The Los Angeles Clippers end the first half of the season almost exactly as they did last year. Last season they were 39-17 and went on to finish 56-26 while winning their first division title. This season, after a win over the Portland Trail Blazers, they finished the first half of the season at 37-18, fourth place in the Western Conference and 5.5 games behind the first-place Oklahoma City Thunder. The Clippers, while in solid playoff standing at this point, had the opportunity to have a more favorable spot in the competitive West. What do the Clippers need to rise to the next level? Two important things.
J.J. Redick missed his fourth straight game on Wednesday against Portland, and even though the Clippers won, Redick will still be needed if the Clips hope to have a chance at home court advantage and during the playoffs. Redick has been injury prone all season, struggling to stay on the court and has been hurt since Jan. 25 after a straining a gluteal muscle against the Raptors. In addition to Redick, Chris Paul has been bitten by the injury bug while suffering from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for over a month. Paul, as the leader of of the Clips, needs to stay healthy in order for the Clippers to make a serious playoff run. A few days off could all the Clippers some good.
Trade For A Backup Big
While Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are having the best season of their careers, they have no frontcourt help off the bench. This could pose as a problem for the Clippers if one gets injured or in foul trouble (a constant habit of Jordan). While Matt Barnes stands at a length and strong 6′ 7”, he simply is not big enough to handle the power forwards the Clippers will be facing in the playoffs. Jared Dudley, on the other hand, has been a complete dud this season as he is averaging just 7.7 points a game, his lowest in four years. The best option here for the Clippers is to trade Dudley, Reggie Bullock and a first-round draft pick for Philadelphia 76ers guard Evan Turner and big man Spencer Hawes. This will, in addition to giving the Clippers better guard play off the bench, fix their problem with the lack of depth in the front court.
The Clippers, as many NBA analysts have said, are just one move away from being serious playoff contenders. All signs point to a lack of front court depth as their main weakness. Chris Paul has Darren Collison and J.J. Redick (when healthy) has Jamal Crawford to back him up. Blake and DeAndre need a little help.