Clips Nation and Clipperblog are exchanging a series of thoughts about the Clippers in a cyber-dialogue. Clipperblog lobbed the first volley here. Steve Perrin’s rejoinder can be found at Clips Nation here. Below is the third installment:
To: Steve Perrin
From: Kevin Arnovitz
Date: June 7, 2009
Let’s talk “glue guy.” Normally, I try to avoid abstractions when it comes to hoops, and “glue guy,” like its brethren “energy guy,” is one of those formulations that’s hard to quantify…but quantifying abstractions is what we do here, so let’s take a stab.
The NBA game has changed a lot in the past few years. Ball movement, motion, and perimeter play — these are the things good teams employ to win basketball games. A lot of smart people ascribe this to a revision of hand-checking rules a a few years back. Whatever the case, skills like passing, knowing how to fill space, and ballhandling have become vital at every position on the court. The Lakers and Magic exemplify this. Guys like Gasol, Turkoglu, Odom, Lewis, Walton — and to a slightly lesser but still decent extent Ariza, Lee, and Pietrus — personify the versatility that can beat you any number of ways from multiple places on the floor (Bryant, obviously, belongs in a category of his own, but let’s not digress). And that’s just on the offensive end. Put any of these guys on the Clippers and they’d immediately become a defensive cog.
The Clippers, on the other hand, rely almost entirely on one-on-one players — prime examples include Thornton, Randolph, and Kaman. Even though I prefer Eric Gordon to Courtney Lee over the long haul, EJ could learn a lot from watching Lee move around the floor this postseason. Lee has the advantage of playing in a phenomenal system that maximizes each player’s individual skills. By resorting to one-on-one play, the Clippers encourage bad offensive habits, which is how you end up 30th in offensive efficiency even though there are supposedly nice offensive pieces at each position. Having guys who can jump out of the gym is nice. Having guys who know their way around the gym is better.
Ideal glue guys at the small forward? The list would include Turkoglu, Battier, Odom (still think he’s a wing), Prince, Batum, Kirilenko, Ariza, and even Walton. These are guys who can perform offensive tasks beyond scoring, and also defend. It might be counter-intuitive to say a team that has trouble putting points on the board should worry less about raw scoring, but in the Clippers’ case it’s true. At the risk of peddling basketball Tao, the Clippers can score more next season by focusing less on scoring.