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NBA Team Previews: Los Angeles Clippers 2013-14

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire. He supports Arsenal FC, the Green Bay Packers, and the New York Knicks, while specializing in those respective sports in his coverage for the site.

STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The 2012-13 season was a historically successful campaign for the Clippers. Often considered Los Angeles' second team, the Clippers made plenty of statements last season to suggest a power shift in Hollywood. A torrent 25-6 start, including a franchise-record 17 consecutive wins, put the Clippers among the Western Conference's star teams from the season's onset. With stellar depth and defense, coupled with the All-Star tandem of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the team finished with an unprecedented 56-26 record, setting another franchise record. Along the way, not only did they sweep the Lakers for the first time since being called the Buffalo Braves, but the Clippers' final victory of the season-series also clinched their first division title in franchise history.

Unfortunately, the Clippers were exposed by the battle-tested Grizzlies in their first-round playoff series, leading to a summer of change in Los Angeles. The team took care of its biggest offseason priority by re-signing point guard Chris Paul to a max extension, but doing so came with coach Vinny del Negro not being offered a new contract to remain in Los Angeles. In light of their coaching vacancy, the Clippers eventually secured Doc Rivers from the Celtics after a turbulent pursuit. Rivers took little time to make his mark on the roster, acquiring floor-stretchers J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley for blossoming backup point guard Eric Bledsoe, while also signing role players such as Darren Collison, Antawn Jamison and Byron Mullens to add needed offensive firepower.

PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Chris Paul, widely regarded as the league's best point guard, will continue to run the show for the Clippers and play well over 30 minutes per game. Behind him, Los Angeles native Darren Collison, who saw starter's minutes for the Mavericks last season, should get just fewer than 20 minutes per night, but will have to improve his defense to satisfy Rivers.

At the wing positions, the Clippers have many talented players that warrant minutes. J.J. Redick figures to start at shooting guard and play close to 30 minutes per game, but sixth-man Jamal Crawford should share a similar workload, including playing alongside Redick at times.

With Crawford also capable of playing point guard, Los Angeles will be able to deploy a plethora of wing combinations. Jared Dudley should start at small forward, but can also play the two, likely earning him around 25 minutes per night. Off the bench, Matt Barnes will once again provide a spark-plug for probably 20 minutes per game, while veteran Willie Green and rookie sharp-shooter Reggie Bullock could see scrap minutes here and there.

Up front, Blake Griffin will have to play nearly 35 minutes per game, especially given his defensive presence in comparison to his backups. Antawn Jamison can spell Griffin as a stretch-four, but his defensive shortcomings should limit him to around 15-20 minutes. Byron Mullens presents a bigger shooting option to backup Griffin for 20 minutes per night, but is a nearly non-existent defender.

DeAndre Jordan will start at center and anchor the Clippers' defense, but his egregious free-throw stroke will cap him at 25 minutes per contest. Mullens will also see some time at center, with Ryan Hollins rounding out the rotation at less than 10 minutes per game.

PLAYER OUTLOOKS

Center

<DeAndre Jordan: Jordan was much-maligned for his inconsistent play last season, especially after recently signing a four-year/$43 million extension. The 25-year-old averaged a career-best 8.8 points, but only pulled down 7.2 rebounds per contest. Jordan's lack of offensive refinement causes most of his points to come off easy dunks, evidenced by his career 64 percent shooting, but his remarkably poor free-throw shooting (39 percent last season) makes him a liability on the offensive end at times, limiting him to play around 25 minutes per night. Coach Doc Rivers will demand more consistency from Jordan and could possibly light a fire under the notably light-hearted giant, but he remains mostly a defensive (career 1.5 blocks/game) and rebounding asset in fantasy leagues.

Byron Mullens: Mullens joins the Clippers after averaging 10.6 points and 6.4 rebounds in 27 minutes for the lowly Bobcats last season. Injuries limited the 24-year-old to 53 games last year, but he is expected to backup DeAndre Jordan at center and be used as a stretch-four as well. Mullens will not be allowed to chuck up shots like he did last season for Charlotte, where the seven-footer converted an embarrassing 39 percent of his field goals, including 32 percent of 208 three-point attempts, so he needs to be more efficient for the Clippers.

Ryan Hollins: Hollins previously played for coach Doc Rivers in Boston and should serve a similar role under the new Clippers coach in Los Angeles as a reserve rim protector with very limited fantasy value.

