Prior to the season when the Los Angeles Clippers announced that Doc Rivers would be the coach for the 2013-14 season, some skepticism arose from me. The Clippers weren’t contenders prior to Rivers’ arrival, but they were on the tier right under that. The offense needed fixing and their achilles heel, defense, would need an overhaul if they wanted to compete with the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat’s of the world.
With Chris Paul, I knew the Clippers offense would be good. All that was needed from Rivers was for him to adjust what others did when CP3 or Blake Griffin had the ball. Fast-forwarding into time and he’s definitely done that. But defensively, I wasn’t sure Rivers was up to the job. Yes he had coached the Boston Celtics to a championship, relying mainly on defense to complete the task, but a few factors skewed my view of that.
For one, Rivers had the defensive mastermind in Tom Thibodeau on his sideline. Was Rivers behind the defense or was Thibs behind the defense? Many weren’t sure and if they chose a side Thibs would get the vote. Secondly, Rivers had the likes of Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins as the centerpiece for his defensive scheme. Despite the bad rep he gets now, Kendrick Perkins was a great defender with the Celtics and Kevin Garnett’s defensive reputation is one that doesn’t need explanation. Could he make DeAndre Jordan be a threat in the middle. Could he get Blake Griffin to improve in an area that young players throughout the league struggle with? These were questions that arose this summer.
Seth Partnow, a writer over at ESPN’s ClipperBlog, dug into SportsVU to see how well DeAndre Jordan has defended the rim this season and it’s safe to say that, while his work may not be done, Rivers is doing a great job of proving me wrong.
Here is an excerpt from Partnow’s work to describe the evolution of DeAndre Jordan as he is slowly becoming one of the best rim protectors in the NBA:
Since the All-Star Break, his rim protection has been truly spectacular. Jordan is contesting 11.6 shots per game, raising his season average to 10.4 contests per game (tied for first in the league). He is contesting nearly 55 percent of opponents shots at the rim while he is on the floor. Over a full season, this would put Jordan sixth among all big men and second only to presumptive DPOY front runner Roy Hibbert among players averaging more than 20 minutes per game. DeAndre is “saving” just two points per game over the expectation of a league average big man (Points saved is an estimate of the effect a league average big man has on contesting shots at the rim with respect to both FG% allowed and number of contests, adjusted for pace and general team defense). This would rank fourth in the league behind Hibbert (far and away leader at over four points saved per game), Robin Lopez and only fractionally behind Andrew Bogut.
Over the course of the season, Jordan has gone from a clear negative (giving over an extra point per game versus an average defender) to strongly positive, saving almost three quarters of a point per game over an average defender. This puts him at around the 80th percentile of rim defenders, comparable to Dwight Howard and Amir Johnson. In fact, since that well-discussed poor start, he is saving approximately 1.75 points per game, which would also put him fourth for the entire season.
via DeAndre Jordan and Rim Protection: An Update | ClipperBlog
This doesn’t throw Jordan into the top tier of defensive centers, one that includes the likes of Dwight Howard, Roy Hibbert, Marc Gasol and Joakim Noah, as Partnow points out that rim protection isn’t the only area of defense that matters — he brilliantly uses Jordan’s teammate in Ryan Hollins as an example of this — for centers. But it’s nice to see that Jordan’s improvement is happening as he was the weakest link in the Clippers core going into this season.
Other Notable Reads Around The Web
Paul Values Isiah Comparison, Wants More: We’ve all seen the Isiah Thomas-Chris Paul comparisons rather it be from pundits around the web or fans that lived to see both point guards in their prime. In a victory over the Detroit Pistons, Chris Paul expounded on how he feels about the comparison to the Hall of Fame point guard as Thomas sat and watched CP3 make history as he crossed the 6000 assist plateau.
Blogtable – The NBA’s Most Dynamic Duo: In a roundtable discussion with some writers over at NBA.com, the group discusses who is the most dynamic tag-team duo in the NBA. You will be surprised at how many choose CP3 and Blake Griffin over KD-Russ, Lebron-Wade, etc.
Granger Brings All-Star Skills and Experience to Clippers: Mike Jaglin of of Clips Nation had a chance to interview recently-acquired forward Danny Granger. Here is a quote that popped out from Granger as he spoke on his future with the team.
“Ideally, I would want to stay with the Clippers, but a lot things have to match up,” Granger said of his future. “It will be one of those times that will be a whirlwind, so we’ll see what happens.”
The Case for Los Angeles Clippers as 2014 Title Favorites: Bryan Toporek of Bleacher Report makes a case for the Los Angeles Clippers to be NBA championship favors as others go through a rough patch. He uses balance, top-tier talent, and a high-powered offense as reasons for his claim.