Off Season Overview:
The Clippers are still reeling from a series of unfortunate events that has dampened enthusiasm for the team this coming season. Shaun Livingston
s knee injury set the tone for things to come. Livingston was starting to come into his own before he went down and has a long recovery ahead of him.
The team finished out of the playoffs and headed back to familiar territory as they landed in the lottery. In the draft they picked up a solid pick when they lucked into a sliding Al Thornton
. Thornton is the perfect replacement for the ever-soon-to-be-departing Corey Maggette
and should play a key role off the bench as the teams 6th man.
But right on the heals of that success came the big blow. Power forward Elton Brand
was lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles. The team is very reliant on Brands interior game on both sides of the ball and his absence has the team feeling snake-bitten once more.
The late addition of Brevin Knight
was a decent move considering Sam Cassell
s age and fragility, but it isnt the type of move that puts a team over the top. Knight should see plenty of time as the team tries to keep Cassell healthy for a full season, but it will be up to Chris Kaman
and Tim Thomas
to keep the team afloat in Brands absence. Depth Chart:
[c]courtesy of Synergy Sports Tech: Figure represents NBA offensive percentile rank[/c]Strengths:
If Maggette can handle some minutes at shooting guard, the team should be able to take advantage of their solid wing depth. Cuttino Mobley
, Maggette, Thornton, Ross, and new acquisition Ruben Patterson
provide the team with a good balance of skills. Patterson may also be able to play a bit at power forward to further help the team diversify their options while Brand is out.
The point guard position doesnt have depth, but Cassell and Knight should provide steady leadership when theyre healthy and the team should probably split the game minutes right down the middle to ensure that both are available as much as possible.
The Clippers frontcourt isnt deep, but the inside/outside tandem of Kaman and Thomas could be productive for the Clippers and has a chance to be a real strength. Thomas isnt known for rising to a challenge when its not a contract year, but hell be getting heavy minutes and looks to be one of the primary options offensively. Kaman suffered through an injury plagued season last year, but will be the main inside option on this club. Kaman has the skills to be a big-time producer this year and should pay dividends for the club. Weaknesses:
The team lacks star power in the absolute sense. The Clippers dont have a single all star caliber player on the roster which is going to force the team to use its depth and diversity to find success.
While the team does have some talent, most of its depth is underdeveloped and inexperienced. Thornton is the most prominent amongst the younger players who will be part of the main rotation. Thornton has explosive scoring ability and is an athletic freak. The big question with Thornton was how hed assert himself when sharing the ball with more established scoring options. The loss of Brand should force the team put in more sets for Thornton, which will help his maturation substantially.
Second year C/F Paul Davis
is another young player who should log heavy minutes as Kamans primary backup. Davis has great range and is a solid rebounder who knows how to read the game, but hasnt played more than a few minutes here and there.
Journeymen Josh Powell
will most likely back up Thomas unless the team goes small and uses Patterson at that position. Powell has been a gritty competitor throughout his three seasons in the league but has done most of his damage on the practice court.
Rookie Guillermo Diaz
isnt a true point, but has nice scoring ability and may provide some surprising moments in limited action. The team better hope he isnt forced into more though or theyll be heading back to the lottery for sure.
The veterans that the team will look to for leadership are mostly on the back nine of their careers. Cuttino Mobley
isnt close to being the explosive scorer he used to be. Sam Cassell
is a fast-break away from the disabled list. Tim Thomas
has been a career underachiever and doesnt seem to step up unless his agent reminds him theres a contract on the line. Outlook:
Still, things look a bit grim for folks in Clipper-land. The team is so reliant on its x-factors it just doesnt seem probable that theyll find a way to bring it all together and find success. There are just too many concerns without enough reliable bets to tilt in favor of the Clippers making the playoffs.
The burden of production is going to fall to Kaman and Maggette. Maggette is in a contract year himself and should be the primary option offensively, which bodes well for his season statistics. Kaman plays with a reckless intensity when hes healthy and appears to be the type of player who has pride in his work. Kaman disappointed last year after signing his contract extension, so he may be up for a big time season this year.
The good news for Los Angeles is that this season should provide some of their younger players with plenty of playing experience as well as a high draft pick in a deep draft. Brand will return and Livingston should as well, so this season is more of a blip on the radar than a sign of things to come in the long-term.
If the team keeps its perspective and battles tough all year, it should be a productive season for the Clippers even if they do miss the post season yet again. Internal growth with an eye toward 2008 should be the honest objective for this club.