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Thursday, January 24, 2013
Midseason report

By Jovan Buha

Midseason thoughts on the Clippers’ roster.

STARTERS:

PG: Chris Paul

Season averages (39 GP): 16.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 9.7 APG, 2.6 SPG, 26.1 PER


Don’t let his numbers fool you: Paul is playing at an MVP-caliber level. Besides LeBron James and Kevin Durant, no player has a better statistical résumé. Paul is third in PER and second in win shares per 48 minutes, and he has guided the Clippers to a top-five rating on offense and defense. The only qualms would be that he has struggled with his 3-point shot (33.3 percent) and is sometimes too passive early in games, but it’s tough to chide one of the three best players in basketball.

SG: Willie Green

Season averages (40 GP): 6.5 PPG, 39.6 3PT%, 11.4 PER


Green’s role has fluctuated throughout the season, but his consistency has not. He has stayed within his offensive limitations, serving as a reliable spot-up 3-point shooter. His defense has been poor -- opposing shooting guards register a 58.2 eFG% and 16.9 PER against him -- but that’s somewhat negated by his playing only 18.2 minutes per game. When Chauncey Billups returns, Green will go back to the bench and play limited minutes.

SF: Caron Butler

Season averages (41 GP): 9.7 PPG, 38.6 3PT%, 11.7 PER


After serving as a key contributor last season, Butler has become a complementary player on a deep roster. That’s not to say he hasn’t been effective -- he’s transformed his game and has become the Clippers’ much-needed floor spacer (40.7 percent on spot-up 3-pointers), as evidenced by his 33-point and 29-point performances this season. He’s lost a few steps defensively (340th in defensive points per play), which has allowed Matt Barnes to soak up a lot of Butler's minutes.

PF: Blake Griffin

Season averages (43 GP): 18.3 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.5 SPG, 22.8 PER


All the offseason talk was about Griffin’s improved jump shot, and it has improved, but his passing skills are rarely discussed. Among power forwards, he’s third in assists per game, 10th in assist rate, and third in assists leading to 3-pointers (the most valuable assist). Most importantly, he has improved tremendously on defense, allowing the 18th-fewest points per play. Add in his new post game, and Griffin has become a near-complete player.

C: DeAndre Jordan

Season averages (43 GP): 8.8 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 59.6 FG%, 16.6 PER


While Jordan has become more efficient offensively (career-high 13.0 points per 36 minutes), his free throw shooting (42.0 percent) and rebounding (16.6 rebounding percentage) have regressed and limited his playing time. The threat of him scoring, especially at the rim (fifth in dunks), is valuable and gives Paul and Griffin proper space to operate. Coach Vinny Del Negro clearly favors Odom in crunch time, though, which is a disconcerting sign for Jordan’s playoff role.

KEY RESERVES:

G: Jamal Crawford

Season averages (41 GP): 16.6 PPG, 2.4 APG, 88.6 FT%, 16.7 PER


Crawford was scorching hot to start the season, averaging 20.7 points through the first nine games. He has cooled off since then but remains the go-to option on a second unit that lacks shot creators. If not for Barnes’ versatility, Crawford would be the front-runner for Sixth Man of the Year. He’s established himself as the third option in crunch time and, more importantly, has been a willing passer and off-ball player (career-high 54 percent of shots assisted on).

G: Eric Bledsoe

Season averages (43 GP): 8.7 PPG, 1.5 SPG, 38.9 3PT%, 19.2 PER


The bench’s energizer bunny has had an up-and-down season, which isn’t unusual for a third-year point guard. Still, there’s no denying Bledsoe’s potential as a starter and future All Star. He’s displayed a new sense of pace and control (career-low turnover percentage) that, coupled with his stout defensive abilities (2.9 steals and 1.3 blocks per 36 minutes), has GMs drooling to acquire him. His block of Dwyane Wade remains the top Clippers highlight this season.

F/G: Matt Barnes

Season averages (42 GP): 11.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 17.7 PER


The surprise player of the Clippers’ season has done everything they expected Grant Hill to do and more. Barnes is shooting at a career-high level (35.7 percent on 3-pointers), defends the opponent’s top scorer each night, and is as active off the ball as any player in the league. There’s no better bargain in the NBA than his minimum-salary contract. Barnes’ perimeter defense may be the greatest factor in determining how far L.A. advances in the postseason.

F/C: Lamar Odom

Season averages (43 GP): 3.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 0.9 BPG, 10.5 PER


At the beginning of the season, we weren’t sure whether Odom could run up and down the court for 10 minutes, let alone produce. Fast-forward three months, and he’s become the player the Clippers envisioned over the offseason. His rebounding rate (10th defensively, 18th overall) is outstanding, and there’s never been any doubt that Odom is among the game’s best passing big men. Moving forward, he needs to shoot better (38.1 FG%) to justify an uptick in minutes.

F: Grant Hill:

Season averages (6 GP): 4.3 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 9.6 PER


His Clippers debut took a lot longer than expected, but it appears he was worth the wait. Though his jumper has been rusty (13 percent from 16-23 feet), he’s finished around the rim efficiently (75 percent) and moved well off the ball. The Clippers’ new bench unit features Hill at power forward, yet he’s defended everyone from Russell Westbrook to Emeka Okafor. His defensive versatility allows the Clippers to switch any screen under the sun.

ROTATION BUBBLE:

F/C: Ronny Turiaf

Season averages (41 GP): 2.2 PPG, 0.7 BPG, 56.1 FG%, 10.5 PER


Known for his infectious attitude, Turiaf does more than simply cheer from the bench (team-high 92.9 defensive rating). Along with Odom, Turiaf has manned the backline of the bench’s stellar defense and has protected the rim in ways L.A. sorely lacked last season (2.0 blocks per 36 minutes). With Hill back, it’s likely Turiaf will lose his rotation spot, but he’s nice insurance if Jordan or Griffin gets into foul trouble.

C: Ryan Hollins

Season averages (30 GP): 2.4 PPG, 0.5 BPG, 59.5 FG%, 9.1 PER


Hollins is the only healthy player consistently racking up DNP-CDs, which is the downside of having such a deep roster. Like Turiaf, though, Hollins was signed as an insurance policy, not as a rotation player. In limited minutes, Hollins has done what he always does -- score at the rim, block shots (2.0 per 36 minutes), barely rebound (12.1 rebound percentage) and foul a lot (career-high 8.5 per 36 minutes).

INJURED:

G: Chauncey Billups

Season averages (3 GP): 7.3 PPG, 2.3 APG, 0.7 SPG, 12.5 PER


The Clippers are such a deep team that most people forget Billups has missed all but three games. Though there is only a small sample size to go on, the results are encouraging: The Clippers are a much better with Billups on the floor (+16.9 net rating). When he eventually suits up, L.A. can expect an increase in 3-point shooting and sound decision-making (9.6 turnovers per-48 minutes) as well as another clutch scorer to alleviate the pressure on Paul.

F: Trey Thompkins:

Season averages (0 GP): N/A


Thompkins didn’t play much last season, and with a slew of big men already ahead of him on the depth chart and no set timetable for his return, it appears that he won't see any floor time this season either.

Stats used from ESPN.com, NBA.com, MySynergySports.com and 82games.com.