As described in a post earlier this week, Steve Perrin of Clips Nation and I decided to do a different Q&A format this time around: rather than exchange questions directly with each other, we let the communities pose the questions and answered them.
The following are Steve's answers to the questions the GSoM community asked. Enjoy!
Evanz: How do they feel about losing Bledsoe? I thought they should have done everything they could to keep him in LA. Now it appears he's a bona fide star and making it work playing in a small backcourt. Seems to me Paul and Bledsoe could have terrorized the league for years together.
scraider: Related to that, what have they thought of Jared Dudley so far? I know Reddick had been doing really well for them before he got hurt, but it seems like Dudley has been somewhat underwhelming
Steve: One of the great mysteries of last season for me was why we did not see more of Bledsoe and Paul together. I'm a big believer in the idea of getting your best players on the floor, and the Clippers started Willie Green (or an ancient and inefficient Chauncey Billups) at shooting guard all season. The backcourt rotation should clearly have featured Paul, Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford almost exclusively -- but seeing Paul and Bledsoe together remained a successful and exciting rarity all season. It was pretty maddening especially when you consider that Bledsoe, with his long arms and incredible strength and athleticism, was more than capable of defending the vast majority of the two guards in the league.
When Doc Rivers first took the job, he referred several times to the idea of playing Bledsoe more, raising hopes that he might keep him and really use him. But then the trade happened.
And though I've spent a couple paragraphs talking about playing Paul and Bledsoe together, the Clippers had to trade Bled. VDN could certainly have played him more than he did -- but the simple fact remains that he plays the same position as the Clippers best player, and that wasn't going to work in the long term. Bledsoe will be an RFA this summer and will make a LOT of money. The Clippers are over the luxury tax without him; they weren't going to be able to keep him into a new contract.
The question of whether they got enough for him is a different one. If you look at the deal strictly from L.A.'s vantage point, it's not bad -- they got their starting wings, both on reasonable contracts, while shedding Caron Butler's deal. But then when you look at it from Phoenix's perspective, you realize that the Sun's got a steal, and you wonder if that side of the trade could have happened differently. Could the Clippers have possibly turned Bledsoe into Redick and Arron Afflalo in a similar three team deal with Orlando replacing Phoenix and getting Bledsoe?
But that's nitpicking. Redick was absolutely terrific before he got hurt -- and he wasn't even shooting lights out, just playing the perfect complement to CP3. Dudley has been dealing with some tendinitis and wasn't making threes until a little over a week ago. When his shot is falling, he's a good fit as well. I miss Bledsoe; I'm only a little surprised at how great he's been as the starter in Phoenix -- but yes, the Clippers had to move him, and yes, they got a good return in the deal.
GoldenAdobo: Has Doc really made a noticeable difference to the teams play? I thought del negro's suckitude was a tad overblown. Not saying he was a mastermind or anything.
GSW9: Ask them what's the biggest difference between this year's team with Doc and last year's team VDN.
The other difference with Doc is on defense, where the team has been better -- much better -- in the last month. At least that's what the stats say, as they were ranked 28th in defensive efficiency in their first 13 games, and first in their next 13 games.
Now, it's pretty clear that a lot of that is schedule-related -- the Clippers played the Heat, your Warriors and two games each against the Rockets, Thunder and Wolves in those first 13, and then turned around and played a whole bunch of bad Eastern Conference teams. But it's also a question of learning, embracing and trusting the defensive schemes Rivers has installed. The keys are Griffin and Jordan, who have always had the athleticism to be great defenders, but who are miles ahead of where they were a season ago. I'm not sure I believe that they've reached the 'elite' level that the raw numbers from the last month would indicate, but the Clippers are becoming a very good defensive team under Rivers. So maybe coaches do matter after all.
allen.saenz: Any semblance of truth. To the carmelo anthony rumors linking him to the Clippers via trade?
Steve: As far as I can tell, Griffin-for-Melo is the fever dream of New York media and hype-machine types like Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless. I can tell you this -- the Clippers wouldn't touch that deal with a 39 and a half foot pole.
Carmelo does exactly one thing better than Griffin -- score. And even there, you sort of have to define your terms, since Griffin is a more efficient scorer than Anthony (Anthony's TSP of .560 last season was very near his career high, but it was still less than Griffin's .572). So actually the one thing Carmelo does better is shoot free throws. Griffin's a better rebounder, passer and defender, plus he's younger, still improving, less expensive, signed for longer, more likeable, better looking, a better actor, and nicer to animals (I'm just assuming on the animals part, but it stands to reason). Griffin is wildly popular among Clipper fans and the front office would think twice about trading him for a player who is actually more productive than he is (say Kevin Love) for fear of alienating the fan base. They would scoff at the idea of doing it for Anthony. Why would they? For Carmelo's star power? As if the Clippers and Griffin are lacking in that department.
starbury_to_s-jaxci2000: If there was one thing they could fix/upgrade right now, what would that be?
also, are they ready to lose the belt?
seven72deuce: Does the lack of depth at the PF and C positions force a change of pace for the game when both Deandre and Blake are on the bench? And I ask this question because I've noticed the Clippers tend to use alley oops as a fast break threat and allows to open up shooters off the bat.
