NBA Heat Check: The Rise of the Clippers

John Scriffiny

The Clippers are off to a hot start and have the same core of players. But what makes this team different from those who failed in the past?

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The Clippers, through fifteen games, have the best record in the NBA. Not a lot of people saw that coming, especially after their preseason game against the Warriors, in which they lost by a whopping 47 points. So far, however, I would argue that the Clips are playing even better than the Warriors, even if they don’t have the same amount of talent.

The Clippers have the eighth-ranked offense and fourth-ranked defense in the NBA. This is due, in large part, to the amount of chemistry involved in this team. It seems as though Chris Paul, JJ Redick, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have been playing with each other forever. It shows with how good their team defense is. Everyone knows the system and they trust each other. This counts for a lot in the NBA, especially with how much turnover there is with most teams.

It certainly helps that these Clippers have some of the best defenders in the league. Chris Paul is probably the best defensive point guard there is. He has such a great understanding of the game, and it shows with how he racks up steals without gambling too much. Russell Westbrook gets more steals, but he takes a lot of risks to get them, often leaving him out of position if he misses. Paul takes calculated risks and keeps the defense intact when he goes for steals. He also is crazy quick and rarely lets anyone get by him. Oh, and he locked up 6’11” Kevin Durant in the postseason for a stretch a couple seasons ago, though he was almost shorter by a foot.

DeAndre Jordan is also an excellent defender. He is the best rim protector in the league, and although he might not get as many blocks as Hassan Whiteside, he doesn’t get himself out of position by chasing every block he can. He and Paul are smart defenders as well as super athletic. It is a great combination. Jordan also has the ability to switch screens as a seven footer, which is one the most valuable skills in the NBA. If this team is full strength in the playoffs, I wouldn’t count them out against anybody, especially if the Warriors don’t figure out their defense.

One of the big differences from this year to last is the depth the Clippers now have. The small forward position has always been a weakness, but Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Wesley Johnson have done a decent job of holding it down. They also signed Alan Anderson, who is usually good for some bench minutes stretching the floor.

Mo Speights has done an excellent job for the Clips so far. The former Warrior can really stretch the floor at this point in his career and isn’t a disaster on defense. Throw in the fact Austin Rivers continues to improve, and what was the biggest weakness for the LA has become a strength. Watch out for the Clippers.

Collegian Blogger John Scriffiny can be reached online at blogs@collegian.com or on Twitter at @JScriff. Read more of his content here. Leave a comment!