It’s easy to forget that only three years ago, the Clippers were still the Clippers.
Blake Griffin was coming off a first NBA season in which he didn’t play one game, the typical Clipper jinx. Vinny Del Negro was entering as head coach partly because he provided cheaper head coaching labor than most of the other options out there. The Baron Davis contract was still plaguing the team – as was Baron’s 28 percent three-point shooting.
There was no underlying meaning. There was no progress. It was just another 29-win season in Clipperland, something that the fans had gotten used to and something with which ownership had, at the very least, grown content.
But sometimes in sports, three years can feel much longer than it does in life and the Clippers prove that all too well. Today’s Clippers are coming off a franchise-best 56-win season, but did culture actually change much? There was still a general manager on a month-to-month contract; there were still signs that Vinny was going to be “the guy”. It was the same thing over and over. But this past week has changed everything and now, it’s grown difficult to argue that there isn’t a shift in philosophy up top for Donald Sterling and the Clippers.
In the past seven days, the Clippers have signed one of the best coaches in the world to the biggest coaching contract in the NBA, they have intelligently drafted a D and three player, and they have re-signed a mega super duper star immediately upon the start of free agency. These aren’t your grandfather’s Clippers. These aren’t your father’s Clippers. Heck, these aren’t even your Clippers. It’s some mutation of what we know. It’s evolution.
Paul, Doc, and Bullock all going down in one week means something. It’s the basketball gods’ way of parting the Red Sea, making the impossible happen in the simplest of ways. And with that, we let Digby Howis take it away:
Ontological Q: What defines the Clippers? i.e. How much personnel can change before they cease to be the Clippers?
We’re starting off as philosophically as we possibly can. I think we’ve seen enough change to say that, at this point, the “Clippers” are no longer the Clippers. We’re seeing intelligent move after intelligent move.
The Clippers didn’t just get Doc Rivers, but they also showed such desire to contend that they made him the highest coach in the NBA in the process. That’s not something that the “Clippers” would do. They didn’t just sign Chris Paul, but they also had a deal announced right at 12:01 on July 1, a minute into the free agency season. That’s not something the “Clippers” would do. ClipperBlog’s own Patrick James once said something along the lines of, “The Clippers have the unfortunate task of dealing with expectations before results”. Because those expectations came first, so did the alleged culture change. But the actual culture change came much later. It came this week. And that makes these past seven days arguably the most important week in Clipper history.
Think the Clippers would have rather had Hardaway than Bullock?
It’s NBA Draft time. The Knicks scooped up Tim Hardaway Jr. with the 24th overall pick, one pick before the Clippers wound up picking Reggie Bullock, a D and three guy with good range, so it’s safe to say that the Clips were contemplating someone who fits that type. That means we could probably narrow down their choices to Bullock, Hardaway, Allen Crabbe of Cal, and Jamaal Franklin of San Diego State. Crabbe isn’t the best of defenders so that eliminates him and Franklin (who might have been my choice) isn’t a particularly strong jump shooter so he’s out. That leaves Hardaway and Bullock. But Bullock is more athletic than Hardaway, he’s clearly a better shooter, and he’s arguably a better defender. In terms of overall skill set, Hardaway might be more diverse, but looking at the NBA roles that those guys stand to hold, defense and jump shooting are most of what matters and Bullock beats Hardaway in both those categories.
Of all the teams to take Jamaal Franklin, why MEMPHIS? Silently crying here.
We’re all crying here. Why does Memphis have to be so smart? Nobody needs that. Nobody wants that. You’re just showing off at this point, Grizzlies. Show some modesty for cryin’ out loud.
The Grizzlies keep loading up with these dominant perimeter stoppers. Franklin in the second round is tremendous value. Pick 41 is way too low for someone like him. He’s a really strong perimeter defender and he’ll immediately be one of the best rebounding guards in the NBA. (We do realize he was a 6-foot-5 shooting guard with a 16.5 percent rebounding rate last season, right? To put that in perspective, Blake Griffin’s rebounding rate this past season was 15.2 percent.) And it’s not just Franklin for the Grizzlies. Memphis also signed Vander Blue, the small forward out of Marquette, as an undrafted free agent.
Blue is out of the same mold as Franklin: a smart, crafty, athletic slasher that is a strong perimeter defender. As ClipperBlog’s own Andrew Han likes to say, “Always go after the Marquette wing player”. That’s how you end up with Jae Crowder or Wes Matthews or Jimmy Butler. It’s the Buzz Williams toughness quotient. If either Franklin or Blue pans out, Memphis is going to be very happy, especially if one of those guys can replace Tony Allen, a free agent this offseason, on a cheaper contract.
Does the drafting of Bullock pretty much determine the fate of Matt Barnes and Caron Butler?
Those three are only tangentially linked. Sure, Bullock played a bunch of small forward at North Carolina, but the Clippers are hoping that he can split time at both the 2 and the 3 in the NBA. That isn’t such an unrealistic expectation. Bullock has quick feet on the offensive end and moves well without the ball. Defensively, guarding 2s or 3s shouldn’t make much of a difference, considering he has the size and the quickness to guard both.
