Over the next month, Blazer's Edge will be rolling out season previews for all 30 NBA teams. Continuing this feature, we discuss the Los Angeles Clippers with Clips Nation editor Lucas Hann. (Yesterday's preview: Cleveland Cavaliers)
Los Angeles Clippers 2014-15 Season Preview
2013-14 Record: 57-25, No. 1 in Pacific Division, No. 3 in Western Conference
Roster additions: Jared Cunningham, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Jordan Farmar, Spencer Hawes, Joe Ingles, Ekpe Udoh, C.J. Wilcox (rookie, No. 28)
Roster subtractions: Darren Collison, Jared Dudley, Danny Granger, Willie Green, Ryan Hollins
SB Nation affiliate: Clips Nation
Blazer's Edge: Blake Griffin has evolved as a player the last several seasons, but may still have a stigma among casual fans league-wide as a player who relies mostly on his athleticism. What has he added to his game recently to become one of the best power forwards in the NBA?
Lucas Hann: For Blake, the focus has always been on expanding his jumpshot range. He's always been able to hit from 15-18 feet for stretches when he's hot, but it's a matter of getting to the point where it's a statistically reliable shot on a nightly basis. Last season, that still wasn't quite the case, but it was gratifying to see his range grow. This year, he supposedly has even added a corner three shot. Even though it's not something that he'll use often given his play style, it's a good indicator that the range has continued to grow and the reliability has continued to progress. Now, it's just a matter of improving his defensive positioning to make up for his relative lack of length, and continuing to be more comfortable at the free throw line (he should be up in the 75-80% range this season).
BE: The Clippers were the best team in the league last year at defending the three-point line. How were they able to defend the perimeter as well as they did, and will that type of performance be expected again this season?
LH: Anything like three point defense should be taken with a grain of salt, first of all. A lot of it can end up just being noise: if a 33% shooter goes 3/4 against one team and 0/3 against another, it's not crazy, but it influences these stats. As hard and unusual as it is to admit, sometimes in basketball it's just random luck. However, schematically, teams can do a lot to influence three point defense as well. The Clippers made a point last season of staying at home on shooters and not doubling in the post, so even though they limited three point attempts and makes from opponents, they also had a tendency to give up big statlines to opposing bigs. It's not necessarily DeAndre Jordan's fault that other team's centers did well; the Clippers just chose to leave him on an island and take away threes.
BE: The Clippers apparently placed a premium on outside shooting this past offseason, signing Jordan Farmar (career 37.5 percent from deep) and Spencer Hawes (36.1 percent) to go with J.J. Redick, who shot 40 percent from outside last year. Los Angeles was eighth in the league in three-point attempts per game last year...will there be even more of an emphasis on outside shooting this season?
LH: Doc seems to always be shooter-crazy since arriving in LA, and this summer has been no different. He went away from the jitterbug, energetic backup PG formula that worked in the past few years (Bledsoe and Collison) to go after a shooter, and finally got the stretch big he's been looking for. After suffering through experiments with Brian Cook, Antawn Jamison, and Byron Mullens, Hawes will be a welcome addition. The Clippers' offense is largely based around spacing; Chris Paul and Blake Griffin both need room to work, and DeAndre Jordan already gives the team one player who can't space the floor. So even though the team takes a lot of threes, and will continue to do so, it's mostly based on an emphasis on playing inside out: hit Blake Griffin in the post, or let Chris Paul drive, and then throw it out to lethal shooters when the defense collapses. Once the defense starts staying at home, the Clippers' stars can go to work.
BE: Chris Paul turns 30 this spring and is entering his tenth season, while Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are in the early stages of their prime...is this the year Clippers fans expect the team to make a legitimate run to the NBA Finals? Is that realistic?
LH: Yes, and Yes.
BE: Why does Jamal Crawford work so well in coach Doc Rivers' offense off the bench? Do you expect another Sixth Man of the Year-type season for the 34-year-old?
LH: Jamal Crawford only works well in his own offense; essentially, when he subs into the game there is no more Doc Rivers offense and only the Jamal Crawford chuck-fest. Sometimes it goes great, sometimes not so much, but he definitely is capable of swinging a game--either way. That being said, I have no reason to think that he'll drop off this year and he's a lock to put up high-volume, low-efficiency scoring off the bench.
Special thanks to Clips Nation editor Lucas Hann for taking the time to discuss the Los Angeles Clippers' upcoming season with Blazer's Edge. Lucas can be found on twitter @LucasJHann. Clips Nation has you covered for Clippers news and analysis.
-- Chris Lucia | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter