The LA Clippers currently have an identity crisis. Before bringing in James Harden, roles for each guy on the roster were clearly defined and everyone seemed to have a solid understanding of their responsibilities on both the offensive and defensive side.
Now, things are a bit more jumbled. Though they have played just three games with Harden in the rotation, LA is 0-3 and the team seems to have less of an understanding of what their mission plan is with so many talented players on the roster.
In trying to solve their problems and create a new identity for themselves, perhaps the Clippers would do well to look at one of the best teams in the Western Conference record-wise: the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves have built their 6-2 record through being the best defensive team in basketball.
The Clippers should try to emulate the Timberwolves’ defensive approach
If the Clippers can get everyone to buy in, fully committing to a hard-nosed defensive approach could just be a solution to their recent woes. NBA writer Mat Issa recently dissected what has made the Timberwolves’ defense so effective, and the Clippers have some of the tools to emulate their tactics.
Essentially, the Wolves are able to deter their opponents from scoring frequently because of their high-level personnel. Not only do they have arguably the best interior defender and rim protector in basketball in Rudy Gobert, but they have one of the top perimeter defenders in the NBA as well with Jaden McDaniels.
With some additional plus defenders next to those guys, the Wolves have a by committee defensive approach where they can routinely keep the ball from entering the paint and reduce rim pressure. Even if they falter, Gobert is there to erase and alter shots.
Committing to defense could fix the Clippers’ problems
This has been a big part of why Minnesota currently sits at third in the West. While the Clippers may not have quite the level of defensive talent that the Wolves do, taking notes from their philosophy could be a good strategy going forward.
While LA is struggling to figure out who they are with Harden, re-committing to defense could provide some relief for their problems. Of course, they already possess one of the better rim protectors in the Western Conference in Ivica Zubac. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are some of the elite wing defenders in the league as well.
With two roster spots still open, the Clippers could try to piece together more capable guard and wing defenders to give them a well-rounded defensive attack leading up to the trade deadline in February. If they can re-capture some of the defense they lost in the Harden trade, they could find themselves back in the mix in the West.