Welcome to holiday season. It’s time to get ready for Santa, Christmas basketball marathons, and ugly, sleeved jerseys.
So before we start off our Christmas festivities, our winter breaks, our New Years resolutions, and whatever else happens at the end of December, it’s time to field some questions. It’s time for the holiday ClipperBag:
We know Travis Leslie is still hooping making money. Is Trey Thompkins really trying to make it rapping?
Wait, what? Is this actually a thing?
Oh my gosh, that’s Devin Ebanks. This is real. This is very real.
Is Trey Thompkins the kind of guy the Clips could go after for another big? Or do they want someone with more experience?
What is going on, right now? So much Trey Thompkins. Too much Trey Thompkins.
This is one of the oddest phenomena in Clippers culture. Where are you, Trey? And how have you managed to infect every Clipper fan’s mind? It must be that Devin Ebanks voodoo. That’s the only explanation.
I’ve had this conversation with fellow ClipperBlog writer Jovan Buha before. It’s strange. Every Clippers fan seems to be irrationally emotionally attached to Thompkins, a player who the Clippers released almost a year ago. We’re confused. There’s a reason Thompkins was a second-round pick. There’s a reason he hasn’t gotten into an NBA game since the lockout season. There’s a reason he’s not on a roster right now.
That might sound harsh, because there’s clearly something likable about Thompson – if there weren’t, fans wouldn’t be weirdly obsessing over him. But if the Clippers want a third big, they might be better off holding out for a vet.
There are options out there for the Clippers to sign. In a little time, Emeka Okafor may become available – that is, if the Phoenix Suns decide to buy him out.
Then there’s Lamar Odom. We know about that adventure a little bit from last season and a little bit from every night’s TMZ. The questions about Odom are definitely legitimate. Is he too much of a locker room distraction with the gossip stories that seem to follow him everywhere? Will he be in basketball shape signing midseason after it took him all year to get into basketball shape last season? Can he provide any contributions on the offensive end? The implications behind those inquiries might be right. But Odom is on a short list of available bigs and the Clippers may not have the ability to pull off a trade like we thought they might have at the start of the season, and that’s because…
Has Jamal Crawford made himself indispensible to the Clippers?
In a way, yes. And that’s not just because the Clippers are sans J.J. Redick and Reggie Bullock. Even before Redick went down with his devastating hand/elbow injury, Crawford was making the case for why he shouldn’t be leaving L.A. this season.
Sure, Crawford’s efficiency is technically worse than it was last season – the true shooting is minimally decreased and the PER is down one point from 16.8 to 15.8 – but what we’ve seen from Crawford this year has actually provided more value that what we saw last season. And that’s mainly because of his types of shots.
Crawford is getting to the free-throw line more. He’s taking a higher percentage of threes. And keep in mind that his production as a spot-up jump shooter has been uncharacteristically poor, considering he’s shooting only 34 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers this season, according to NBA.com. Actually, once those shooting numbers start to become more Crawford-like, there’s a chance he gets more productive as the season chugs along – and that doesn’t even include that he is having a better defensive season than he did last year.
The issue comes with the bench. Though it’s been better as the yea has progressed and though Darren Collison has clearly picked up his play in recent weeks, the Clippers need that consistent scoring. It sounds somewhat crazy to say, but the Clippers need the offense – and they need the extra ball handler – that they get from Crawford. He has made sense in the starting lineup, but once Redick comes back, the bench will get some sort of infusion, which is something it needs. But the question remains, from where will that infusion come?
Would you trade DeAndre and Jamal for DeRozan and Amir Johnson?
Totally. It’s too bad I couldn’t get Andrea Bargnani’s and Rudy Gay’s contracts in that deal, too. But really, if Amir left Toronto, how would Raptors fans buy their Drake CDs?
When J.J. returns, who should start? Him or Crawford? And is it even a question Doc should consider?
Don’t call me crazy, but I don’t think @dukenilnil is crazy. So please don’t look at my my seemingly poor craziness-evaluation skills and think that I’m actually crazy. Because I’m not. And neither is @dukenilnil. I think.