Forward

Blake Griffin: Despite the Clippers setting a franchise win record last season, their high-flying All-Star averaged career-lows in minutes (33), points (18.0), and rebounds (8.3) per game. However, when considering the big picture, most of those statistical declines can be attributed to Los Angeles putting teams away early, allowing Griffin to rest late in games. To Griffin's credit, he improved his free-throw shooting to 66 percent last year, although he attempted a career-low 5.3 per game. This season, Griffin will be featured heavily under coach Doc Rivers and should continue to be one of the league's best pick-and-roll threats with Chris Paul, leading to a plethora of high-percentage looks. He should remain at least a top 10 fantasy forward, with potential for improvement in the rebounding department given Rivers' huge emphasis on defense.



Antawn Jamison: Jamison played a career-low 22 minutes per game for the Lakers last season, but he figures to have a more defined role as a stretch-four with the Clippers. His main fantasy contribution likely will come from his shooting numbers at power forward, likely putting him around double-digits in scoring with a handful of rebounds per night as well.

Brandon Davies: Davies, an undrafted rookie from BYU, signed with the Clippers in September and will likely be one of the team's last men off the bench, limiting any potential fantasy value.

Jared Dudley: Dudley figures to start at small forward after being acquired from Phoenix via trade this offseason. A career 40 percent three-point shooter, Dudley should see his share of open looks while playing with Chris Paul, giving him potential for the best shooting season of his career. Besides that, Dudley is part of a crowded wing rotation in Los Angeles, so shooting is probably his fantasy calling-card.

Matt Barnes: Barnes enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career last year, averaging a career-high 10.3 points in 26 minutes per game off the bench. The veteran provides the Clippers with an athletic high-energy reserve option and should be utilized similarly under new coach Doc Rivers. Expect Barnes to flirt with double-digit points and around five rebounds per night, with potential to improve on his 1.0 steal average given Rivers' defensive emphasis.

Guard

Chris Paul: Paul signed a five-year, $107 million extension with the Clippers this summer and was instrumental in the team hiring the services of coach Doc Rivers to run the show. Despite a dip in his scoring numbers last season (16.9 points per game), Paul will once again be the focal point of Los Angeles' offense and should enjoy playing under the former point guard Rivers and with new offensive weapons in J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley on the wings. Expect Paul to remain arguably fantasy's best point guard, with the potential to improve his already impressive 9.7 assists per game while featuring heavily in pick-and-roll situations. Paul's 2.4 steals per game could also stand to improve under the tutelage of the defensive-minded Rivers. The standards for Paul are certainly high, but he could exceed them while playing for such an accomplished coach.



J.J. Redick: Redick is slated to start at shooting guard and should excel while playing off Chris Paul. The sharpshooter is a career 39 percent three-point shooter, but has never played with a penetrator of Paul's ability. Also, Redick has scored around 10 points per night during his seven year career despite starting just 54 games, so a bigger role in Los Angeles could result in improved all-around numbers, despite backup Jamal Crawford's unquestioned sixth-man presence.

Jamal Crawford: Crawford played just over 29 minutes per game as the Clippers' sixth-man last season, averaging 16.5 points. He is one of the league's most talented scorers and will be utilized as such under Doc Rivers, but will have to improve his defense to avoid giving the new Clippers' head man headaches. Compared to last year, Crawford now has the more capable duo of J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley to compete for minutes with, so his numbers could take a slight dip, but his offensive contribution should remain strong nonetheless.

Darren Collison: Collison has played as a starter for most of his four-year career, but will take a back seat to Chris Paul in his hometown of Los Angeles. Despite an inevitable decrease in minutes, Collison should be one of the league's better backup point guards, especially on offense with career averages of over 12 points and five assists per game on 46 percent field-goal shooting. Those numbers will take a definite hit this season, but Collison can still provide commendable reserve numbers.

Reggie Bullock: Bullock was drafted 25th overall in this summer's draft, but joins a Clippers team with strong wing depth, likely limiting his involvement during his rookie campaign. When he sees the floor, Bullock is a knock-down shooter and a decent rebounder for his position as well.

Willie Green: Green, who started 60 games last season, provides the Clippers with a calming veteran presence. With the team's wing acquisitions this offseason, Green is expected to play much less this year, limiting his potential fantasy contribution to scrap minutes.

Maalik Wayns: Wayns was signed by the Clippers late last season and played very sparingly off the end of the team's bench. Should he make the team, he'll likely serve the same role this season.

SLEEPER

J.J. Redick: Redick's skill-set is made to play alongside a point guard like Chris Paul. While Paul breaks defenses down, Redick should be afforded with countless open looks from outside, potentially making him one of the league's most dangerous shooters this season. He will have to share minutes with Jamal Crawford, but the production should be there nonetheless.

BUST

Darren Collison: Collison will not play anywhere close to his career average of 29.5 minutes per game while backing-up Chris Paul, capping his fantasy contribution. He's a serviceable second-stringer for the Clippers, but probably won't play enough to make a fantasy impact comparable to his performances in years past.