The Los Angeles Clippers look like an entirely new organization since Doc Rivers came to town. Once thought of as the laughingstock of the league, the Clippers are now a prime destination for free agents. Players want to play for Rivers, as evident by the recent signings of Glen Davis and Danny Granger. The players who were here before his arrival have improved across the board, so much so that a number of them have a shot at winning an NBA award.
It is a real possibility that the Clippers could posses three award-winning players at the end of the season.
Blake Griffin has taken his game to a new level. He is averaging a career-high 24 points per game and is shooting a career-best 70 percent from the charity stripe. While Chris Paul was out, Griffin carried the bulk of the load. He played so well during that stretch that his name landed in the MVP conversation. He isn’t going to win the MVP award, but he has a fair shot at winning the Most Improved Player award. There are several deserving players, but none more so than Griffin.
Another player who could take home an award this season is sixth man extraordinaire Jamal Crawford. While Griffin carried the bulk of the load in Paul’s absence, Crawford carried whatever was leftover. He started 23 games in place of J.J. Redick, who has missed more than half the season.
Crawford, who had been sidelined for three games due to a calf injury, returned to the court Saturday night. Unfortunately, he only played three minutes and aggravated his injured calf. If he returns soon and can remain healthy, he is the hands-on favorite to win the Sixth Man of the Year award. A lot depends on Redick’s injury as well, because a few more starts might force Crawford to forfeit his candidacy.
Perhaps the player who has improved the most under Rivers is DeAndre Jordan. The athletic center always had potential, but failed to develop under his previous coaches. Now the big man is blossoming, leading the league in rebounds and field goal percentage. He is fourth in the league in blocks and is averaging a career-high 36 minutes per game.
Rivers showed his faith in Jordan, and it’s definitely paying off. Like Griffin, Jordan’s name should be mentioned in the Most Improved Player category, but he is the clear favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year honors.