Let me start off with this statement before I go any further; the Los Angeles Clippers may be the deepest team in the NBA. And I’m sure that after reading the headline many folks assumed it was trolling but trust me, by no means is that the case.
Teams that stockpile talent usually look good on paper, but a funny thing happens when you have too much talent; talented players that bought in to the all-for-one concept begin to want more playing time. Players that at one time were getting a starter’s green light to shoot begin to tire of being lower on the totem pole. The team thing is great, but sometimes a player’s ego is greater.
That isn’t to say this will be the case with the players currently on the Clippers roster, but it’s possible. The Clippers are at least two players deep at every position:
Point guard – Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe
Shooting guard – Willie Green, Jamal Crawford
Small forward – Caron Butler, Matt Barnes
Power forward – Blake Griffin, Lamar Odom
Center – DeAndre Jordan, Ronny Turiaf, Ryan Hollins
It’s almost as if the Clippers have two starting lineups, and that’s not including Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill. Once Billups and Hill return from injuries, the Clippers rotation could go 10-11 players deep. That kind of depth may work well in the NCAA, but not so much with NBA teams.
Hypothetically speaking, let’s say the players have fully bought in to the “strength in numbers” and “all for one” philosophy. That still leaves Vinny Del Negro as the man managing the talent. Del Negro went from a .500 coach with the Chicago Bulls to a transitional coach with the Clippers to managing the deepest roster in the league.
Not to mention that Del Negro has been criticized previously for mismanaging rotations with the Bulls and in previous seasons with the Clippers. That’s like giving someone the keys to a high-powered sports car and expecting them to learn how to drive stick on the freeway.
Recent NBA history has shown us that teams with clear superstars win championships. The 2012 Miami Heat with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The 2011 Dallas Mavericks with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry. The 2008-2010 Los Angeles Lakers with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. The list goes on and on. The only team to win a championship since 1990 without a clear superstar was the 2003-2004 Detroit Pistons, and they beat a – wait for it – “deep” Lakers team 4-1 in the process.
This isn’t to say that depth is a bad thing, because it isn’t. Depth is a luxury in today’s NBA. But having too much depth can be more of a curse than a gift, and the 2011-2012 Clippers may be faced with just that dilemma.