Los Angeles Clippers: 5 Players Who Must Step Up in 2013-14
Los Angeles Clippers: These 5 Must Elevate Their Game
The Los Angeles Clippers are fresh off the best season in the franchise's history since being founded in 1970. They also enjoyed their first-ever Pacific Division title, but were bounced out of the playoffs in the first round by the Memphis Grizzlies.
As good as last season was for the Clippers, they have even more to look forward to in 2013-14. They have a new head coach, and one of the best in the league at that: Doc Rivers. He comes from Boston where he spent the last nine seasons, winning an NBA Finals Championship in 2007-08. Rivers will undoubtedly bring a more defensive-minded coaching style to the Clippers, who blew a 2-0 series lead to the Grizzlies by allowing an average of 104.75 points per game — 10 more than their regular season average.
The Clippers are led by Chris Paul, who is debatably the best point guard in the NBA. There's really nothing more you can ask of Paul, so he will not be one of the players on the Clippers' roster that will be asked upon to step up this year. With Paul at the point and Doc at the helm, the Clippers are in the best position to win an NBA Finals Championship in the franchise's existence. It may be a lot to ask, especially since they just won their first division title a year ago, but that is exactly what fans will be demanding.
Here are five players who need to step up so that Clippers fans, who after years of watching Lakers championship parades, will be able to have a celebration of their own.
5. Antawn Jamison
Jamison jumped between Los Angeles teams during the offseason. He's 37 years old and coming off surgery on his right wrist during the offseason, but he must be able to provide quality minutes off the bench as a No. 4. The Clippers won't be asking for the moon from Jamison, but they won't be expecting much less than his 9.4 points per game and 4.8 rebounds per game last year with the Lakers.
4. Darren Collison
Darren Collison was acquired during the offseason to replace Eric Bledsoe, who was traded to the Phoenix Suns. He will come off the bench and will need to provide the same quality minutes Bledsoe did while Chris Paul sits. Last season with Dallas, Collison received the fourth-most minutes per game on the team and logged 12 points and five assists per. He likely won't receive the same amount of floor time, but his continued offensive input will be appreciated off the bench.
3. Jared Dudley
Also acquired during the offseason, Jared Dudley will play alongside J.J. Redick in hopes of increasing the Clippers' three-point shooting. Dudley hit 39-percent from three last season in Phoenix, and he has a 41-percent average over his six-year career. Dudley, along with Redick, needs to bring an offensive boost to the Clippers this season.
2. J.J. Redick
The Clippers didn't trade away young guard Eric Bledsoe for nothing. Los Angeles is looking for a strong presence beyond the arc and J.J. Redick needs to answer that calling. Redick's long-range shooting ability will open the floor for Chris Paul, and when opposing defenses increase the pressure on Paul, Redick will get open looks for three. The Clipper shot .358 from beyond the arc last year, just below the league average. Redick should help improve that number.
1. Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin told ESPN Thursday that the Clippers' offensive identity will drop the title of "Lob City." So, Griffin will need to be more than just the high-flying forward who lives off of lob passes from star point guard Chris Paul. He has reportedly been working intensively this offseason on his post game and jump shot from 10-15 feet, parts of his offensive repertoire that need immense improvement. Griffin shot just .358 from that range last season. He'll need to learn how to score from both inside and outside the key this season.