Steve: The belt! I forgot we still had the belt. t's the first road game for the Clippers since they took the belt from the Spurs so it's definitely a likely game to lose it. Maybe Santa will bring the Warriors all belts and the Clippers can keep theirs?
As for the upgrade, the Clippers very clearly and desperately need a third big. It's strange to say, but when Doc took Antawn Jamison out of moth balls a month back and began playing him as the third big the team got a lot better -- which is just sad. If Jamison is an upgrade, what does that say about Ryan Hollins and Byron Mullens? (Nothing we didn't already know, but still.)
So while Jamison has been better than Ryron Mollins, the Clippers still need someone better than Jamison. If Griffin or Jordan get into any foul trouble (or heaven forbid get hurt) the Clippers simply can't afford to rely on Jamison for extended minutes. Unfortunately, the Clippers are extremely limited in their options to upgrade both in terms of available assets and in terms of payroll. They may decide to bring back Lamar Odom, who would certainly be an upgrade provided he can play defense and rebound anywhere close to the level he did last year -- but signing Odom carries obvious risks and it's not clear he'd be enough at any rate. The Clippers need to make a move there and they will -- but I really don't know what it will be.
coshaben: What do they think about Reggie Bullock and does he have a future with their roster?
Steve: The Clippers really like Bullock and think he can be a solid 3D guy in the league. Although his season shooting percentage is terrible, he has taken open jumpers with confidence from the minute he stepped on an NBA court and his stroke looks great. The timing of his twisted ankle was terrible because it came while both Redick and Barnes were out and Bullock was getting good minutes and finally starting to hit shots. Related to the prior question, Bullock may be the Clippers best bargaining chip to upgrade their front court since they're deep on the wing. They'd be loathe to lose him, because they think he can be the starting three in a couple of seasons, but they may not have another option for getting a proven third big.
cam3racks: Why a team with that much talent feels the need to flop every other play?
Steve: You're supposed to be asking me questions about the Clippers, not the Heat.
electrobutter: how would you summarize blake griffin's play so far and has his game expanded significantly since last season?
Steve: Griffin takes a ton of criticism for not being as good as people want him to be -- but they never give him credit for how good he already is. His critics look at what he does poorly and count backwards from some ideal Griffin -- he doesn't make free throws, his midrange jumper needs to be better, he has no go to post move. That's all true. He also averages over 20 points and 10 rebounds, shoots 52% from the field, is probably the best passing power forward in the league and has the handle of a point guard. Griffin has added incrementally to his game over his time in the NBA -- his jump shot is better, he has a few more counters in the post, he can now finish with his left hand around the basket, etc. The pass he throws from the middle pick and roll when he catches the second big in rotation and lobs to DeAndre Jordan at the rim for a dunk -- it's a thing of beauty that involves a combination of skills that few bigs possess, and it also happens to be basically unstoppable. He's even been an above average free throw shooter in December. Griffin still has lots of room for improvement -- which is a pretty scary thought for the rest of the league.
Pointman: If both teams suck on nationally televised games, who will be less sucky?
Steve: I haven't tracked it thoroughly, but I feel like the Clippers have sucked much more on TNT than on ESPN. Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith and Reggie Miller are ridiculously critical of the Clippers, and so far the team has done little to make them eat their words during those TNT broadcasts. Of course, the schedulers haven't done the Clippers any favors -- they've played four TNT Thursday games this season, and three of them have been on the road on the second night of a back-to-back. Surprise, surprise, they lost those, but the TNT crew hasn't really mentioned the schedule as a factor.
The one game they won on TNT? Against the Warriors, rested, at home. So playing the Warriors on ESPN on two days rest on Wednesday? I hope the Clippers don't suck. Especially since they have to fly to Portland for a TNT game tomorrow, the fourth straight time they're on TNT on a road B2B. I'm beginning to sense a conspiracy here.
dinohealth: What do they think of Curry as PG? Who is a better PG, Paul, or, Curry? It would be interesting to see what they say in view of Steph being the league's top-scoring PG, and second only to Paul in assists...
Steve: I LOVE Curry. Love, love, love him. His ability to make shots -- all kinds of shots from anywhere -- is such an incredible weapon in the league. He's absolutely amazing. (Of course, he's been more amazing against the Clippers than he has against most teams in his career so far, so I may have a somewhat skewed impression.)
I don't think you can really compare him to Paul though. Paul is the prototypical point guard, and Curry is not. Yes, Steph is second in the league to Paul in assists -- but sort that list by assist-to-turnover ratio and Paul is still number one, while Curry drops to 30. That's a big deal.
So I feel completely comfortable saying that Paul is a better PG and I don't think there's much room for argument, really. But the question would be a lot tougher if worded differently: Better weapon? Better guard? Better player? I'd still take Paul over Curry if given the choice, but I totally get it if someone wanted Curry. Eventually the game boils down to putting the ball in the basket, and he does that better than anyone.