clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Power Rankings Watch: Can't Clip These Wings

New, comments

A close loss to Golden State aside, the Clippers continue to soar like the free spirits they are (ones who like to violently dunk over the Lakers, for sure). Could we see this team go into the postseason, winners of 14 of 15? Perhaps if we all sing together...

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

I choose to believe that was Blake's jam recovering from injury last month. Picture a montage to Mr. Mister of him getting back into the gym, coupled with a few sad shots and a scene or two of him looking out a window morosely... then taking flight once more.

Power Rankings

Outlet Ranker Ranking Change Comment
SB Nation Drew Garrison 5 +2 The Clippers have been too good to ignore, earning a spot in the top five. They've lost one game since Mar. 17 — a four-point loss to the Warriors while Blake Griffin poured in 40 — and have just one game against a playoff team left on their schedule.
ESPN Marc Stein 4 +2 Outside of Golden State and San Antonio, who in the West can feel as good about themselves as the Clippers? They're on a 10-1 surge, Jamal Crawford should be back soon ... and look at their schedule. They might not lose another game from here, which means No. 2 in the West is still in play.
CBS Sports Matt Moore 6 0 The Clippers' starting unit is awe-inspiring (plus-17.8 per 100 possessions, which Voltron would struggle to match). Their bench is a haz-mat zone. Their ability to keep starters on the floor for long stretches, game after game, in the playoffs, will determine if they can make a run.
Yahoo! Marc Spears 5 -1 Reserve guard Jamal Crawford has missed 17 straight games with a bruised right calf, but he is expected to be back in action soon.
NBA.com John Schuhmann 5 0 Chris Paul was on the wrong side of the mixtape highlight on Wednesday, but on the right side on Sunday. Jamal Crawford is expected to bring his own fancy dribblin' back on Tuesday after missing the last month. The Clippers don't need him in the first quarter, where they've outscored their opponents by 20.5 points per 100 possessions since the break.
Sports Illustrated Matt Dollinger 4 0 Chris Paul isn’t one to let something roll off his back. After getting crossed-up by Steph Curry and losing to the rival Warriors, CP3 dropped 41 points and 17 assists the next night out in Portland. And after getting targeted by Shaq at Justin Bieber’s roast and teased for not having a ring, Paul dropped 15 assists and routed Shaq’s Lakers by 28.
PBT Kurt Helin 5 0 Jamal Crawford is set to return on Tuesday and his depth is needed for the shallow-benched Clippers. Los Angeles has a soft schedule the rest of the way, but there is a big game with Memphis this week — win and the three seed is well within reach.
USA Today Conglomerate 6 0 Home court no advantage, says Blake Griffin, but Clippers fighting to get it for playoffs.
/r/nba Conglomerate 5 +2 The Clippers are pretty firmly establishing themselves as championship contenders as we head down the stretch, playing like one of the best teams in the league on both sides of the ball in recent weeks and since the All-Star Break overall. They've won 10 of their last 11 and could run the rest of the table with an easy remaining schedule. Unfortunately, all that dominance might still not be enough for them to escape a first-round matchup with the likes of San Antonio.
Average 5.0 +0.6

League Average Ranking

Rank Team Average
1 Golden State Warriors 1.1
2 San Antonio Spurs 3.2
2 Cleveland Cavaliers 3.2
4 Houston Rockets 4.3
5 Atlanta Hawks 4.7
6 Los Angeles Clippers 5.0
7 Memphis Grizzlies 7.1
8 Portland Trail Blazers 7.6
9 Chicago Bulls 9.0
10 Dallas Mavericks 10.6
11 New Orleans Pelicans 12.2
12 Washington Wizards 12.3
12 Oklahoma City Thunder 12.3
14 Toronto Raptors 12.8

Feature Writeup of the Week

Tortured soul Matt Moore took center stage this week to consider the merits of a team who has consistently boggled him in the past.

The last time I bought into the Clippers, and they responded by then having another week where they looked feeble vs. a Western Conference playoff opponent, I said I was done with them until April. I wasn't going to make an evaluation until the last month of the season.

Well, hey there, it's April.

The Clippers were supposed to be a finished product out of the box this season. Their fourth season with Chris Paul, their second season with Doc Rivers, the limits of inexperience gone. So when they stumbled out of the gate, and failed to impress through the All-Star break, it was easy to write them off.