According to Brad Turner of the L.A. Times, the Clippers have already reached out to Barnes and hope to re-sign him. It’d be pretty surprising if Barnes didn’t return. He had arguably the best year of his career in L.A. last season, he lives in the area, he went to college in the area, and he’s a native Californian. Meanwhile, guys who are leaving the Clippers don’t send out tweets like this:
@ReggieBullock35 welcome to LA
— Matt Barnes (@Matt_Barnes22) June 28, 2013
People say Eric Bledsoe is a nonshooter, yet he shot nearly 40 percent from three last year. Anomaly or has be improved his shot?
To quote one of our old friends, Vinny Del Negro, it’s probably a little bit of both. Bledsoe did improve his perimeter shooting last year. His percentage shot up to 39.7 percent after he shot only a combined 26.0 percent in his first two NBA seasons. But let’s not forget that Bledsoe hasn’t always been a terrible shooter, even though his awkward form might imply otherwise.
Bledsoe shot 38.3 percent from three on 3.5 three-point attempts per game at Kentucky. That was when John Wall handled the rock most of the time and Bledsoe ended up playing off the ball for the majority of his minutes. Sure, there were some backup point guard minutes sprinkled in there, but mostly, Bledsoe was part of a two-point guard system that had him playing as a pseudo shooting guard. Can you see where I’m going with this?
With as good of a cutter as Bledsoe is, it seems like he’s a better scorer when he doesn’t always have the ball in his hands – or at the very least, he’s a better shooter. He shot 44.0 percent on spot-up threes this past season, according to MySynergySports. He shot 50 percent on corner threes (granted that’s in a selectively small 10-for-20 sample size). Basically, Bledsoe can shoot threes when other players get him open. He’s still far from a dominant midrange shooter, but that’s something that is acceptable if he’s going to play in more of an Avery Bradley type of role under Doc Rivers. It’s the three-point shooting, the finishing at the rim, and the defense that matter most.
Why don’t the Clippers just give Bledsoe a chance to be the starting shooting guard?
At least someone out there agrees with me. There are rumors that we’re going to see this, that Doc Rivers wants to make Bledsoe into an Avery Bradley type and that the Clips will have a new look to their backcourt next year. Of course, there are also rumors that say this won’t happen at all, that Bledsoe will get traded before the Clippers even take the court this season. But I’m with the Doc rumors. Bledsoe deserves a chance at shooting guard. If he excels, $8 million to $10 million a year might not seem like too much to pay him this offseason.
Shouldn’t Greg Oden be begging the Suns to sign him so he can work with their world renowned training staff?
The Suns’ training staff simultaneously gets over-respected and under-respected every offseason. There are so many questions like this that anyone could ask, namely, “Why doesn’t an NBA team with a ton of extra cash just steal the Suns’ training staff from Robert Sarver, who is known as one of the more stingy owners in the NBA?” Actually, I had the opportunity to ask that exact question to a highly ranked, NBA team official. His response:
“Because teams are stupid.”
It was both staunchly trolling and yet, not sarcastic at all. Some teams have done their own versions of this, actually. The Mavericks brought Casey Smith over from the Suns in 2004 and Mark Cuban says it’s one of the better moves he’s made in Dallas. But no one has replicated the model in Phoenix and someone like Greg Oden should be dying to live through 115-degree summers just because it means he might have the best chance to play for a full season.
Would you trade Willie Green for Julie Connors and a Fuddruckers gift card?
I desperately miss Hang Time. Saturday, early-morning television was too good in the ‘90s. Can I get Reggie Theus out of his contract at Cal State Northridge while I’m at it? Apparently, Julie Connors won’t play for anyone else. Could I at least reach out to Dick Butkus to offer him an assistant coaching job? It’s probably an easy transition to L.A. for her. I imagine Jay Hernandez would love to live there. Plus, it would further give the world even more opportunities to make Anthony Anderson-Michael Sweetney jokes. Why Anthony Anderson was cast as a sharpshooter, I’ll never know. Also, Fuddruckers is solid.
Between Iggy, Afflalo, and Granger, who do you think is the best player that would fit the Clippers’ needs?
I’ll eliminate Granger, mainly because we’re talking about “need” and the Clippers definitely need a shooting guard more than a small forward. Matt Barnes did a great job in that role last year and there’s no reason to think he can’t replicate that performance in the upcoming season if he does, in fact, re-sign with the Clippers. That leaves Afflalo, a shooting guard, and Iguodala, who can play both the 2 and the 3. But there’s a problem here: once Chris Paul puts pen to paper, the Clippers will be over the cap. That means the only realistic way they can get Iguodala is by convincing him to accept the mid-level exception. But how realistic is that “realistic way” when Iggy just opted out from a contract lined up to pay him eight figures? Not very. Because of that, you’re left mainly with the trade options and process of elimination probably leaves you with Afflalo.