Archive for the ‘Los Angeles Clippers’ Category

This one’s for you, Brandon Knight.

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With the dust mostly settled on this offseason’s player movement — and there was a whole lot of it this year — it’s time to take stock of all the fascinating new faces in new places, as well as the more compelling stories of players who will face new challenges while sticking around. Over the course of the next few weeks, Andrew Unterberger will do a team-by-team look at the most interesting players going into next season — one new to the team, and one returning — as we all try to pass the dog days of NBA-less summer, dreaming of hoops-filled months to come. The series continues today with the teams in the Pacific Division: the Warriors, Lakers, Clippers, Suns and Kings.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Most Interesting New Player: Jermaine O’Neal

JO might be kind of a tough sell for most interesting on a team that made a much more obvious big-budget acquisition this offseason, but I feel like I know what Andre Iguodala is going to give the Warriors this season — not an inconsiderable contribution, mind you, but I’d be surprised if he greatly deviated from my expectations in any way. O’Neal, however, could play more of a swing role on this team than people realize. He’ll go into the season with a decent shot at the Dubs’ backup center role, unless Festus Ezeli’s shoulder heals and he actually learns how to catch the ball or put it in the basket in the offseason, and he was sneaky good in that role last year for Phoenix, averaging 16 and 10 per 36 minutes (though he only played about half that on a nightly basis) and posting his best PER, by far, since he was on the pre-LeBron Heat.

More importantly, he might end up doing a whole lot more than playing backup if — and based on recent history, more like when — Andrew Bogut goes down with injury. Bogie’s missed double-digit games each of the last five seasons, and over half his games each of the last two, so it’s a relatively safe bet that there’ll be stretches where O’Neal, assuming he stays healthy himself (no easy assumption given he’s missed nearly as many games as Bogut over the last six years), gets pressed into far more than locker-room-leadership duty. Is it too late for Jermaine O’Neal to play a key-ish role on a championship contender? Or will GSW be forced to say “to hell with rim protection,” stick David Lee at center and go bombs away with the rest of their lineup? Maybe the latter is the likelier bet, but I haven’t given up on JO just yet.

Most Interesting Returning Player: Harrison Barnes

Barnesy recently ranked at No. 40 on SB Nation’s projected list of the Top 40 NBA Players of 2017, higher than both young studs like Larry Sanders and Damian Lillard and current superstars like Dwyane Wade and Tony Parker, basically entirely off the strength of his playoff run, in which he averaged 16 and six with decent shooting numbers and a number of big buckets. But it’s worth remembering that in the regular season last year, Barnes was basically a no-show, averaging less than 10 a game and posting a PER that barely cracked double digits, and that next season, he might not even be starting, with the acquisition of Andre Iguodala and the continued presence of David Lee (and the big contracts of both) possibly blocking him in the first five.

To get to be a Top 40 player four years from now, Barnes is gonna have to build on his playoff success — and as much as that run seemed like a breakout for Barnes, he still basically averaged his same shooting percentages from the regular season, with a fairly mediocre 13.8 PER — and prove that his 3-and-D skills are too integral to the Warriors’ run-and-gun attack for him not to get big minutes. And if not, expect for Barnes’ name to replace Eric Bledsoe’s as the go-to Intriguing Trade Chip in every blockbuster mega-deal rumor you hear from now until the end of his rookie deal.

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Just when Brandon Knight thought it was safe to lay low and let things blow over, someone has to get DeAndre Jordan to gleefully recreate his dunk over a fake Brandon Knight. Worst year ever.

I’m going to make a confession here — when Blake Griffin was getting his first accolades for being funny as a deadpan kind of bro, I didn’t love it. Maybe I’m not alone in this, but it sure felt like he was getting all this buzz for doing the exact same thing over and over, like Dwight Howard with his impressions. I felt like Brooks on “The Bachelorette,” in that I just wasn’t there yet. Sorry, Des.

But now that he’s Mr. Silly with his jokes, I’m in. And this new one from Foot Locker is pretty solid. I mean, who doesn’t love seeing that classic “Wayne’s World” bit repurposed for actual endorsements? We all do. Plus, you get to see Blake Griffin max out on painted-on smiles, which is a really good thing.

So in essence, I endorse this endorsement about endorsements.

This is from a couple weeks back, when Jordan Brand was visiting Asia and doing all sorts of things. Things like, I don’t know, having its three biggest endorsers throw out the first pitch at a Chinese baseball game, but not before getting instructions on various poses they need to do prior to pitching. It’s like watching season two of “Eastbound & Down,” only when these guys get confused by what’s happening, they just look at each other rather than raging and trying to break stuff.

Hey man, do you like dribbling? Like really like dribbling? Fast dribbles, slow dribbles, low dribbles, high dribbles, spin dribbles, accident dribbles, kibble dribbles, squibble dribbles — all that stuff? If so, you’ll love to watch Tyreke Evans and Jamal Crawford doing some dribbling in a recent pro-am game. Just two of the dribblingest dribblers to ever dribble, dribbling right at each other’s dribbles. It’s a real smorgasbord of dribbling. A dribbgasbord, really.

Dribbles.

(via Ball is Life)

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Aside from the perennially underpaid and underappreciated Matt Barnes, and the usual brand of streaky offense from Jamal Crawford, the Clippers lacked sorely for production from the wing positions last season. This would have been their single biggest weakness if it wasn’t for their complete absence of an offensive playbook. Caron Butler has declined to the point that he is scant little more than a spot-up shooter at this point, and despite finally adding three point range, Willie Green is much the same. Compounding the problem is the fact that, Barnes, seemingly the only player who knew how to cut and get open for the league’s best passer, is an unrestricted free agent with mere non-Bird rights.

Without cap room and yet also without all that much wiggle room under the tax, the Clippers needed to rebuild this rotation. Their lack of wing quality was exposed against the Grizzlies, and notwithstanding the lack of a backup center (and the less-than-reliable nature of the starter), it was a priority on a roster entirely set at two positions. And in Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick, the Clippers have achieved exactly that in one fell swoop.

Dudley and Redick aren’t athletic. They aren’t dynamic, they aren’t brilliant at any one thing (except perhaps Redick’s shooting), and they aren’t primary options you turn to on either end. But they’re just … good. They get it. The two are high IQ players with no distinct holes in their game, who defend with guile rather than physical tools, and who fit every great-teammate, great-role-player cliché going. They move the ball, make few mistakes, and, along with Reggie Bullock, provide the spacing lost in Butler along with bringing more well-rounded games and better perimeter defense.

It cost them their two best assets to do it, but the Clippers improved their team in what was almost a financial wash. Moving Bledsoe for players who aren’t and never will be stars may feel deflating to those with higher aspirations, yet the value of the returning duo must not be overlooked. The Clippers got what they needed. Without having a single star in it, L.A. has assembled a wing rotation with good depth and few holes, exactly the kind of thing you want to flank a superstar point guard with. If they can convince Matt Barnes to sign for far below his market value for the seventh straight season, even better. Combining this with the enormous coaching upgrade from Del Negro to Rivers, and the biggest news of all in getting Chris Paul to re-sign, has significantly improved the Clippers’s fortunes for the foreseeable future. Now, they just need some depth.

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