2009-10 Los Angeles Clippers Season Preview
There’s very little positive to say about the Los Angeles Clippers (19- 63) and last year’s 19-win season. In fighting, injuries and a major slump by free agent pick up Baron Davis defined the Clipper’s in 2008- 2009. At point, Davis, who signed a five-year $65 million deal with the team, arrived out of shape, fought with head coach Mike Dunleavy and threw up jumpers that rarely hit. The backcourt was a shambles. Jason Williams signed to be the backup man on the point, but then he retired. Ricky Davis was the designated sixth man, but a bum knee resulted in extremely poor point production. Dunleavy, who is also the team’s GM, weakened the wings through trades. The club’s offense was simply terrible. They had the fifth-lowest free throw rate and the ninth-highest turnover rate.
In the frontcourt, there’s a lot of hope with the drafting of Blake Griffin. Although he’ll need to develop his footwork and work on his shot, the guy can already drive, shoot and hit. Starting small forward Al Thornton (16.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.5 APG), who has a decent shot, needs to share the ball more. The power forward looks to be a true All-Star. Craig Smith (10.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 0.3 BPG), another power forward, comes over from the Timberwolves. He hits over 50% from the field. The center position is well stocked with Marcus Camby (10.3 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.13 BPG) getting the start and Chris Kaman (12.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.45 BPG) moving from forward to center. Both are solid defenders and both guys are capable of notching a double-double any night.
Trading Zach Randolph for shooting guard Quentin Richardson freed up cash and resulted in the Clippers acquiring another solid point scorer. The also acquired seven-year shooting guard Rasual Butler (11.2 PPG, 0.9 APG, .390 3-PT%). Butler has fine defensive skills and a fine three point shot. Eric Gordon (16.1 PPG, 2.8 APG, 1.00 SPG), now in year two, looks to be even better than he was last year in his rookie season. It’s hoped that veteran point man Davis (14.9 PPG, 7.7 APG, 1.66 SPG) can actually bring game this year. If not, then look for one of the new guys to get the nod.
The Clippers are especially deep upfront and should score a wealth of points this season. They also have some good rebounders on hand. With the arrival of Griffin the depth at the power spot got even stronger and the center area is deeper than most, this is a frontcourt that has the ability to score inside and out. There is concern regarding the small forward position. As a starter last season, Thornton was inadequate. There are various choices but it’s tough to imagine who will get the nod.
The good news for the Clippers is that they made exceptionally fine deals in the off-season, including getting the top pick in the draft. Other moves were about as perfect as they could be. Will they go to the playoffs this season? They’ll have a shot at the final playoff spot in the west but nothing is guaranteed. Third-place should be theirs.