the shot clock. I think he's finding a more reserved, within himself and the system role, and once his shots starts falling, which they have been the last couple games, he'll be a real asset. If you want to know why Jamal continues to play, the Paul/Redick/Jamal/Blake/DJ has been the best offensive 5-man lineup easily at 120.4, and also hold the Clippers' largest net rating at +20 for a unit. If you wanna argue about defense, he's been technically a positive on ball this season!
Austin Rivers: B
Justin has done a great job demonstrating just how great of a defender Austin can be at times through film rooms. He's holding players to 7.3% worse shooting when he guards them, even if I think he has some consistency/off ball issues to work out that still keep him from ever sniffing #firstteamalldefense. However, he does serve as a great litmus test to this Clipper team. If you say Austin and nepotism together, it means you might wanna watch a few more games. After all the talk about Austin working on his midrange this summer, he can't do anything offensively except get to the hoop and finish, which is something lacking on this team. I hesitate to go any higher because of his complete inability to run a pick and roll or an offense, as well as him not yet learning how to stay upright at all times while dribbling.
Josh Smith: B
Smith, like Wes, has been a great value this season for the minimum, and finally the reliable backup big that the Clippers have been looking for for years, even if he's not quite a stretch. He may be the best rim protector on the team, and his defense all around has been pretty great. I'm tempted to give a higher grade when looking at his splits 13/10/4/3 per 36, but then I remember he's shooting 28% from three, yet jacks 36% of his shots from there, all while shooting 40% from the field. His offensive game needs a lot of work, but with hustle and defense has proved himself a capable backup, and should be getting more than 15 minutes.
Paul Pierce: F
If we're grading The Truth solely on these first 20 or so games, he has been doing his best Kobe Bryant impression. Pierce has looked aged out on the court, and as a telling amalgamation of this season, his seemingly most reliable asset, his shooting, has left him as he's converting only about 24% from deep, yes worse than Josh Smith. Pierce was recruited for veteran leadership and the playoffs, so let's just hope that deal he made with the devil last year in the postseason is still on the table.
Lance Stephenson: B-
I'm still having a hard time figuring out Lance. He's been so many different things already this season, which I guess can be taken as a good sign since he was only one thing last season - terrible. I think overall, Lance has done an ok job while being brought along slowly, like at a crawl, by Doc and the coaching staff; if the plan was to ease him in, they're just lightly blowing in his direction. Lance is putting up good numbers, the most surprising being his 41% from behind the arc, and I'm hoping that can translate to consistency. For stretches Doc has seemed willing to let Lance be Lance coming off the bench, and I hope that inspires confidence and trust. Lance with the Core 4 starters still has a +18 net rating, and I think that's still the unit with the highest upside. If the Clippers want to contend for a championship they need good, psycho Lance back.
Pablo Prigioni: D+
Hasn't looked very good in the short minutes he's played. As a shooter, he's 2-14 which concerns me a lot. The + is because he can actually run an offense and pass still, which has helped at times with Paul out.
Cole Aldrich: N/A
Hasn't played enough for me to really evaluate. Though him shooting like 50% on jump hooks in warm ups when I was watching makes me kinda want to give him a failing grade. Maybe he'll play a role this season, he has some tools that could come in handy, but probably not. His towel waving has also been subpar.
C.J. Wilcox: N/A
I think Wilcox has played one game, for one second, committing a foul for Redick to be taken to the locker room. I think that calculates to 2160 fouls per game per 36.
Branden Dawson: N/A
Maybe I should've given him a D for D-league.
Doc Rivers: C
I don't think Doc has been a masterful coach so far this season. I also am far far far away from thinking he needs to be fired or is the reasons the Clippers are losing. Starting off the year, many people had questions about his rotations as well as his seemingly stubbornness towards deviating from those. While there may have been some legitimate reasons for this team's struggles early, a whole cast of new players trying to figure out roles, Doc made plenty of mistakes along the way. The problem is, like most things, people seem to be holding strongly on to their first impression of Doc, i.e screwing up. If you haven't noticed, Doc has already been making a lot of changes in the rotations already, from staggering starters a lot more, to starting just about every SF on the roster at some point, to playing Pierce less, to seemingly throwing anything at the wall to see if it sticks. I don't think it's wrong to say Doc doesn't quite have a grasp on this team yet, but it appears that he's willing to tinker and experiment to grow and try and see what works. Doc's philosophy has always been he wants his team playing their best basketball come postseason, and he seems to be putting that to the test.