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The Good, Bad, and Ugly: The Clippers' Picture at the Quarter Season Mark

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The Clippers have played 21 games, or around one quarter of the 2015-2016 NBA season. Therefore, this article will focus a bit more on the bigger picture rather than the recent stretch of games. At 12-9, what exactly should the Clippers be focusing on in the coming weeks, and what is their overall outlook on the season? It's the Good, Bad, and Ugly, quarter season edition!

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Good:

Somehow Afloat: The best news for the Clippers is that they are currently the five seed in the Western Conference despite injuries to Chris Paul and JJ Redick, and inconsistent overall play. More importantly, they are only a half game back of the third seed behind Dallas and Oklahoma City. Most of the other Western Conference predicted playoff squads have struggled as much as or more so than the Clippers. The Thunder, Grizzlies, Rockets, and Pelicans are not playing particularly well, and the only one of the bunch that has significant promise to turn things around is the Thunder. Hopefully a healthy Paul and Redick will enable the Clippers to seize control of that three spot down the stretch and perhaps even contend for the two seed. Right now the competition does not look super stiff (fingers crossed).

The bench wings: Wes Johnson and Lance Stephenson have been good for the Clippers so far. Even Luc Mbah a Moute has contributed a little bit, which is more than was expected of him at the start of the season.  The issue is that very rarely have they been "on" at the same time, and their inconsistencies as well as Doc's odd rotation choices have kept any of them from establishing a steady place or role in the rotation. Despite this, Wes and Lance are shooting far and away career highs from three, knocking them down at around a 41.5% clip. Their defense has been good if unspectacular, and both are more versatile than most of the other players on the Clippers roster defensively. If either was given a starting role and allowed to play through a few bad games, I think good things would result.

Blake Griffin: Blake has fallen off somewhat since his blazing hot start, but has easily been the Clippers' best and most consistent player. His scoring, rebounding, and efficiency is all up from last season, and he is the main reason the Clips are where they are right now.

Bad:

Injuries to JJ Redick and Chris Paul: While Redick and Chris have only missed a few games, they have played injured much of the season, and it shows in their numbers. Both are substantially down across the board statistically from a season ago, and Chris in particular is having a pretty poor year for him efficiency wise. As he gets healthier those three point shots should start to fall, and Chris will once again reclaim his place on the point guard leaderboards.

Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford, and Josh Smith are shooting disasters: All three of these guys do things that nobody else on the team really does. Austin plays tough perimeter defense and attacks the basket. Jamal can still create his own shot better than anyone sans CP3 or Blake, and his hot streaks can win games. Josh plays good and versatile defense and is a very good passing big man. All of them (yes even Jamal) deserve minutes. Sadly, none of them have been able to shoot. Their combined slash line reads thus: 39.4/27.9/77.7. Yikes! The lack of outside shooting and spacing provided by these three clogs the lane for Blake, DJ, and Chris, and just generally takes a lot of points away from the offense. Smith has never been a good three point shooter, but he needs to make more of his wide open looks. Austin has been embarrassingly bad from deep no matter what else he provides. He simply must connect on his open shots or he will be a net negative against good teams. Jamal's percentages would rise if he had better shot selection, but that probably is not going to happen at this stage in his career. Nonetheless, the collective shooting must be better for all of these guys.

Ugly:

The Golden State Warriors (and San Antonio Spurs) exist: Yes it is still early. Injuries can happen. Big trades might shake things up. The fact remains that Golden State is 23-0 and looks like one of the greatest teams of all time, and that the Spurs right now have the 2nd best defensive rating ever since it became a stat in 1996. While the Spurs might come down to earth a bit (their schedule has been pretty light so far), they have still been far and away the second best team in the NBA this season. Honestly, it might not even matter. Barring a Steph Curry or Draymond Green injury (I will go on record as saying Klay Thompson is not quite a necessity for them) the Warriors look nigh unstoppable. The Clippers would likely have to play both these teams to make it to the NBA Finals, and that is a very grim prospect indeed.

Paul Pierce: The Truth's struggles this season have been well documented. He is shooting 30% from the field, 24.6% from 3, and struggles badly to contain players on the other end. Hopefully he regains his touch for the playoff run, but right now he should not be playing minutes.