I am writing this on Wednesday, the 16th, two days after the Clippers dropped their third straight game at the hands of the under .500 Pelicans. It was a sloppy, turnover-filled game for L.A. that exposed their complete lack of an inside defensive presence, Doc’s propensity for over-playing the anemic Avery Bradley and overall slump that has seen the Clips’ fall from a top three team to a game above the eighth spot. While this isn’t panic button time, the cons are outweighing the pros since the start of December, and we are starting to see cracks in the squad that many had worries about before the season. The Clips had silenced a lot of critics with their play early on, but those critics are starting to circle back as L.A. is still devoid of a “star”….and it’s showing.
There are a few reasons the Clips’ have started to slide but a glaring reason is the lack of solid play coming from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He has officially hit the rookie wall and has seen his stats fall off a cliff. Only averaging six points per game for the month of January, SGA has been nonexistent in most games (Including a fat goose egg against the Pelicans) and is showing his young age. While the rookie wall is real for most, SGA’s seems to be a bit extreme. Even head coach Doc Rivers publicly stated that Shai, “is not playing well right now.” For a coach with a propensity for sitting rookies, this is a bad sign.
The Clips know what they are going to get from Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell but the rest of the squad has to pick up some slack. With Avery Bradley playing like a 60 year old, Marcin Gortat being unable to defend without fouling and the rest of the crew turning the ball over regularly and missing open shots, the Clips look like a lottery team instead of the playoff team that showed up earlier in the season.
Let’s take a look where the NBA media ranks the Clippers after 14 weeks of the regular season.
This week: 13th, Last week: N/A
Notes: “Lou Williams has scored at least 15 points in ten straight games, the NBA’s longest active streak among reserves and his longest streak of the season. Over this ten-game stretch, he’s averaging 22.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists. On the season, he’s averaging 18.6 points per game. Per Clippers’ PR, that’s the most of any player averaging 26 minutes or fewer since Freeman Williams in 1980-81.”
This week: 13th, Last week: 11th
Notes: “The Clips’ defense might not be as flabby as their No. 22 ranking suggests. They make opponents work for shots, ranking 11th in defensive shot quality. Blake Griffin’s 44-point explosion in his revenge game is an apt illustration. He torched the Clippers with an effective field goal percentage of 67.4 yet produced that on a diet of shots that yield him on average an effective field goal percentage of only 49.5. Another vital factor: The Clippers are producing fewer turnovers than any other team in the league the past two seasons.”
This week: 13th, Last week: 10th
Notes: “The early-season conclusion: A month and a half into the season, the Clippers had among the top records in the West. The team never quite felt like the typical roster for a top NBA team, valuing depth over superstar power, but they were getting the job done. What it looks like now: Not nearly as rosy, but still better than expectations leading into the season. The Clippers are 12-12 since Nov. 25, with the NBA’s 27th-best defense. Tobias Harris is making himself some money in his final season before free agency. There’s nothing sexy about his game, but he needs to be considered a star. He’s averaging 20.8 points and 8.1 rebounds on 43.3 percent 3-point shooting.”
First Half of Season Ranking: 14th
Notes: “I fear they are at high risk to slip out of the West’s top eight, but the Clippers would certainly slot in right at the top of the play-hard rankings if there were such an industry. The feisty likes of Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley, flanking a better-than-ever Tobias Harris, continue to make the Clippers more bizarrely competitive than anyone imagined heading into a summer in which they appear well positioned to make the loudest free-agent noise in franchise history.”
This week: 13th, Last week: 12th
Notes: “The Clippers have slowly slid from first to fifth place in the West since the start of December. They rank 28th defensively over the course of that slide, with their starting lineup having allowed 120.6 points per 100 possessions in its 241 minutes since Dec. 1. Only Brooklyn (105.7) has gotten more minutes per game from reserves than the Clippers (104.6), but with their opponents having scored 47 points per 48 minutes in the restricted area (the league average is less than 37) against the starters over these last six-plus weeks, the Clippers’ bench has been trying to dig out of some big holes. Three of their next four games are against top-five offenses, the next two are particularly critical in regard to holding on to a playoff spot, and their visit to San Antonio on Sunday begins a stretch where they’re playing 14 of 19 games on the road.”
This week: 15th, Last week: 12th
Notes: “We’ve touched on this briefly, but it bears repeating, especially in a downer week where the Los Angeles Clippers went 1-3: Danilo Gallinari‘s comeback season has been a ton of fun to witness. Back when he was the best player on a 57-win Nuggets team, it seemed like he’d be a perennial All-Star. He was never able to stay healthy after tearing his ACL that year, missing 82, 23, 19, 29 and 61 games over the next five seasons. So yes, it’s nice to see he’s missed only one game this year, all while averaging 19.7 points per game on .458/.453/.913 shooting splits.”