Since being named President of Basketball Operations this offseason, Doc Rivers has aided his role as head coach by bringing some experienced coaches to Los Angeles.
The first being Mike Woodson, who has spent 10 of the last 11 seasons in the NBA as a head coach for the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks‘ Woodson comes from the Eastern Conference and brings a defensive mind. In 2012-13, he replaced Mike D’ Antoni and led the Knicks to clinch the second seed and reached the second round of the playoffs. Becoming an assistant coach for Rivers could be the best thing for him, both at this point in his career and for another head-coaching opportunity in the future.
Woodson has a pair of defensive standouts to work with. For starters, point guard Chris Paul led the league in steals last season with a 2.48 per game average. CP3 has made the Second All-Defensive Team twice and the First All-Defensive Team four times, earning top honors in three of his four seasons with the Clippers so far.
DeAndre Jordan anchors the defense. He backed up his coach’s words about being a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, where he finished third behind award-winner Joakim Noah and Roy Hibbert. Jordan ranked third in blocks, actually averaging 2.48 blocks per game, the same number his teammate topped the league in steals with. Another aspect of protecting the paint is cleaning the glass. The big man grabbed the most boards in the NBA, and averaged 9.5 defensive rebounds, which was only second to Kevin Love, who snatched 9.6 boards per game.
Blake Griffin may have placed third in MVP voting, and although he isn’t a standout on the defensive end, his 7.1 boards per game on the defensive end placed 10th. The high-flyer jumped too often to block an opponents shot, drawing 3.3 fouls per contest which ties for seventh-most among all players. Jordan is right behind him with 3.2, however that is the center’s role as the rim protector and enforcer. Griffin has to stay out of foul trouble as the offensive focal point. Under the coaching duo of Rivers and Woodson, I expect Griffin to be in better position to use his athleticism and length. In the uptempo Western Conference, it would be a great advantage if they could play small ball and move him to the five at times.
Role player Matt Barnes is known for his defense. He brings the toughness and energy they need, whether it’s committing a hard foul or sticking to a scorer the second he crosses half court. Barnes is an active defender, using his hands in the passing lanes while his footwork puts him in position to take charge. As a whole, the team should be more crisp off the ball in their rotations. They need to double team on the sidelines from time-to-time, and perhaps against the pick-and-roll. You want a running team to apply pressure on the ball and close the gaps on shooters. This would create even more fastbreak opportunities for Lob City.
The addition of Sam Cassell will help the guards on both ends of the floor. He’s been around this league since being drafted in 1993. Entering his sixth season as an assistant coach, Cassell won a championship as a player on the Boston Celtics when Rivers was in Beantown.
The Washington Wizards will miss his presence on the sidelines and in the film room. I would assume that he helped the young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal tremendously. Cassell’s experience helped them develop their ball-handling, passing, and scoring abilities. The guy was a feisty defender that used mind games to get into his opponent’s head, and he was gritty fighting off screens. His biggest contribution probably came off the court. He’s been teaching those guards how to be professionals, take care of their bodies, and watching game tape.
The Clippers guards will benefit from his influence, from Paul to Jordan Farmar and the wing players. Rivers proved last season that you could still teach an “old” dog new tricks. As a player, Cassell also took defenders down to the block when he felt he had a mismatch. That could be something he incorporates into Jamal Crawford‘s repertoire.
These are great additions to the staff that guided a talented team to the third seed and second-round playoff appearance last season. This team is geared to make a Western Conference Finals appearance in 2014-15.
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