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Los Angeles Clippers: The Missing Pieces

Following their first-round disappointment in this year’s NBA playoffs, the Los Angeles Clippers were extremely busy during the offseason and they came out arguably the biggest winners.

L.A. acquired the services of one of the best coaches in the game, Doc Rivers, at the cost of a first-round pick and burned a $21 million sized hole in owner Donald Sterling’s pocket, while Chris Paul re-signed a new $107 million contract that will keep him locked down for at least three more years (possibly five if he opts in for the additional two years), as well as adding shooter J.J. Redick for $27 million. However, for all their expenditures, L.A. still has huge holes to fill.

The Clippers ranked fourth in points allowed in the 2012-13 season and that was thanks in many parts to the stellar second unit they possessed last year. Although matched up against lesser opposition (usually second units), among those who have played at least 280 minutes together the five man line-up of Lamar Odom, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, Ronny Turiaf and Matt Barnes was the third-best defensive lineup in the NBA last year, allowing just 89.8 points per 100 possessions. (NBA.com/stats)

This year, key pieces of that second unit such as Turiaf, Bledsoe and Odom no longer part of the team. Turiaf received a more lucrative offer in Minnesota. Bledsoe was traded to the Phoenix Suns and let’s just say Lamar Odom is battling his demons.

While adding Byron Mullens and Antawn Jamison may have added some depth and a little bit extra oomph to an already potent offense, the duo leaves nothing to be desired defensively, especially Jamison. Therefore the Clippers must get some defensive cover, particularly at the biggest weak area, the bigs.

Here are some candidates:

Lamar Odom

Despite his struggles in recent seasons, Lamar Odom was a key figure defensively for the team last year. A combination of him and seemingly anyone else seemed to be the answer according to statistics, as illustrated by the table below.

Combination

GP

MIN

OffRtg

DefRtg

NetRtg

+/-

Griffin + Jordan

80

1,810

112.5

104.2

+8.3

+291

Griffin + Odom

66

502

105.7

97.9

+7.8

+114

Odom + Turiaf

53

479

100.0

91.0

+9.0

+56

Odom + Hollins

41

343

111.4

90.8

+20.6

+118

Odom + Jordan

34

166

99.3

104.6

-5.3

-16

Turiaf + Hollins

32

148

85.6

104.7

-19.1

-45

Griffin + Hollins

26

133

106.1

111.5

-5.4

-13

 

Not only that, Odom would provide some championship experience which the Clippers are in great shortage of.

Now the problem with this scenario is that Odom has been having trouble both on and off the court and one may be tied to the other. Perhaps the rigorous, media saturated life of a Kardashian isn’t for Mr Odom as he struggled to cope with all the paparazzi off the court, which has led to one or two burst outs.

Recently, it has been revealed that he turned to drugs to alleviate some of that stress (at one point, reportedly spending over $16000 on a helping of cocaine), so as you can imagine that would be a major red flag for teams, i.e., Michael Beasley, as my colleague Gerald Bourguet has touched upon.

However, he seems to be heading back to the right track as reports claim he voluntarily checked into a drug rehab center.

His former coach Vinny Del Negro has backed him both as a player and a person, saying, “He is a good guy, a good teammate,” Del Negro said from his home in Phoenix. “Everybody liked him. There were no issues.

“I understand he is going through a lot right now. It is never easy. He has always had some difficult obstacles and they weigh on him a lot. You feel bad, but you hope he is all right.”

Odom will be 34 in November. Yet Del Negro, whose contract wasn’t renewed after last season and who probably will be doing television commentary this season, disagrees with the “senior executive of an NBA team.”

“Lamar can still play,” he said. “It’s not the basketball skills that are the problem. Once he gets himself in shape and gets his mind wrapped around basketball, he can help somebody.”

Del Negro said he hates how quickly people will “knock a guy when he is down.” He said he hates all the hearsay — “none of us really knows exactly what is going on” — and said of the executive, “If the guy is that powerful, he should have the guts to use his name.” (per Los Angeles Times)

Tyrus Thomas

Tyrus Thomas is a player capable of some phenomenal rejections, when healthy. But that’s just the problem; he never seems to be healthy.

Injuries weren’t the only reason the Charlotte Bobcats opted to use the amnesty clause on him but they were a factor as the 27-year-old played just 121 games in his three full seasons in North Carolina, 26 games in 2012-13.

 

 

Nevertheless, is he is currently rehabbing with coach John Lucas and will be looking for a team. The Clippers could use his defensive prowess.

Louis Amundson

Amundson is rumored to be headed to L.A. either with the Clippers or the Lakers soon and Doc Rivers will be pleased about that, as he certainly could use someone like him.

During their playoff collapse earlier in the year, Blake Griffin and Co. simply could not deal with the physicality and toughness of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in the post. Amundson would go a ways into somewhat solving that problem.

His role would almost definitely be limited to being a bench player who sees minimal playing time, but he would be very useful in games against the more physical players (possibly doing a better job than Griffin, who has been labeled “soft”), yet not having to worry about foul trouble.

Sure, he may not be the most skilled of scorer or defender, but Lou Amundson damn sure is tough and gritty. He scraps for every loose ball, puts his body on the line night in and night out and doesn’t back down from a challenge. And boy does the Western Conference have plenty of them.

On-court efficiency, starting bigs, West playoff teams

Combination (Team)

GP

MIN

OffRtg

DefRtg

NetRtg

+/-

Duncan + Splitter (SAS)

60

819

106.0

92.7

+13.3

+208

Randolph + Gasol (MEM)

74

1,923

102.6

95.5

+7.1

+322

Ibaka + Perkins (OKC)

76

1,721

109.8

98.0

+11.8

+349

Faried + Koufos (DEN)

79

1,235

106.7

101.9

+4.8

+126

Bogut + Lee (GSW)

31

720

106.7

103.0

+3.7

+50

Griffin + Jordan (LAC)

80

1,810

112.5

104.2

+8.3

+291

Gasol + Howard (LAL)

46

994

103.5

104.2

-0.7

-19

Patterson + Asik (HOU)

46

797

108.3

104.8

+3.6

+78

(Per NBA.com)

No one can deny that the L.A. Clippers have made major moves towards an NBA championship, but in order to actually win the title, they need defense. Over the last 12 seasons, 23 of the 24 teams that have reached The Finals have ranked in the top 10 defensively and 15 of the 24 have ranked in the top five defensively.

I guess maybe it is true, defense does win championships.

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Tags: Lamar Odom Lou Amundson Tyrus Thomas

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