The best part about the NBA preseason is that, unlike in football or baseball, a majority of the players we’ll see in the regular season play. There just aren’t that many “dead” roster spots on an NBA roster, so we all win when we get to see the regulars tune up against each other.
In this one, Chris Paul (thumb) and a few others (including Trey Thompkins, Grant Hill, and Travis Leslie) sat for the Clips and Andre Miller led the inactive list for Denver, but both teams are so deep that it still looked like a regular season NBA game.
We had Bledsoe versus Lawson, Griffin versus Faried, and DeAndre Jordan going against a collection of NBA rotation-caliber Denver bigs.
This is all to say that while every reaction to a preseason game should be kept in perspective, we have no reason not to get excited about Eric Bledsoe being the best player on the floor. Again.
That, and some other takeaways from an incredibly entertaining game:
Simply put, last night marked the continuation of a streak in which he has done anything and everything the team could possibly ask of him. Starting in last year’s playoffs, to his brief stint in summer league and through last night, he has been their best defender, their best wing scorer, and even their best facilitator. We can expect that last part to change, one would hope, once Paul returns and puts his performance against the Spurs behind him, but we are officially still waiting for him to show why he shouldn’t be a part of the starting five once the games start to count.
He looked engaged throughout, trying to dunk whenever possible and contesting shots (three blocks) with consistent energy. It also occurred to me last night that he especially benefits from playing with Bledsoe, who has no problem breaking down defenses and often looks to dump off to the open man. Even if the free throw shooting never improves, games like this support the feeling that he should be able to play more productive minutes this season. Which is great, because…
Part of Odom’s value is the ability to grab a rebound and push the ball up the floor, but the push was predictably absent. He is not a threat to create off the dribble right now, so once the season rolls around, teams will crowd him and force him to make plays. Until/if he tones up — and travelling to China can’t be helpful to that end — Vinny Del Negro will have to think long and hard about how effective he can be. All of a sudden, the Clippers’ frontcourt depth has to be a concern.
Really, all you can say about Crawford is that he has been in the league for 12 years, and that there is a reason he is a career 40 percent shooter. He is incredibly agile and has some vicious handle, but he also has no clue what he’s doing on offense. John Krolik put it best when he said that “what makes an NBA player great is not the ability to convert difficult shots, but to create easy ones.” So for every time he goes 7 for 14, like last night, there’s probably a clunker coming down the line that will drive you crazy. Just have to take the good with the bad.
Update: News late today stating Griffin dislocated his right index finger during practice Friday and again during the game Saturday. Maybe that partially contributed to the missed free throws?