But instead it simply looks like the Clippers were a work in progress. Doc Rivers spoke this week after a win in Denver about the process of the defense's improvement. Paul said the team still has areas it needs to shore up. But if the Clippers keep improving, and if their starting unit is as good as it has been at full health with Blake Griffin back, why can't the Clippers surprise in the West?

The answer is: the bench. Their bench is made of players that were in their prime years ago, and Austin Rivers. Rivers' effort has been great for the Clippers, but the advanced metrics paint a dire picture of his impact. Can the Clippers survive the deeper teams, or manage while playing starters overly-heavy minutes?

This is what the Clippers have come to. They're far from a sure thing with the playoffs less than two weeks away, but they're too dangerous to write off. Finding out which team the Clippers really are is one of the better subplots as we approach the playoffs.

Metrics Watch

Metric Number Ranking
Win Percentage .667 5th
EWP .739 2nd
Margin of Victory +6.53 2nd
Net Efficiency +6.9 2nd
Simple Rating System 6.83 2nd
RPI .550 4th
Hollinger Rankings 108.04 3rd
Strength of Schedule .515 4th

Thoughts

Despite continuing to play some of their best ball of the season, and notching one of their most impressive victories of the year — a come-from-behind effort in Portland — the Clippers didn't move up much this week. This might be due in part to a streak-busting loss to Golden State (despite the final deficit being a paltry four points, the game might have gained outsize importance thanks to a few reasons — a national spotlight on TNT, Draymond's absence, the "Warriors didn't care" narrative, and of course a few viral lowlights for CP3), and competing with two other teams who don't seem to lose, Houston and San Antonio.

Power rankings clearly don't matter as much as the playoffs, of course, and seeding is far more important than anything else right now. With a forgiving schedule, the Clippers have a good shot at winning out the rest of the way, which would clinch at least the third seed. Unfortunately, the reward of that might be a first-round matchup with San Antonio, unless Memphis or even Houston lose enough to push the Spurs into a series with Portland and a berth on the far side of the bracket. Basically, we should be rooting for San Antonio to keep winning.

That holds especially true this week, as the Spurs have a pair of games with the Rockets that could keep the Clippers' slim hopes for the two-seed alive. Obviously, division lead is the primary tiebreaker for playoff seeds, so while LAC will hold individual tiebreakers over each of their Southwest competitors thanks to conference record, they'll need to beat the division leader's record outright if they want to grab homecourt till at least the WCF.

This scenario is pretty unlikely, since it involves the Clippers winning out (finishing at 56-26) and Houston, Memphis, and San Antonio losing at least 3, 2, and 1 more game, respectively. Houston has five games left — a pair against San Antonio (with two days off before the first, while the Spurs come in on a SEGABABA), New Orleans, a SEGABABA in Charlotte, and a home finale versus Utah. The chance of losing three of five seems slim, even if they drop both games to San Antonio.

Slumping Memphis plays the Pelicans (who have done well against them), followed by a three-game road trip to Utah, a back-to-back against the Clips, and a tilt in Golden State against a Warriors team who could be resting — then finishing versus Indiana. San Antonio has OKC, the aforementioned home-and-home with the Rox, then a game against Phoenix and one at New Orleans.

Either way, the Clippers should be feeling pretty good about themselves right now. They've been a top-10 defense since the All-Star Break (really, since the Dallas game that broke their four-game losing streak), and were 3rd until a single-game blip against Portland knocked them back a few ranks. Offensively, they lead the league once more. The starters are playing their best basketball of the Doc era, and while the bench is of course uneven, the impending return of Jamal Crawford promises to fix all of that (OK, maybe only some of that, but Hedo continuing to bomb threes should take care of the rest).

They've won 10 of their last 11 since Blake Griffin returned from his elbow injury (speaking of, his jumper seems to be becoming automatic in these last few games, a very welcome sign before the playoffs). If they can run the table against a favorable schedule, they'll enter the playoffs having won 14 of 15, with the only loss a narrow defeat to one of the best teams of the last decade. Suffice it to say, things are looking good, and we should all be optimistic and thankful and happy about it.

My Rankings

1. Golden State Warriors

2. San Antonio Spurs

3. Los Angeles Clippers

4. Cleveland Cavaliers

5. Atlanta Hawks

6. Houston Rockets

7. Portland Trail Blazers

8. Chicago Bulls

9. Memphis Grizzlies

10. New Orleans Pelicans