2014-15 Record: 56-26
SF Josh Smith, SF Paul Pierce, SG/SF Lance Stephenson, SF Wesley Johnson, PF Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, PG Pablo Prigioni
C Spencer Hawes, SF Dahntay Jones
Projected 2015-16 Lineup
PG Chris Paul, SG J.J. Redick, SF Wesley Johnson, PF Blake Griffin, C DeAndre Jordan
Let’s get this out of the way at the start. I’m a Wesley Johnson fan, I think his numbers hide a guy that could be a very good three and D guy in the NBA. At 28, it probably won’t happen, but I like that he’ll get every opportunity to show it as a possible starter with the Los Angeles Clippers. That’s all gravy if it works though. This team is still built on the Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan triumvirate. After the fiasco that was Jordan’s free agency this off-season, they’ll need him to have a very good year. This may be one of the last years this team will trot out the same core looking for a title, but this may be the deepest team they’ve assembled under Doc Rivers. Late game mismatch scoring? Move Griffin to the five and put in Paul Pierce. Wing defense? Johnson and Lance Stephenson. Heady backup point guard? Pablo Prigioni. There isn’t a ton of true front court depth, specifically at the five, but if Jordan goes down for any stretch of time, it was never going to be a happy story.
X-Factor: Lance Stephenson
Stephenson is the type of player that Rivers would love to start at the small forward. A potential lock down defender, something he has been searching for, on the wing with offensive potential of his own. The issue, of course, is that his season in 2014-15 was utterly abysmal. There wasn’t much there to say he will turn it around. His last two years in Indianapolis he posted a 51.2% and 54% eFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage).1 Then he plummeted to a 39.3 eFG%, specifically with a 17.1% 3P%. Those all need to improve.
Most To Prove: Josh Smith
Too much ink, or type, has likely been spilled/used over the last few years on a player that is probably . . . average almost all of the time. He’s exciting and holds so much potential though. Is this going to be Detroit Smith or Houston Smith? JVG actually got Smith to shoot very few threes in Detroit last season, just 1.3 per game. Not to mention he let it fly in Houston to a tune of 3.5 per game and 33% shooting from deep. This isn’t exactly a one-to-one, fair comparison, but that’s better than media darling stretch four Nikola Mirotic. He could be an absolute force off the bench in small lineups with Griffin or regular lineups with Jordan, but we certainly don’t have any clue which one will show up.
Why They’re Worth Watching
I was secretly excited to see how the Clippers would play sans Jordan and with many more small ball lineups with Griffin at the five. That’s not going to happen nearly as much, but they’re still an athletic, dunking machine that bears watching.
I think this team has immense upside with the additions they’ve made. It’s hugely risky with the type of year Stephenson had and the type of career Josh Smith has had. 68-14
Short of injuries, I believe this team is fairly secure in their near-top of the Western Conference destiny. 57-25
Projected 2015-16 Record: 61-21
Weights different shots according to how effective of a shot they are. More bonus for free throws and threes and less for long twos ↩