From my column at ESPNLosAngeles.com:
Congratulations, Vinny Del Negro.
As the new head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, you have inherited a promising, young core. But before you get too comfortable in your new digs, there are a few things you should know about the roster.
1. One of your best players has no sense of his limitations.
Knowing what you can’t do on a basketball court is sometimes just as important as knowing what you can do. Baron Davis is a gifted distributor with other-worldly court vision, but he’s also one of the worst jump-shooters in all of basketball, evidenced by his 27.7 shooting percentage from beyond the arc last season. That number would be passable in limited attempts, but Davis is gluttonous with his shots. Despite his terrible proficiency, Davis shot 296 3-pointers last season, and was in the top 10 among point guards in attempts.
This is hardly a new development. Davis has never been an efficient outside shooter, even in his halcyon days with Golden State. Most veterans typically adjust their games as they get on in years, but the 31-year-old Davis has remained stubborn in his approach to the game.
Despite this, Del Negro seems confident he’ll be able to get Baron Davis to buy into his philosophy.
“I told Baron we’re going to run things the right way here and he needs to jump on board,” Del Negro said in his introductory press conference. “At the end of the day obviously Baron has been in the league a long time. A lot is expected of Baron, as well it should be. He knows that. We’ll get together, get on the same page as quick as possible and make things work.”But beware, Vinny. You can’t stop Baron Davis. You can only hope to contain him.
2. You have only one efficient outside shooter to work with.
In his first two years in the league, Eric Gordon has shown he’s a highly efficient shooter, but his game is a little more Robin than Batman. While Gordon is definitely a viable threat from deep (over 37 percent from long distance during his first two seasons), the scouting report on him has worked its way around the league: close out hard on the perimeter, force Gordon to put it on the deck, and swarm with help defenders.
Can the Clippers make defenses pay for collapsing on Gordon and leaving other shooters open? Last year they certainly couldn’t. The Clippers ranked 27th in 3-point percentage, and, not coincidentally, 27th in offensive efficiency.
Under Del Negro, the Bulls were actually worse offensively than the Clippers last season. Chicago ranked 28th in both 3-point percentage and offensive efficiency and attempted more shots from 16-to-23 feet than any team in the league, an area where the Clippers ranked a measly 24th in field goal percentage.
Many of the nagging offensive issues in Chicago will follow you to Los Angeles, but at least you have one bullet in the chamber with Eric Gordon. Use him wisely.
To read the rest of the column, go here.