Let us not dwell on Dunleavy’s monster extension announced before tip-off last night. Let us not fantasize about the varying trade scenarios that would bring AI to Staples in a Clippers uniform. (If Billy King is retarded enough to give us AI for Maggette / Cassell, I don’t see how we don’t pull the trigger.)
Let us, instead, discuss, how, it is possible, that we are underachieving so much as a team. And if, in reality, we are underachieving.
The Jazz and Clippers are a study in contrast – a team with a coherent, sophisticated offensive scheme vs. utter chaos (I’m not going to focus on the defensive end, we had lapses last night, notably Livingston, let’s just note that we’re one of the better defensive teams in the League and move on.)
If you look at offensive numbers last year vs. this year-to-date, what’s unfolding is the exposure of the Clippers as a mediocre offensive team that no longer has the explosive 1-2 punch to cover up the glaring inadequacies of a simplistic offensive gameplan.
- People – Elton Brand has come back down to earth and last year is looking more and more like the aberrant “career year” for him. His current projected 06/07 vs. 05/06 will see a 14% drop off in points / 40 minutes, and a resultant PER drop off that takes him out of the Top 5 in the League, to the bottom of the Top 25. Elton is still a 20 / 10 / 50% FG guy… which is exactly what he’s been his whole career save last season.
- Cassell’s stats are a little misleading, because he’s put up some huge games (notably Denver and recent @ Minny) to offset his typical 06/07 performance. Including these games, he’s currently on track to outperform last season in PER measurement. But if you look at his more recent performance since the Minny outburst, it’s a 10-game stretch with a 23% drop-off in points / 40 minutes, and a dramatic PER fall-off with a noticeable drop in assists. Yes, we're enduring the rough transition period (Cassell to Livingston), but until Livingston fully takes over the reigns, Cassell is still critical to our success.
This isn’t rocket science folks, and as much as it feels like we’re underachieving, based on the “offensive philosophy” of Dunleavy (run everything through Brand / Cassell, everyone else fills in) – we are a .500 team at best when Brand and Cassell are performing at their current 06/07 levels.
What this dictates is a change in philosophy to better maximize the talent we have on the floor. Dunleavy has of late incorporated the low-screen for TT (something reserved for Cat and Maggette) – but why not for Brand? He’s not the same player he was last year – simply feeding him in the post and “letting him do his thing” is not working. As currently constituted, if we're to be better than a .500 team in the West, we *need* Brand to be the force he was last year - let's make it easier for him to get to that level of play.
From fellow Clipperblogger, Dave Han:
“So here's one for you guys. I mentioned to John tonight that they NEVER run a low screen for EB. EB gets a small moment to catch the ball in the low post with the defender trying to catch up. It's just enough time for him to turn and take it strong to the basket, or FUJ (face up jumper?). Instead, we only see the low screen for TT or Cat, etc. etc.
To this, John replied that MikeD just likes to look for the mismatches and force the double team. For EB, they only run a high S-R or give it to him at the elbow to create his own shot.
Hmmm... Power Forward + EB = Low Post”
It is hopefully apparent to Dunleavy, as it is to Clipper Nation, that he needs to make adjustments due to differences from last season. Despite the same personnel, we are not the same team we were last year, and it starts with Brand and Cassell.