But Clipperblog remains bullish on the 2006-2007 season, and the NBA Finals is an alluring canvas for the imagination. Watching Dirk work above the foul line makes you want to order a 22-footer for Elton from Amazon. Guys can always add another component to their game. More times than not, teams rise to prominence not so much because they add a huge outside piece, but because existing players multiply their skills.
What would you like to see each Clipper add to their game?
It's never going to be easy for EB to pass out of the double team. What makes EB so gutsy - being as effective as he is in the post at 6'7½ " - is the same thing that presents difficulties when he's doubled...he's always going to be guarded by the biggest low-post defender. Try finding a teammate on the weak side when Marcus Camby is cutting you off on the baseline. It ain't easy. But Elton improved a whole lot this year, and if he continues to learn how to sense where other guys are going to be in the halfcourt or where his teammates will set up when he's doubled, then he's going to get even better on the block.
My other offseason RX for Elton is a 2-3 foot expansion on his shooting range. Elton got pretty comfortable from 16-18 this season. If he can stretch that to 19-22...you think that might help Chris?
If Chris cuts his 16.4 turnover rate down to something in the 12 range while figuring out where his body needs to be on the defensive end of the floor to be most useful, then he's going to be a top 5-10 center really, really soon.
Maybe I'm being presumptuous, but I'm going to assume that Shaun comes into camp with a refined 20-foot jump shot - so let's leave that off the wish list. Instead, a single request -
Because trying to defend while the opposing point guard is slashing toward to hole and you have no idea what he's going to do next and if you turn your head for even a second, he's going to run it right down your gut - that's some difficult shit.
The archives here are stuffed with both substantive and petty critiques of Maggette's game, so I'll summarize it accordingly -
When he's healthy and playing serious minutes, there's rarely an instance when Corey Maggette isn't the freakiest athlete on the floor. The challenge for Corey - as it's been for the past seven seasons - is leveraging that athleticism both offensively and defensively. Can Corey use his quickness to become the help defender he's capable of being? Can he use his frame and physical superiority to defend opposing 3s like ‘Melo, McGrady and Howard or is his disinterest on the defensive end going to continue to force the Clips to match up Ross, Livingston and Mobley on better wing players? Will he use his conditioning to run his defender ragged off the ball - the way you see Rip and Wade bouncing off multiple screens in the same set -- or is he going to roost on the weak side perimeter waiting for an open shot? Will he use his versatility to help the Clippers create space and opportunities on the floor or is he satisfied merely being instant offense?
Let's be clear where I stand - Corey Maggette is the most talented player on the Clippers roster.
It's really not even a close call.
In 2005-2006, Quinton Ross established himself as a nifty-undrafted-find and defensive specialist. Going into next season, he'll arguably have more at stake than any starter in the conference other than Amare Stoudemire. Q will have to justify his place as a starter for a championship contender. That means not just hitting the open 17-footer, but forcing the issue offensively. During the postseason, we saw Ross penetrate and slash, which is an auspicious signal that he plans to expand his offensive game. Next season, Ross will have to continue that progress, because it's one thing not to need the ball...but it's quite another not to want the ball.
There's nothing to suggest that Q won't work his ass off this summer.
Vlad's quickness off the dribble was a nice surprise this season. We knew there would be nights he'd light it up from beyond the arc, but those occasional explosions to the basket were real eye-openers.
And that's probably Vlad's best bet at creating the sort of space for himself to keep shooting. Justin points out that, more times than not, the Clips have to run a set for Vlad to get him open at his spot. But if he can keep finding opportunities to slash, pretty soon he'll get the sort of step-back looks that will make him an absolute menace to defend in the halfcourt. Because if an athletic 6'10" Serb can either shoot from 22 feet or take his guy off the dribble, then how the hell do you cover him on the weak side without totally distorting your defense?
Prior to this season, Cat had never shot below 35% from three. In 2004-2005, he shot around just below 44%. If he's going to help the Clips, he needs to do better than the .339 clip he shot this season, because a 51.9 TS% just isn't going to work, particularly if he's playing beside a pass-first PG in Livingston. The quality rebounding rate, relatively scarce turnovers, and surprisingly heady defense helped the Clips inordinately this season. But a shooting guard - particularly one playing between a defensive specialist and a not-yet-legal PG - has to shoot proficiently to be effective.
Sam will be 37 the third week of the season, so it's a little unseemly to ask him to add a new facet to his game.
The best thing Sam can do for the Clips next season, provided he re-signs, is bring another 7-10 unconscious second-half performances and to accept his limitations when he is conscious.
If Corey is sent packing, it's likely that Singleton will inherit the "energy guy" role beginning next season. James can rebound and has surprisingly good range from the floor. He does a nice defensive job on opposing 3s, though is often outmanned against power forwards. But despite being a solid man defender, James has been utterly confused at times defensively both on rotation and in transition - but that's par for the course for an undrafted FA still learning the pro game. If James is going to play the wing, he needs to learn how to get the ball to Elton, a skill he'll undoubtedly refine.
So what you ask from James is patience. He'll get his shot; but he'll have to work for it.
All you can ask from Ewing is perspective. He was put into an impossible situation in Game Five. His defense was instrumental in forcing Diaw to call timeout to reset the inbounds, and was subsequently bitten by a mystical force of bad luck when he was asked to guard a guy over three inches taller than him. My only request is that he can forgive himself and keep developing as a exceptional on-ball defender who should have a promising career as a backup NBA point guard.