NBA Western Power Rankings Week 6: Clippers start rising

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Dec 10, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) dribbles the ball against the Chicago Bulls during the second half at the United Center. The Bulls defeat the Clippers 83-80. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

6th: Los Angeles Clippers (19 points)

By Tom West

Record: 14-10

December record: 4-2

So far, the Clippers have come far from meeting their high expectations heading into the season. For impatient fans and critics, they have obviously been disappointing as adding so many new players is going to take time. You can’t completely rebuild a bench and expect it to be a success over night. That being said, they have still been struggling more than they should have.

The troubling thing for their fans is that a lot of it has come down to their lack of urgency and effort, which has resulted in poor rebounding, poor defense, and lacklustre offense from the bench over the first portion of the season. That isn’t the case of all their struggles by any means, but it has been a reason why they rank 22nd in the NBA in rebounds per game and 14th in defensive efficiency.

Thankfully for the Clippers, though, the players have been improving over December.

They’ve won seven of their last 10 games, and have been a top 10 team in defensive efficiency this month. Wesley Johnson has been a much better fit at small forward when getting more minutes, Blake Griffin is having a stellar season, and both Chris Paul and J.J. Redick are back healthy. Some areas are coming together, but the consistency isn’t there and Doc Rivers’ rotations make no sense whatsoever. And even though they rank 4th in the West, it’s clear they have climbed above their ability and the struggles of their competition (such as the Rockets and Jazz) has helped them do so.

Maybe if Griffin wasn’t ejected for a highly questionable flagrant foul and they did more early in the game instead of suddenly hitting seven threes in the final quarter, the Clippers may have extended their win streak past the Chicago Bulls on Friday.

They’re on the verge of moving up higher in our rankings, and if Doc can just fix his useless rotations and guys like Johnson, Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith keep improving, maybe they can finally string together the amount of wins to start approaching their potential.

Next: Dallas Mavericks