The alibis for the Clippers’ wretched 2007-2008 season largely check out. Few – save Donald T. Sterling -- expected a Clipper team without Elton Brand to compete for more than 30 wins in a brutal Western Conference. This disclaimer, however, doesn’t mitigate the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers are currently a Bad Basketball Team. What makes them bad? Well, they lose a lot of basketball games – many of them by ungodly margins. But there’s more to it than that.
While every bad basketball team is bad in its own way, there are some general features you’ll find on many a lousy roster. While no single one -- or even two or three -- of these red flags guarantees outright futility, if you examine the rosters of the league's worst teams, you're likely to spot some patterns:
- “Journeyman” Point Guards: Look at the starting lineup of a bad basketball team and you’ll find the likes of Rick Brunson, Brevin Knight, Jeff McInnis, Tyronn Lue, Speedy Claxton penciled in at the PG slot. Dan Dickau is another good illustration. And Smush Parker is destined to become the archetypal bounce-around PG, if he isn’t already. More times than not [Jeff McInnis would qualify as a ‘not’], these are good guys. I mean, who -- besides Isiah Thomas -- wants an ineffectual player who is also an asshole on the roster? Take Dickau: He exerts himself every night, but he’s being asked to do something he just can’t: Be an NBA point guard.
- Guys Who Are Missing Key Attributes That Their Positions Demand: Power forwards who can’t post. Point guards who can’t defend the pick-and-roll. Shooting guards who can’t shoot. Centers who can’t challenge shots at the rim and get pushed around on the block. Wing players with low basketball IQs.
- Lots of Undersized Players: The other day I alluded to the Clippers’ starting post tandem of Al Thornton and Josh Powell against Miami. Both guys could fairly be classified as small forwards, though Powell has done a decent job defending manageable PFs. When you field an excessively small lineup, too many bad things can happen on the boards and in the post – and also on the perimeter where a big opposing shooting guard with a quick release can sink shots all night over your 5’ 10” defender.
- No One Who Can Pass the Ball: This is patently obvious. But watch closely and you’ll see just how much less an opposing defense has to work against a team that can’t pass. When the Clippers are static in the halfcourt, it’s not because Minnesota’s zone or Miami’s slugs are blanketing the floor. It’s because every entry pass is an adventure, and any basic motion set that features a cutter is wishful thinking. The result? Possession after possession of isolations which, after a while, even the worst NBA teams can sniff out.
- Not Able to Convert Easy Buckets: The best example of this is an inability to run the break. But there are others: The failure to exploit a quick momentary mismatch before a backpedaling opposing defense gets fully set; second chance points generated off offensive boards [Clips rank 28th in ORR].
- Both Season-Long and Intermittent Injuries: A team can generally adjust to an advanced-notice season long injury [think PHX in 2005-2006, or even Washington this season]. And almost all NBA teams can cope with a series of four to five game absences, but the combination of the two is fatal. What’s particularly debilitating about a depleted, banged-up squad is the inability to hold productive 5-on-5 practices. When you find yourself asking, “Why do these guys look like they’ve never played together?” Chance are…they haven’t.
I was going to say "lack of hustle," but I believe there are a lot of awful teams -- including the Clippers -- that play 48 minutes of gritty basketball. Shitty teams are shitty due to fundamental shortcomings like the ones outlined above. Apart from this list, what are some other characteristic flaws of bad NBA teams?