Los Angeles Clippers Coach Doc Rivers' Plan to Play Small Could Lead to Big Problems

By christopherbrown
Debby Wang – USA TODAY Sports

It’s been reported that Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers will experiment with a small lineup in hopes of camouflaging the lack of front-court depth presently on the roster. The Clippers have the size and athleticism within the first unit to cause match-up nightmares for most teams, but their reserves make them smaller, less athletic, and three steps slower. They don’t have the luxury of a 6-foot-11 athletic forward that can play and defend four positions and handle the ball like a guard coming off the bench. That was last season.

Yet, Rivers thinks he has the personnel to play with a smaller lineup as an alternative strategy. The proposed lineup will expose  important players to foul trouble and fatigue. One thought would be to move small forward Matt Barnes to power forward at which he had some success while with the Golden State Warriors, but that was several years ago. A younger, quicker Barnes beat a bigger, slower fours down the court and to long rebounds. Age has neutralized Barnes to merely an undersized power forward.

Rivers also brought forth the possibility of  moving forward Blake Griffin to center. Griffin lacks the length and the size to hold his position in the paint as well as the shooting threat to draw a true center out to an area of the floor where they look awkward and clumsy. Griffin is not Kevin Garnett. The former Boston Celtic terrorized centers under Rivers with the shooting touch of a guard and the range to match.  Garnett also has the length to challenge shots around the baskets without using his body and risking foul trouble.

This Clipper version of  “small ball” will be a big nightmare. They could have some success spreading the floor and opening lanes for the guards, but taking center DeAndre Jordan off the floor puts their biggest mismatch on the bench. Jordan is not the most athletic on the team, but he’s the most athletic center in the league, an advantage that should be exploited as much as possible. The Clippers have the bodies to go big but lack the versatility to do anything much less.

ChristopherBrown is an NBA writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @whatrockschris. Like him on Facebook. 

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