With virtually the same squad returning next season, the decisive variables in the Clippers' potential ascension to the next rung are the growth and improvement of Shaun Livingston and Chris Kaman. Elton is Elton. Cuttino is going to give you what Cuttino will give you. John R. has demonstrated just how similar the skills sets of T. Thomas and Vlad are. If anything, we will probably see a measurable, if slight, falloff from Sam. On the other hand, I suspect we'll see a little more offensive production from Q. You could argue that Corey, as well, could improve the team with a headier brand of basketball - better off-the-ball play on both ends.
But it really comes down to the two homegrown lottery picks.
- One of
the most encouraging stats on Shaun's docket is his April turnover rate --
.047/min - far and away his lowest by month. In addition, his best two FG% months
were March and April.
realize that Hollinger's PER doesn't reflect improvement for Shaun this
season, but we saw him play every night.
Don't you sense that he grasped the nuances of the pro game better
as the season progressed? His
assist/minute numbers skyrocketed toward the end of the season.
Having said all that, Chad Ford throws the Clips into the
"Bad" heap in his "The good, the bad and the murky of summer
league " piece on ESPN.com [Insider required] and refers to Livingston's
play as "uneven" in summer league games.
How many games and minutes did Shaun log in Vegas? 59 minutes over two games.
My intention here is not to play gotcha with Ford, but that doesn't seem to be a sufficient number of plate appearances to gauge unevenness, does it?
It's tough to look at the season in progression
to glean anything substantive about Kaman's growth as an NBA center - and given
that he's 24 to Shaun's 20, it's probably not as important that the graph look
something like MSFT's Nasdaq quote in the early 90s. On one hand, Chris had his most prolific scoring
month in April...but his turnover rate was through the roof.
Looking closer at the numbers, the most notable
feature in Kaman's splits is his consistency - for better or worse. The Stat guys - and I don't use this
pejoratively because I consider myself a member of that congregation, even if I
get to Stat Temple only on the High Holidays - are less high on Kaman because
of his lousy turnover rate (16.4) and because of his lousy defensive PER
(Hollinger even starts out his Kaman comment with, "I'm not a fan, but...")
Look. NBA Center
is sort of like MLB Second Baseman of the mid-1980s. I mean, once you get past Ryne Sandberg, Lou
Whitaker, Frank White and a couple of other guys, it's a bunch of Tony
Bernazards. There just aren't that many
to go around. Most of the
"centers" in the Association have moved to the 4 slot (Duncan, Bosh, Gasol), so
who are we really talking about here? An
aging Shaq and Zeke Ilgauskas? Andrew
Bogut? Eddy Curry? Primoz Brezec?
The questions for the Clippers are
(1) how to protect Chris on the high screen and (2) how to get him the ball
where he likes it in order to bring down the TO number.
Bottom Line: When you consider the kinds of deals Samuel Dalembert, Erick Dampier and Adonal Foyle secured, the Clippers will need to back the money truck onto Chris's lawn in order to retain him when the season is up.