1. So that Blake Grffin guy is pretty good at basketball. Is he now the Clippers best player?
Trevor Magnotti, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: I’ve thought Paul and Griffin were 1 and 1A for the Clippers for about a season now. Griffin finally got to showcase his abilities as the top guy for the Clippers when Paul went out with a shoulder injury, but he’s gotten so much better at utilizing his athleticism on both offense and defense. However, Paul is still a top 10 talent in the NBA, and even though his quickness is starting to go, he’s still one of the most cerebral players in the league and a perfect compliment for Griffin. Right now Paul’s PER is 25.9, and Blake’s is right behind at 23.9. They’re the best tandem of players in the NBA currently, in my opinion, and neither is significantly better than the other.
Chris Manning, Right Down Euclid EIC: I’d still say Paul is better than Griffin, but it’s extremely close. Paul is starting to slow just a titch, while Griffin is starting to head into this peak athletic years while also fine-tuning his skills. The reason I have Paul still slightly ahead is due to his defense. He’s still the NBA’s premier defensive point guard and helps lead the entire Clipper defense. He also still has a nack for nabbing steals as well. And while Griffin in an elite player – don’t let anyone tell you different – he’s still a bit behind Paul. However, it might not be long until Griffin is the better player of the two.
Marlowe Alter, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: Paul was clearly the team’s best player until he missed 18 games mid-season with a shoulder injury and Griffin took his game to another level. He led the team to a 12-6 record with arguably the league’s best point guard, averaging 27.5 points and 8.2 rebounds during Paul’s absence. Griffin may finish third in the MVP balloting this season, but I still believe Paul is the team’s best player for now. He’s made plays when it’s counted most, he’s tough, reliable, excellent defensivley, and still the team leader. But Griffin may surpass him if he continues to play at an MVP level.
2. The Clippers’ bench has been somewhat lackluster for most of this season, but has recently improved. How have the additions of Hedo Turkoglu, Danny Granger, and Glen Davis helped them so far?
TM: Turkoglu has been a nonfactor for the Clippers, as he doesn’t really do anything besides spot-up, lick his hands, and rebound. However, the additions of Granger and Davis have seemed to make the Clippers’ defense better. The Clips’ offense gets really bogged down when Davis is on the floor, as they seem to run more post-ups and get out on the break less, but when Davis is at center, Turkoglu is at power forward, and Granger is at small forward, the Clippers play an efficient, grinding style and move the ball really well. This group hasn’t gotten much run together, but they have shown they can hold a lead at least when Griffin and DeAndre Jordan sit, and that’s enough for them to be a huge improvement over Byron Mullens and Ryan Hollins.
CM: Overall, these additions aren’t flashy but the have beefed up a Clippers team in need of functional players not in their starting five. You go ahead and ignore Turkoglu – he’s there to fill a spot on the roster and play limited minutes. But Granger and Davis have helped fill out a Clipper bench in need of reinforcement. With J.J. Redick still batting injuries and Jared Dudley not providing anything of value, Granger has stepped up and done what is necessary for hte Clippers. He’s even shown some mobility that looked lost in Indiana. As for Davis, he’s been an improvement over the likes of Byron Mullens and Ryan Hollins. And as a result, there isn’t as large of a drop off from Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to Davis and whomever he is paired up with.
MA: Clearly, the Clippers upgraded their bench with the additions of Davis and Granger (Turkoglu is on his last legs), two battle tested veterans with winning and postseason experience. Before they signed Davis, journeyman Ryan Hollins was inexplicably the team’s only true backup big. Davis was with coach Doc Rivers in Boston so Rivers trust him to play crucial minutes, giving the team a quality third big man. At 6’9”, Granger has great size and wouldn’t back down from Kevin Durant if called upon in a potential playoff matchup. He provides depth and is a security blanket in case Matt Barnes or Jamal Crawford are injured or having an off night. It’s still unclear what kind of minutes Granger will see once the team is at full strength and in the playoffs, but he seemingly has supplanted Jared Dudley in the rotation. Turkoglu carries the least value as the third or fourth wing off the bench and likely won’t see time in the playoffs with a shortened rotation.
3. Darren Collison and Jarrett Jack will match up with each other a lot tonight. What has made Collison so effective for the Clips while Jack has been awful?
TM: Collison’s speed and passing ability are perfect fits to handle the Clippers when Chris Paul is sitting. Right now, he’s assisting on 22 percent of L.A.’s baskets, a solid number for a backup who spends time off the ball, and he’s really good in the open court. He’s also hitting 37 percent from three, which is a healthy number. Collison has been outstanding for this team, and was even able to hold up the ship in the starting role while Paul was out. Basically, he’s been the opposite of Jarrett Jack.
CM: Collison’s skillset is perfect for what the Clippers need. You can’t say the same for Jarrett Jack in Cleveland. Collison plays similarly to Paul and he serves mostly as a facilitator for the Clippers. He also doesn’t force anything and doesn’t try to do too much on the floor. His decent shooting numbers (46.8 percent from the field, 37.2 percent from three, a career high true shooting percentage of 57.7 percent) are a bonus. As for Jack, his numbers are down across the board and he’s failed to establish chemistry with both Kyrie Irving and Jarrett Jack over the course of the season. In a way, he is Collison’s antithesis – a streaky, inefficient PUJIT machine that has failed to mesh with this new team like the front office hoped he would.
MA: In short, Collison is playing for a championship winning coach alongside Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and a host of other talented veteran players. Jack plays in an imaginative offense alongside Kyrie Irving and little else. If Jack was in red, white and blue he’d be having a season similar to Collison. Collison is getting to the line at a higher rate (2.7 FTA to 1.8 FTA) and shooting at a much higher clip, but that’s because he has open lanes to drive and takes more open shots thanks to his talented teammates. Jack was vital as a sixth man in Golden State filling a similar role as Collison does for LA. They’re similar players in completely opposite situations and that’s the difference this season.