What the Clippers can learn from these NBA Finals


The NBA is a copycat league.

When the Heat won in 2012 and 2013, many attempted to mirror Erik Spoelstra’s position-less offense, tossing tradition to the side. When the Spurs won last year, all general managers wanted to put an emphasis on ball movement to mirror the Spurs’ high-powered offense.

So what can the NBA learn from the two teams, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, currently fighting for a championship when they attempt to mimic their ways? For the Los Angeles Clippers, the mimicry is simple: depth matters and without it, the Clippers’ ceiling will remain limited.

The Clippers didn’t need a home viewing of the NBA Finals to recognize depth matters. They knew after losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2013. And it occurred again in the Western semi-finals when Los Angeles went from ‘finally making it to the Western Conference finals and ditching the curse’ when they took a 3-1 lead over the Houston Rockets to ‘same ol’ Clippers’ when they blew said lead.

Whatever you believe to be the cause of the Clippers coughing up the Rockets series, depth should be toward the top of that list. DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin lacked dependable backups. Matt Barnes has lacked a reliable and league-average backup since being thrusted in the starting lineup in 2013 when Jared Dudley got injured. Chris Paul‘s backup was inconsistent, mediocre, and sporadic.. And J.J. Redick‘s backup shot below 40% in the postseason for the fifth straight time in his career.

Meanwhile, in the NBA Finals depth has played huge key in the results up until this point.

On Cleveland’s side, much doesn’t need to be said about the load LeBron James has been saddled with as he’s without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, both All-Star players whom James decided to join up with to ease the burden he’d picked up as time passed in Miami. Instead, the backup point guard, backup power forward, and guys we never thought would see the light of day in the Finals (James Jones, Mike Miller) are playing pivotal roles in keeping the dream of bringing a championship to Cleveland alive.

And while the Cavaliers’ seven-man rotation is the story for the Eastern conference finals rep, for Golden State, their ability to find players down the line has been key. No one thought coming into the series that Andrew Bogut would be virtually unplayable and David Lee could be the key to keeping the series alive after the Warriors dropped 2-1. Same applies to backups in Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston‘s whose abilities to push the pace, move the ball, and defend were all key tonight, as Steve Kerr substituted Bogut out of the starting lineup — Bogut played 2:46 minutes total — and Igoudala in.

May 14, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) talks to Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) in game six of the second round of the NBA Playoffs against Houston Rockets at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

A good sign, albeit an obvious one for the Clippers going into the summer of 2015? Rivers knows this team needs immediate depth improvement to better provide around Griffin and Paul. “Contractually, and I don’t think everybody gets that, it’s very difficult (to add players) when you have the contracts we have,” Rivers said following the Clippers’ Game 7 loss to the Houston Rockets. “Bringing J.J. (Redick) in here was great, but we’ve got to get this team more support. The problem is, with the contracts we’re hinged from, they’re probably doing to be minimum deals for the most part.”

Knowing is the first sign, and it’ll be even better if Rivers knows the context of the predicament Clippers are in, or the why.

Why don’t the Clippers have space when many other contending teams in the league have flexibility to flip, bend, and fix their current roster situations heading into the summer of 2015? Good general managing skills, or the opposite of what Rivers in his highest role on the team.

The Spencer Hawes deal.

Wasting the bi-annual exception on Jordan Farmar last summer –though many people didn’t see the relationship between the veteran point guard and team failing as it did.

Trading a first-round pick alongside Jared Dudley last summer. The list goes on.

And now, after an upsetting playoff end, there’s a scramble to improve the depth, but with too few assets this time. If DeAndre Jordan re-signs, the taxpayers mid-level exception could be used to sign Paul Pierce. Outside of that, unless the Clippers can make trades, they front office will be limited to veteran minimum contract guys to fill key holes.

Given Rivers’ history in the role, there’s no guarantee the Clippers enter the 2015-16 season a better team, k. Just two summers ago, Rivers believed Byron Mullens could be the teams third best big off the bench — a mistakes — and to an extent believed Antawn Jamison could do the same.

For the Clippers’ sake, hopefully Rivers can get the job done. If not, the 2013 move to bring him over will have not panned out for the third consecutive season.