NBA Handicapping: Checking in on the Clippers
by Trevor Whenham - 2/17/2012
In the lead up to this NBA season all of the buzz was with the Los Angeles Clippers. They had stolen Chris Paul out of the hands of other teams desperate to get him. That, combined with the emergence of Blake Griffin and the offseason road bumps of their rivals from across the hall, had optimism and excitement at higher levels around the team in a long, long time — probably ever.
Since then, though, the buzz has quieted somewhat. That’s not really due to anything they have done — they sit at 19-9, have a 2.5 game lead in their division, and have played well. It’s just that other teams — the Bulls, Heat, and Thunder — have looked a little bit better, and other storylines — like Jeremy Lin — have captured the imagination and distracted from the preseason euphoria.
It seems like a good time to check in on the Clippers. How are they performing? Were they worth the hype? Are brighter days ahead this season? Let’s take a look:
NBA betting performance
Bettors certainly can’t complain about how the Clippers have treated them. In fact, given the amount of hype that followed them into the season their ATS performance has been remarkable They currently sit at a nicely profitable 17-11 ATS on the year. That’s second only to the shocking 76ers in the NBA for ATS performance. They are 6-2 ATS in their last eight (including 5-2 on the road), so it’s not like they are fading as the season progresses, either.
What stands out most is that they are winning and covering a lot of spreads despite not blowing teams out. They are only outscoring teams by an average of three points per game — fewer than nine other teams in the league. Given that and the attention they had entering the season this ATS record is really the best-case scenario for the year.
The point guard was the reason for all the hype, and so far he has entirely lived up to it. I wasn’t alone in being somewhat skeptical given his knee issues and the effects it is having on his mobility.
What he has shown, though, is a remarkable ability to adapt his game, and he is quite possibly a better player now than he was as a result. He’s shooting the lights out, he has never had so few turnovers, and many of his key stats are at or above his best numbers. He has been especially impressive down the stretch when games are on the line, and that’s a big reason he factors into MVP discussions at this point of the year.
Time and again we have seen big-name players fail to meet expectations in new surroundings, but that certainly hasn’t been the case here.
I’ve never been the biggest Griffin guy, but there is no denying that he is continuing on his progress to being the prototypical power forward. He’s meshing well with Paul, his numbers are good, and he has developed a much more refined post game than he had in the past.
The only thing you can be really critical of is his shooting. For some reason Griffin thinks he can shoot, so four or five times a game he’ll throw it up from outside of 15 feet — even though often times there is no one anywhere near him and he could get much closer in without breaking a sweat. He hits only about a third of those shots, and a lot of his misses are just plain ugly.
I’d like to see him find more creative ways to maintain offensive momentum and exert his edge but that should come as his game improves.
Every time I have watched the Clippers this year I am thankful I’m not a loyal fan of the team. If I was then Jordan is exactly the kind of player that would drive me out of my mind.
He’s a strong shot blocker, and has had several highlight reel rejections this year. The problem is, though, that he seems determine to get onto the highlight reel with every block attempt. That causes him to overcommit a few times each game and leave baskets or putbacks that are criminally easy for the opposing team. It’s a defensive liability, and it exposes the biggest strike this team has against it -- a lack of depth.
They need to have Jordan on the court most of the time because, with apologies to Solomon Jones, he is so much better than the alternatives. Jordan needs to find a king-sized serving of discipline between now and the playoffs or this team will be in trouble. I’m not convinced that he’ll get that under the direction of Coach Vinny Del Negro.
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