We’re slightly more than halfway through the NBA season and that means it’s a perfect time to offer some midseason evaluations. ClipperBlog will be running “Clipper Midterms” throughout the week, one piece a day from Monday through Friday. Here is part five from Fred Katz.
The Clippers’ defense has transformed into one of the most effective forces in the NBA. After a mediocre defensive season a year ago, the Clips can now rightfully call themselves one of the best defensive teams in the league. The biggest reason for that team improvement might be the individual advances of both Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The guards finished with a 3.25 GPA. The wings came out with a 2.9. How might the bigs fare?
BLAKE GRIFFIN: A-
32.5 MPG, 18.5 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 3.6 APG, 53.4% FGs, 65.4% FTs
I wanted to give Griffin an A, but that would mean there isn’t much improvement to be had, which isn’t at all true.
Even though Griffin has transformed into the best healthy power forward in the NBA, he’s still not close to his peak, which is scary. Quite scary.
Griffin’s jump shooting, while it’s surely better than its reputation, hasn’t improved much from last season. Shooting coach Bob Thate says his coaching Griffin is more about the process than the results. He’s all right with the numbers being down as long as Blake continues on the path to his shooting ceiling.
This year, Griffin is shooting 36.9 percent on 3.3 attempts per game from 16 feet out to the three-point line. Last season he was at 37.1 percent on 3.7 attempts per game. The results are basically the same, but Thate says the process has Griffin on the right course.
The rebounding numbers are down from where you can usually find them. Mainly, it’s the offensive rebounding. Griffin just hasn’t been scurrying to the right spots as often as he has in the past. That’s fine though, because the defensive end is where Blake has stepped up his game most.
According to MySynergySports, offensive players are shooting only 35.5 percent from the field when Griffin guards them. Griffin-guarded players are averaging only 0.75 points per possession, which ranks Blake as one of the 35 most efficient defenders in the league.
He’s getting steals and he’s forcing turnovers. The career-high 1.7 steals per 36 doesn’t even show his improvement as much as the 14.5 percent turnover rate for players he guards in isolation sets. That’s pretty impressive for a power forward listed at 6-foot-10.
RYAN HOLLINS: C-
8.8 MPG, 2.4 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 0.1 APG, 58.1% FGs, 71.9% FTs
Hollins has actually exceeded some people’s expectations, even with his low minutes total.
When Hollins signed with the Clippers this offseason, the biggest question was about his rebounding. He was coming off three seasons in a row in which his total rebounding rate was 9.5 percent or worse. 9.5 percent for a center? That’s not something you want to see. But Hollins has stepped up his boarding game.
Right now, Hollins’ rebounding rate sits at 12.3 percent. That’s not exactly an elite number for a center but it would be his best percentage since the 2008-09 season.
Hollins started the season as the primary big off the bench. In fact, there were times in November when he was the first player to come off the bench in some games. But then Hollins got Turiaffed and the rest has been history.
Don’t look at Hollins’ 273 total minutes played this year and think his season has been inconsequential, though. It hasn’t. In fact, it might end up being historic.
Hollins, who averages fouling out per 36 minutes in his career, is averaging a would-be-career-high of 8.6 personal fouls per 36 minutes. If that number gets up to 9.0 fouls per 36, Hollins would be the first player since Jerome James in 2006 to average that many fouls per 36 minutes while playing more than 200 minutes in the season.
DeANDRE JORDAN: B
24.3 MPG, 9.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 0.4 APG, 60.2% FGs, 42.7% FTs
If we’re talking about improvement, then we have to talk post game, because that is clearly where Jordan has enhanced his game most.
There was a time when DeAndre’s only way to score was on dunks. That was it. It wasn’t even until a few years into his career that he hit his first jumper outside of the paint. (I’m not sure what’s better: D.J. incredulously staring down his hand after hitting his first shot or Ralph Lawler’s call after he hit his second.)
Now, it’s not like Jordan is working in the post like Hakeem Olajuwon, but he’s definitely improved. Very improved.
DeAndre just looks better on the block. He is shooting 46.8 percent on 94 field goal attempts in the post, according to MySynergySports. We’ve seen up and under moves but the go-to is that hook shot.
Jordan has expressed to some in the past that he feels more comfortable maneuvering with his right hand, even though he is a natural lefty. He shoots free throws with his left hand, but that might be it for his left-handed coordination.
Because of that, Jordan’s go-to move in the post has become a right-handed hook shot. He usually likes to go baseline with it as he rolls the defender off his left shoulder. With Jordan’s size and length, it is seemingly impossible to block or even sometimes to defend. The only factor is if Jordan shoots it well enough to go into the hoop.
LAMAR ODOM: C+
20.0 MPG, 3.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 38.0% FGs, 42.1% FTs
If a basketball fan came out of a two-year coma and turned on a Clippers game today, he might be shocked to see a Los Angeles Clippers team sitting pretty atop the Pacific Division with a 34-13 record. Actually, he would definitely be shocked to see that. But something else that might catch him off guard is the transformation of Lamar Odom.
Odom came into training camp completely out of shape. Throughout the year, Vinny Del Negro has been able to play him into better basketball shape, though he still isn’t the athlete he was when he won Sixth Man of the Year only a couple of seasons ago.
It’s like watching a totally different player at this point with Odom. He doesn’t seem to have the athleticism he once did. His jumper is flat (yet, he keeps throwing up those threes). He doesn’t create for others in the same ways he could. But he is still a contributor who can help a winning team.
Odom’s rebounding has been incredible since the beginning of December. He is averaging 10.8 rebounds per 36 minutes and is gobbling up 17.5 percent of available boards, which would be a career high for him. He’s been especially dominant as a defensive rebounder, posting a 26.8 percent defensive rebounding rate.
That defensive rebounding is huge for a Clipper team who defines rebounding on the defensive end as one of its bigger weaknesses. If Odom can continue to pound down low, while maintaining himself as the Clippers’ premiere pick-and-roll defender, he will continue to make an impact into the second half of the season.
RONNY TURIAF: C
11.8 MPG, 2.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 0.6 APG, 55.4% FGs, 35.6% FTs
I feel bad giving a C grade to Turiaf if only because he is so likeable. He plays so hard all the time. Plus, that finger twirl is just wonderful.
Turiaf has been part of the best bench unit in the league, an everyday constant in that five-man, all-reserves lineup. His skill set is limited, but his energy can be infectious.
Give Ronny a dunk. People get pumped up.
Give Ronny another dunk. People get even more excited.
Give Ronny a third dunk. And oh man, you don’t even want to know what happens now.
Turiaf’s three dunks in 51 seconds against the Timberwolves a few weeks ago was one of the more inexplicably exciting individual moments of the season. His teammates get genuinely fired up upon every single one of his scores. Meanwhile, he’s developed nice on-floor chemistry with Jamal Crawford, who seems to look for him on dump offs when he penetrates the lane.
Basically, Turiaf has been Turiaf, but who would ask for anything else?