After finishing 4th in the Western Conference with a 53-29 record in the Western Conference this year, and losing in the first round to the Portland Trail Blazers, the Clippers are running out of of options.
Practically bringing back the same exact first team as they had last year, the Clippers haven’t revamped all that much. They added some bench pieces like Brandon Bass, Marreese Speights, and Raymond Felton, but overall their outlook as a team hasn’t changed.
Chris Paul is 31 years old, and isn’t getting any younger. He’s consistently put up close to 20 points per game and 10 assists his entire career. His game isn’t changing.
J.J. Redick is one of the league’s most underrated two guards – his ability to hit the three is huge next to a point guard like CP3. Last year alone he had an other worldly and NBA leading 47.5% three point percentage. His defensive and ability to put the ball on the floor isn’t going to improve.
Luc Richard Mbah A Moute and Paul Pierce are both middling options at small forward in this NBA, with a combined age of 69.
DeAndre Jordan, one of the league’s most ferocious center, isn’t suddenly become a threat from mid-range. Or better yet, hitting free throws at a 70% + rate.
The Clippers have excellent depth – their second team of Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass, and Marreese Speights may be the best in the league.
What’s holding them back from getting a second or third team in the Western Conference? What’s holding them back from getting deep into the playoffs?
Sure, the super team Golden State Warriors and the always relevant San Antonio Spurs seem to be one tier ahead of them in the regular season.
What is the next step for the Clippers to reach that top tier? To set them apart from the rest of the pack in the West.
If you haven’t noticed, Blake Griffin has not been mentioned. He is the most pivotal player on the Los Angeles Clippers for them to take their next step to playoff success.
In the last two years alone, Blake Griffin has missed 62 games due to injury, nearly 40 percent of the games he could have possibly played.
As a 27 year old, Blake Griffin is smack dab in the middle of his prime. He has a chance this year to be completely healthy, and be the Clippers primary and best scorer consistently.
Blake is already one of the game’s best post presences, and has an above average mid-range shot. Is there anyway Blake Griffin can take the next step as an offensive superstar, and solve the Clippers spacing problems?
It’s called doing what it seems every power forward in the NBA is trying to do these days – and that’s becoming a stretch four.
In his entire career, Blake Griffin hasn’t averaged more than .6 three point attempts every game. Even though, in the 2014-15 season, Blake Griffin shot 40% from three point range.
Although, that is a very small sample size and an outlier to his career 27.1 3 point percentage, Blake has spoken about his desire to potentially increase those shot attempts in games.
In an interview with the Orange County Register in late September, Blake said “I want to be someone who shoots from there confidently, for sure….A lot of us power forwards, our strength is inside or our versatility. You look at the best power forwards, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus (Aldridge), Draymond (Green) … they can all shoot but they can all put the ball on the floor and they can all score inside. I don’t necessarily think falling in love with the three point shot is a good idea, but shooting it confidently from there is great.”
In the past half decade, many power forwards, including the ones listed by Griffin, have added a three point shot to their game.
The largest example found last year of a big man transitioning into a guy who can stretch the floor is DeMarcus Cousins. In his career, he had only made 11 three pointers, and only 1.2% of his career shot attempts were threes.
This past season, Cousins came out and shot 210 threes and made 70. The simple fact he was able to add that shot to his arsenal, opened up his game and allowed him to have a career year, scoring 26.9 points per game.
If Blake Griffin can come out this year and add a three pointer to his game, even just 2 or 3 more shot attempts a game, he can transform the whole offense for the Clippers.
Even if his three point percentage only hovers around 30 percent, the threat to even shoot from deep will add an element to the Clipper’s starting 5 that is much needed.
For a team that seems to be one step away from a conference finals appearance, everything rests on the shoulders of Blake Griffin developing into a deep threat.