NBA Handicapping: LA Clippers with Chris Paul Back
by Trevor Whenham - 2/13/2014
After 18 games out with a shoulder injury in which he was sorely missed, Los Angeles Clippers’ point guard Chris Paul has returned to the lineup. Given that he is the best player on the team and the engine that makes everything work, it obviously is a very welcome return for the team. The team went 12-6 without him, so it was far from disastrous. Four of the six losses were against the four best teams they played, though, so they just weren’t good enough without Paul to be seen as a legitimate playoff threat.
With the return of the best player, bettors have to reconsider how to deal with this team. Things have obviously changed significantly. Here are seven factors to consider when looking at how to deal with this team going forward:
Getting healthy beyond Paul: Paul is obviously the headline grabber with his return, but he’s not the only important piece that returns to the fold after a long absence. J.J. Redick is out now, and has missed 26 games in two stretches of injuries, and Matt Barnes missed 19. Barnes is back now, and Redick is out again after returning to the lineup for much of Paul’s absence, though he is expected to be back soon. If Redick can get ready then the team will be at full strength for the first time in months, and it comes at a crucial time.
Health can breed lineup stability: When a team is dealing with as many injuries and problems as this team has been it’s very hard for them to find consistency and chemistry with their lineup. Redick was out, then Paul and Barnes were out with Redick back. Hedo Turkoglu was added to the mix as well. Every time they turn around they are forced to play a different lineup. With the team returning to full strength, though, they can allocate the minutes like they want to, and they can have pieces working together ideally. As long as they can stay healthy, this will be a different team going forward.
Bench needs to be much stronger: The bench has been lousy when it comes to holding leads. The health issues have had a big role in that, though. When the starting lineup is depleted then the bench is by necessity weaker as the best bench players become temporary starters. At least theoretically we should see better bench play going forward as long as they stay healthy. If that’s the case then this team is sure to improve.
Bad timing with Rivers: Having a bunch of injuries to key players is never ideal, but it’s especially frustrating for a team working with a new coach. Doc Rivers has brought a decidedly new approach to this team, and that means new systems, approaches and demands. Without three players, and especially without the point guard, a lot of progress towards fully implementing those changes and becoming comfortable with them has been compromised. There is still plenty of time before the playoffs, but the team needs to be healthy so that coach and players can be certain they are on the same page. This is another reason to be optimistic going forward.
Schedule works in their favor: Only the Lakers have played more road games than the Clippers have so far. That means that they will be playing at home more than most teams the rest of the way. More significantly, the schedule-makers have subjected this team to two brutal seven-game road trips this year. They don’t have to endure that again. Add it all up, and combine it with the other reasons, and things should be improved, and you have the potential for the Clippers to finish strong.
Tight battle for home-court advantage in the playoffs: If the playoffs started today the Clippers would be playing at home in the first round. That home-court advantage is going to be crucial in the brutally-tough Western Conference — especially for a team like the Clippers that is far better at home than on the road. The race for those extra home games is extremely tight right now, and it promises to be that way right up until the end given the depth in the conference. That could act as motivation for the team, or the pressure could get in their way. Only time will tell for sure.
Betting performance: At 31-24 ATS, this team has been nicely profitable on the season despite the issues they have faced. If they can get on track like they clearly have the potential to and finish strong then they could deliver some really nice profits the rest of the way.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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