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The Awesome, Great, and Good: Clippers Rolling in January

The Clippers have won 11 of their last 12 games, so I am having a celebratory change of title for this column. While there are rain clouds on the Clippers horizon (strength of schedule and the Spurs/Warriors existing), everything is groovy right now in Clipper-land.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Awesome:

JJ Redick: JJ is having an all-time great NBA season shooting the ball in 2015-2016, and has only heated up in the month of January. Averaging 20 points per game on 51.2/56.5/96.0 shooting splits, JJ is the hottest player in the NBA right now and simply can't be stopped. While he does gain more space from sharing the court with only one traditional big man on the floor, I think Redick would still be putting up incredible numbers even if Blake had been playing the past few weeks. At some point he will probably cool off, but unless he falls off hard this will still be a season for the history books in all likelihood.

Chris Paul: As amazing as JJ has been, the biggest reason for the turnaround in the Clippers season is probably having a healthy Chris Paul. Through the end of December CP3 was putting up very good but not quite "Point God" level numbers: 17.7/3.5/9.1 on 44.5/34.0/89.6 shooting. The three point percentage in particular was a poor mark for Chris, and most likely was due to his playing through a broken finger and various leg ailments. With his finger healed and his legs under him, CP3 has returned with a vengeance, and is absolutely murdering the NBA. His January numbers read like a videogame: 20.6/5.3/11.7 (with 2.6 steals thrown in) on 46.8/54.8/79.3 splits. The only blemish is the oddly mediocre free throw shooting, but that's just a blip on the radar when the rest of the line looks so good. More importantly, he is really controlling the game on both ends of the floor like the Chris Paul of yesteryear, and is once again a top 3 point guard in the NBA (Russ and Steph are just too good). Like Redick, Paul has more room to work his magic on the court without two big men clogging the lane, but just being healthy has a lot to do with the improved play as well.

The Great:

Cole Aldrich: Cole Aldrich has been huge for the Clippers this year. And yes, this year is 2015-2016. Like everyone else, his play has picked up in January (9.4/6.1 and 0.9 blocks in only 15 minutes a game is pretty nice), but Cole's presence is about way more than statistics. The stability he brings to the court has been a godsend for a Clippers bench which has been very erratic for the past few years, largely dependent on the game to game production of Jamal Crawford. Now, the game plan is simple: run the pick and roll with Aldrich and Prigioni, and if that doesn't work, then Jamal or Austin can ISO for a bail-out shot. He is a big body in the lane on defense, which is a plus, and more importantly is always hustling on the court. Its understandable Doc Rivers didn't turn to him sooner (Josh Smith has a much more impressive resume), but playing him has proven a revelation.

DeAndre Jordan: While DJ sadly lost his Ironman streak of games played to a bout of pneumonia, he has stepped up with Blake out, just as he always does. Even better, his free throw shooting was at 43.6% in December, and has reached an incredible (for DJ, remember) 51.5% in January. Now, it has only been five games (for January), but one can hope that maybe a corner has been turned and the days of ~mid 30s free throw shooting are over. Not only are those free points, but improved free throw shooting is also a deterrent to hack-a-DJ, which sometimes helps the Clippers but also makes games unwatchable.  DJ upping his play when Blake is out is always great to see, though the free throw shooting should stick regardless.

Jamal Crawford: Jamal started off the year horribly, and many people wanted him shipped off to the first willing buyer regardless of return. He substantially improved his numbers in December, and has continued his play with an even better January. Playing with an actual point guard and a real bench system has reduced all the forced shots that tanked his efficiency, and now he is humming right along with the rest of the reserves. While I have criticized Jamal for his play in the past, it has always been in the knowledge that he really could do better. He remains a useful part of the Clippers' bench, and right now trading him probably isn't in the cards.

The Good:

Standings Watch: The Clippers have firmly separated themselves from the rest of the pack for the 4th seed in the Western Conference. They are four games up on Memphis and Dallas, and neither of those teams look like a real threat to make a push barring significant mid-season trades. Houston is another two games behind them, and 8th seeded Utah is three more back of the Rockets. Basically, unless Chris, JJ, or DJ misses time along with Blake or any of those teams makes a crazy shake up type of deal, the Clippers have home court advantage in the first round. The Spurs and Warriors are for all intents and purposes uncatchable, but the Thunder are only three games ahead, and are completely reliant on two players for just about everything. However, being the 3 vs 4 seed doesn't appear to be important this year as of right now: none of the bottom teams seem frightening (though Houston could be dangerous) and either San Antonio or Golden State is going to be a ridiculously tough fight in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Holding on to the 4th seed and remaining healthy are the biggest items in the second half of the season, and hopefully the Clippers can do both.