Blazersedge staff writer Chris Lucia will be writing team-by-team previews over the next month as we count down to the start of the 2013-14 season. All team previews can be found right here.
2012-2013 record: 56-26, No. 1 in Pacific Division, No. 4 in Western Conference
Roster additions: Reggie Bullock (Rookie, No. 25 overall), Darren Collison, Jared Dudley, Antawn Jamison, Byron Mullens, J.J. Redick
Roster subtractions: Chauncey Billups, Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler, Grant Hill, Lamar Odom, DaJuan Summers, Ronny Turiaf
Well folks, it's finally come to an end.
Once a hustling, bustling metropolis of alley-oops and posterizations, Lob City has since been declared "nonexistent" by its most prominent citizen, power forward Blake Griffin.
In its wake springs forth a half court offense installed by new coach Doc Rivers that will place an emphasis on player movement and spreading the floor.
The free-wheeling Los Angeles Clippers offense of recent years was actually quite productive - they pushed the ball, outscoring opponents in a variety of creative ways. Last year's team displayed mediocre rebounding and outside shooting, but they managed a 56-win season with an athletic lineup that utilized its raw talent and skill to simply overpower less athletically gifted opponents.
Oh, and by the way, the Clippers were actually a solid defensive team, too. They ranked among the top-10 in the majority of defensive statistics, putting them in pretty good company with teams like the Chicago Bulls and the Memphis Grizzlies - statistically speaking, of course. Still, the Clippers' defense was apparently doing something right.
So why would Rivers want to mess with a system that was proven effective on both sides of the ball?
He thought the team lacked its own identity, clearly on display in the first round of the 2013 playoffs when the Grizzlies forced the Clippers to adjust to their slow, deliberate pace. This didn't play out well for Los Angeles, a team that needed to keep the flow of the game as up-tempo as possible to utilize its advantages athletically. Instead, the Clippers were exposed for an inability to impose their own style of play, losing the series in six games.
Rivers is now banking on center DeAndre Jordan becoming the lynchpin for the Clippers defense, a role that he is embracing after not playing a single minute in the fourth quarter 52 times last season. The first-year Clippers coach has publicly tried to instill confidence in Jordan, and the results have improved on the court so far this preseason. If this Los Angeles squad can grasp the intricacies of River's team-first style of defense, they'll be even harder to score on this year behind the big play ability of point guard Chris Paul, who has led the NBA in steals five times in eight seasons.
On the other side of the ball, the Clippers will see Paul initiating a revamped offense that will capitalize on the versatility of its roster. Jordan is lights-out around the rim, leading the league in field-goal percentage last year, and Griffin is not far behind. Paul is able to get to the rim as well, where he can finish strongly or kick it out to an open teammate (he's never been worse than ninth in the NBA in season-long assist totals his entire career, and he's twice led the league in that category).
Los Angeles now has a few weapons around the perimeter to take advantage of the dominant interior play of Paul, Griffin and Jordan. The three-point barrage will be led by starting wings J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, who are 39 and 40.5 percent career shooters from outside, respectively. Expect both of them to convert three-pointers at the same rates or better this season if everyone stays healthy. Opposing defenses will have headaches trying to decide whether to guard the perimeter closely or collapse in the paint. Either way, Rivers should have an answer to any kind of defensive scheme the Clippers are faced with.
The Los Angeles bench is led by the seemingly perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jamal Crawford, a guard who loves to break down defenders off the dribble and score points on a high volume of shots. Darren Collison should be one of the best backup point guards in the league, and he also has a solid ability to get to the basket and score.
The most discernible weakness of the Clippers is their depth in the front court, or lack thereof. Journeyman Ryan Hollins, who holds career averages of 4 points and 2.3 rebounds a game in his 7 seasons, will back up Jordan. Byron Mullens and Antawn Jamison provide backup at the power forward position. Mullens has shown a knack for scoring and rebounding in limited minutes but hasn't come around defensively quite yet. Jamison has shown surprising offensive durability over the course of his 15-year career, but he's 37 and his production tailed off last season across town for the Lakers. It's not likely that he'll be an effective post-defender at his age, either.
The Clippers should again finish the season near the top of the Western Conference. With Rivers behind the helm of one of the league's most talented and deep teams, count on them to find a variety of ways to use their array of offensive weapons when they have the ball. On defense, they should be much improved as well, due to the leadership of Paul, the coaching of Rivers and the pure talent of big men Griffin and Jordan.
Los Angeles' players still have a bad taste in their mouths following a first-round playoff exit in 2013. If they can remain dedicated and focused throughout the season, the Clippers are capable of making a run deep into the playoffs.
-- Chris Lucia | Twitter