Before we begin, I’d just like to thank you all for sending in great questions. We got a ton of submissions, so if I missed your question don’t fret — there’s a good chance we’ll run it next week. Let’s get to it!
Q: What are the implications of Eric Gordon’s strong performance this summer? I’m afraid to get my hopes up, because he hasn’t really shown anything new — he’s hitting threes with remarkable accuracy, but not displaying improved ballhandling, rebounding, or passing. - Sam K.
D.J. Foster: I think Gordon’s confidence is soaring right now. No, he didn’t make leaps and bounds in his rebounding or playmaking abilities, but you did see him grow as a player. Gordon became so assertive over the last few games in the tournament that if he had an open look, he was firing it up. If he had a path to the rim, he was going all the way. Remember, this is a guy who put up only two more shots per game than Rasual Butler last season. If he’s not afraid to take shots away from players the caliber of Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose, he shouldn’t be when he’s back in a Clippers uniform. As efficient as he’s proven to be, that’s great news for the upcoming season.
Q: Would you trade Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, and the Timberwolves pick for Carmelo Anthony? – Tim M.
DJF: I’ve gone back and forth on Carmelo for a while now. He’s not a top 5 player, probably not even a top 15 player because of his terrible defense, but he is a top 5 scorer. Could the Clippers use a big time scorer with Anthony’s star power, who brings a certain legitimacy along with him? Absolutely. But at what cost? Is it worth dealing a lottery pick with a ton of potential, a possible top 3 pick in 2012, one of the better centers in the league, and a huge chunk of salary? I think it’s a little too much to give up, but I understand why the Clippers would do it. Let’s put it this way — I wouldn’t do it myself, but I wouldn’t be upset with getting Carmelo either.
Q: What system do you think Vinny Del Negro will put in practice? – Shigueru T.
DJF: That’s an excellent question, and one we don’t have the answers to yet. I’m not sure Del Negro knows yet either — any good coach develops their gameplan to what they have out on the floor, and it’s still a little early for that. If we look at his year in Chicago, we can speculate that he’ll run a lot of high, center of the floor pick and rolls with Baron and Griffin. But Del Negro isn’t a coach with a system that’s unadaptable to his talent. In that regard, he’s much more Stan Van Gundy than Don Nelson, if you get my drift.
Q: It seems to me that our best chance going forward is to shape the offense around Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin, but I find it hard to believe Del Negro can get Baron to be a fascilitating guard instead of a “shoot us out of half the games” guard. How do we get him to buy into this, or do you believe Baron still needs to be the alpha dog? – Matt M.
DJF: This is one of the few things I think all of us at Clipperblog stand on the same page about — Baron needs to reinvent himself. Baron’s been trying so hard to hold on to his star status by firing up threes that in the process of doing that he’s lost it. Sometimes the harder you try to hold on to something, the easier it slips away, and that’s the case with Baron. It’s ironic — if he would just stop trying to be the star, he’d become one again. He’s a great distributor. He has amazing court vision. He can run a team. He absolutely doesn’t need to be the alpha dog scorer anymore. But no one else can get Baron to buy into that…he has to believe it himself.
Q: Who is our projected small forward for this season? And do you agree with that? -Anthony L.
DJF: On draft night, Neil Olshey commented that the Clippers had been disguising two guards as threes for quite some time, which leads me to believe Ryan Gomes has the advantage going into training camp. Gomes is a more traditional 3 than Butler because of his rebounding. That’s something the Clippers have sorely lacked from their 2 and 3 spots the last few seasons, as they ranked dead last in combined defensive and offensive rebounding from their wings last year. Gomes should cure some of that and makes sense as the starter for day one. Butler is a really nice rotation piece off the bench as a second guard and backup small forward who can stretch the floor and play solid defense. Al-Farouq Aminu will take some time to develop on the offensive end, and shouldn’t be thrust into the starting lineup right away. I think Gomes will be the guy, and I agree with that.
Q: Will Eric Gordon ever be an all-star in the NBA? – Alex V.
DJF: I say no. Gordon doesn’t strike me as the all-star type because he doesn’t seem to put up gaudy numbers, especially in the rebounding and assist categories. Efficiency and defensive play don’t seem to factor into the all-star equation very much, so my “no” answer is really more refelctive on the way fans vote rather than Gordon himself. He’s a fantastic player to have on the roster, all-star or not.
Q: How good is Eric Bledsoe? And is he our projected point guard of the future? -Anthony L.
DJF: Neil Olshey had long wanted Eric Bledsoe, and was very happy when he became available to him via trade. If he didn’t think Bledsoe had the capablities to develop into the point guard of the future, he wouldn’t have traded a future first (top 10 protected) to get him. Bledsoe will be incredibly up and down and a turnover machine his first year in the league, but he’ll also be the lightning quick scoring guard that are all the rage around the league right now. Think something along the lines of Ty Lawson in Denver.
Q: Honestly, do you see our Clippers being in the playoffs anytime soon? If not this year? – Ian L.
DJF: If the Clippers played in the East, I’d like their chances to nab an eight seed this season. But unfortunately they play in the West, and it took 50 wins last year to get in. I don’t think they’ll get there this year, but the future looks brighter than it has in a very long time.
Q: I’m satisfied with the moves and non-moves that we made over the off-season. The one change I was very pleased with was the coaching staff that we brought in. This leads me to ask you, which of the assistant coaches will have the biggest impact on the Clippers success this season? - Daniel V.
DJF: I’m most excited for the effect assistant coach Marc Iavaroni can have with the Clips offense. Iavaroni was a big part of the “seven seconds or less” movement under Mike D’Antoni in Phoenix for five years, so he certainly knows what it takes to push the ball up the court. It helps to have a guy like Nash, but to really get out and run you need to have athletes, you need to create turnovers, and you need to be solid on the defensive glass. The young core, particularly Griffin and Aminu, fit all those requirements perfectly.
Q: This is the thing myself and all of the Nation should be pondering the most: Is Blake Griffin all that he is made out to be? What are realistic expectations for him? – Anthony L.
DJF: Griffin is the real deal. He’s a better athlete than most everyone in the gym, he works as hard as anyone, and he wants it. That’s what will shine through this season — Griffin will hit the bumps in the road like every rookie, but I don’t remember seeing a guy who wants it as bad as Griffin does, and is willing to put in the work to back it up. His offensive game will require some patience, and no rookie masters NBA defensive rotations right away, but his rebounding will be there from day one. Double-digit boards and a Rookie of the Year award seems realistic to me.