Los Angeles Clippers vs. Orlando Magic
7:30 p.m. PST
January 6, 2014
FOX Prime Ticket
1. What did we learn about how this team can be sans Chris Paul from the game against the Spurs?
Andrew Lynch, Magic Basketball, (@AndrewLynch): They can get by against weaker teams, but they’re in a lot of trouble against most of the Western Conference. Things weren’t completely, horribly awful with Collison in Paul’s place, right? But when the Clippers had to lean even more heavily on Willie Green and Stephen Jackson, the Spurs made runs. Fortunately for LA, the schedule in the next five weeks is relatively light; in the next 18 games, the only over-.500 teams they play are the Mavs, Pacers, Raptors (twice), Warriors and Heat. 10 wins in Paul’s absence is an outside possibility.
Seerat Sohi, (@DamianTrillard): Not much, if anything. Less than 24 hours after Paul went down, the Clippers were forced to take on a Western Conference behemoth. With no rest, adjusted practice or time to acclimate themselves, they predictably fell apart. Hopefully, Saturday’s performance was a far cry from what a Chris Paul-less squad should look like.
Dylan Rice-Leary, (@dylearium): The Spurs game was more of a reinforcement than a revelation. I wasn’t expecting a road win on the second night of a back-to-back without CP3 against San Antonio – but this team going to struggle mightily without Chris Paul over the next month and a half, especially against quality opponents. As they are currently constructed, this Clippers team is going to have a tough time against most opponents if they are missing Chris, Blake, or DeAndre for a single game, let alone six weeks. We knew that some roster tweaks were in order. Waiving Maalik Wayns just reinforces the impression that some shake-ups are imminent.
2. How many All-Star Games will Victor Oladipo have made by the time his career is over?
Lynch: I’m going to cheat blatantly and say Oladipo will be invited to several All-Star Weekends for the Slam Dunk Contest. The Dunk Contest has emphasized young up-and-coming players recently, so Oladipo seems like a lock to get the call at least once. Actual All-Star Games? I’ll split the difference between his potential and the somewhat bleak prospects for Eastern Conference guards in the foreseeable future and say he’ll make at least one, maybe two.
Sohi: For a highlight reel waiting to go supernova, it’s hard to say. Gifted with otherworldly athleticism and size, the sky should be the limit for Oladipo. But 33 games into his rookie season, it’s hard to glean anything concrete in regards to Oladipo’s future. As far as barometers go, the progression of his jumper, ball-handling and turnover rate should be telling.
Rice-Leary: This is not an easy question. He is listed as a shooting guard, but as good as he is, I’m not even sure he is the best shooting guard on his team. Wade still has a few years of greatness left in him. If he is a point guard, he has some serious competition in that category, even if the two best Eastern Conference 1s (Rose and Rondo) are currently injured. Would you vote him in over Irving? Wall? Deron Williams? I feel like two or three would be doable, but even then, that might be unlikely due to the quality of competition at the guard position.
3. Would you rather have DeAndre Jordan or Nikola Vucevic as your starting center?
Lynch: If I’m trying to compete for a title for one year, it’s Jordan. If we’re ignoring salary, it’s still Jordan, because I think his defensive ceiling is higher as he continues to develop and receive coaching. The arguments for Vucevic come down to the fact that he’s still on his rookie contract; his production is great value at an average of just over $2.2 million per year for the next two years, and he’s two years younger than Jordan. Give me Jordan in a vacuum, but Anthony Davis and Nikola Vucevic is a tempting alternate reality.
Sohi: Jordan. Even at his best, Vucevic doesn’t have DJ’s game-changing potential. Vucevic is undoubtedly a more well-rounded scorer, with a solid jump shot and advanced post repertoire, but DeAndre’s defensive ability— a great deal of which remains untapped— gives him a definitive edge.
Rice-Leary: I really love Vucevic’s game. The guy can play and has a great touch. Conversely, I know that DeAndre has his warts and he has been slow to blossom, but his play this season has been a godsend to the Clipper faithful. Honestly, I feel like both centers are a great fit for their respective teams. The Magic have a center with a ton of upside who is there to grow with their up-and-coming roster. The Clippers have a blossoming athletic freak-of-nature who plays beautifully off of the team’s two best players.