It’s not a sure thing that the Clippers would be better off with Crawford in the starting lineup and Redick on the bench. Actually, it’s probably not even a leading candidate for a situation that should happen. Realistically, Redick will reenter the starting lineup when he runs back out on the court, Crawford will go back to the bench, and that will be it. End of story.
Redick makes too much sense with Chris Paul. He’s a brilliant spot-up shooter. He’s dynamic when you run him off screens and let him take shots in catch-and-shoot situations. He gives the Clippers another above-average pick-and-roll ball handler to play with Chris Paul. He keeps the ball moving. He doesn’t care about his shot total. When Redick moves off the ball, he’s the perfect offensive complement to CP3. But there’s another side to this. Maybe, just maybe, keeping Crawford in the starting lineup makes some amount of sense. And it all starts with Darren Collison.
How would you rate Darren Collison’s season so far?
Inconsistent. Highly inconsistent. But of late, it’s been notably better. And here’s where Crawford enters the equation.
When Doc Rivers made the move to throw Crawford into the starting unit, he mentioned that it wasn’t just because he thought the starters needed another ball handler with Redick out of the lineup, but it was also because he thought Collison may operate better alongside Willie J. Green.
Green isn’t a ball handler. He isn’t a high volume shooter by any means. He’ll take his open threes, occasionally penetrate to the hoop when the situation calls for it, and that’s really it. You’re not putting the ball in Green’s hands and telling him to run a play. You’re not isolating him at the top of the key and asking him to make a shot completely on his own. That’s not his game. He’s not Jamal Crawford.
Rivers described Collison as a score-first guard, just like Crawford. But really, the issue isn’t the score-first mentality; it’s the ball-dominant one. With two ball-dominant guards in the backcourt, an offense doesn’t always operate as well as it should, and “ball dominant” is a term that could aptly describe both Crawford and Collison. Add in the fact that a Collison-Crawford twosome didn’t produce much on the defensive end and you can understand why Crawford entered the starting lineup.
Once Redick returns, he could help the bench unit on the defensive end, but is he going to get those open looks with Collison as his point guard? Probably not. And he definitely won’t get as many as if he were playing with Chris Paul. For the starter’s sake, Redick can be that second ball handler alongside Paul. Once he returns, the roster all starts to make a little more sense. But it’s possible we see Redick get more minutes with the bench unit than we may have seen before, even if he does stay a starter for the whole season. And considering Collison’s 53 percent shooting and 20.6 points per 36 minutes in five games since Crawford became a starter, that might actually be the move for Rivers and the Clippers.
Is Matt Barnes going to have the best pair of goggles in the NBA when he returns?
This question came in before Barnes’ return, but we’re running it anyway, because Matt Barnes is so Matt Barnes.
Barnes complained about his protective goggles before he ever even came back to the team, wore the goggles for his first game back, took them off for the first quarter of his second game back, put them back on for the second quarter of that game, and then proceeded to get ejected for a flagrant 2 foul on Kevin Love. It was all so Matt Barnes. Everything about it.
Barnes is inches away from becoming the first player in NBA history to wear protective aviators. We all know he’s too cool for the goggles. And that’s what makes them so great. They’re so un-Barneslike, and that’s just perfect.
The defense hit top-10 levels with Barnes out and no third big. Reasonably, can we expect significant further improvement?
Further improvement makes sense, especially considering DeAndre Jordan’s constant development. Jordan was better on Nov. 15 then he was on opening day. He was better on Dec. 1 than he was on Nov. 15. And he’s better now than he was on Dec. 1. He’s the heartbeat of the Clippers’ defense. He’s the one who makes everything tick, who cleans up others’ messes, and who deters and rejects shot takers and penetrators, alike. If Jordan keeps getting better, so will the Clipper defense.
So far, there’s no doubt the defense has improved throughout the year. Remember the first couple of weeks of the season when the Clippers were stuck in the bottom five of the league in points allowed per 100 possessions? Well, that’s completely changed. The Clips currently sit at eighth in the NBA in that stat. Since Nov. 27 they rank No. 1 in the league in defensive rating. The defense isn’t just getting better. It’s getting great. And if everything comes to together and it continues to play at the rate it’s been playing over the past four weeks, then this is a team that can do damage come playoff time.