Los Angeles Clippers: 4 Keys to Success



When Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers began looking at free agents this off-season, what he definitely had in mind was defense. The Clippers have picked up a bevy of good defenders, some even for bargain prices — Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith, and Wesley Johnson are all very athletic basketball players who can provide the defense Doc Rivers desires. 

Since the core of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan assembled, the Clippers have never been a top-5 defensive team. Last three years, teams in that category ended up winning the championship. In Doc Rivers first year as head coach, they reached 7th on the defensive efficiency chart. Last year, they fell to 15th, what most attributed to the lackluster bench.

This season the Clippers’ defense is a primary component to their season’s success. Often times the starters would build up big leads only to have it squandered by their bench. With Josh Smith, Wesley Johnson, and Lance Stephenson playing key roles, they’ll have plenty of athleticism to disrupt opponents on both ends of the floor and maintain leads. In cooperation with the starters, the reserves will be the crucial ingredient in developing a championship-tier defense.

Blake Griffin

Over the years, Griffin has shown his commitment to his game and his incredible work ethic. Back in 2010 he was labeled as a freak-athlete who was often criticized for only being able to dunk. Now he’s come a long way, developing a mid-range game, an arsenal of post moves, and becoming an incredible playmaker.

Grabbing a rebound and going coast to coast with the ball to setup your shooting guard with a wide-open three-pointer is no easy task for a power forward.

The Clippers no.1 offense all started with Griffin and none of that will change with newfound depth. Every season he has improved and brought something new to his game. Griffin’s development as a player has been a significant factor for the Clippers success.

May 10, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) dribbles the ball while pursued by Houston Rockets guard Terrence Jones (6) and center Dwight Howard (12) in game four of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Rockets 128-95 to take a 3-1 lead. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Can the Clippers’ franchise power forward finally establish himself as a front-runner for MVP? Although Blake Griffin’s only 26 years old, he is the best player on the Clippers’ squad and he’s finally starting to realize that. Ultimately this season Griffin has to flip a switch and have a killer-instinct towards winning basketball games — my bold predictions are 1) he will be next year’s league MVP and 2) will lead the Clippers to a top-2 seed in the West.

Foul Shooting

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The title could be labeled “DeAndre Jordan” but now with Josh Smith joining the mix it gives teams another player to deploy the “Hack-a-whomever” on. Last season, the Houston Rockets initiated their intentional fouling strategy on Jordan only 3 minutes 40 seconds into Game 4 of the semifinals! Why? Because the Clippers offense is incredibly deadly (ranked number 1, 2 years in a row). And sometimes teams get desperate.

These loopholes that opponents exploit is aggravating because it takes the offensive momentum out of the game — plus, it’s no fun to watch!). For the Clippers such a high-scoring offense sometimes needs rhythm and that’s not possible when our players are constantly sent to the free-throw line.

April 22, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) shoots a free throw basket against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half in game two of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Why is this an obstacle the Clippers need to overcome to be successful? When you look at all the talent the Clippers have from the guards who shoot lights out to the big men who run the floor like they’re 6’2. Having a shortcut that teams can employ to disrupt your game-plan and delay your guards getting off to a good start, is just not advantageous. Until Clippers can figure out how to fix their woeful free-throw percentages this area will always hold them a step back.

Stay Healthy

May 2, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) waits to go in the game with a heavily wrapped hamstring in the second half of game seven of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center. Clippers won 111-109. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries are an inherent risk to any professional sports team, especially in the NBA where players have to endure an 82 game season compressed into six months. Staying healthy is key for any NBA team but for the Los Angeles Clippers it demonstrated to be a factor in their postseason performances.

In the regular season the Golden State Warriors finished with the fewest minutes lost to injury. They ended the season as champions.

Unless you have Lebron James on your team, one serious injury to an All-Star could end any championship aspirations for that team. This is out of anyones control, but what what Los Angeles can control is minutes to lessen the wear and tear of the season.

Doc Rivers has finally done a great job assembling a talented bench that can give the starters the rest they need. This cooperation between the starters and role players is important to their long and (hopefully) rewarding postseason run.