Congratulations, Del Negro -- now what?
The ousted Chicago Bulls coach will face many of the same issues in Los Angeles
Congratulations, Vinny Del Negro.
As the new head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, you have inherited a promising, young core. But before you get too comfortable in your new digs, there are a few things you should know about the roster.
1. One of your best players has no sense of his limitations.
This is hardly a new development. Davis has never been an efficient outside shooter, even in his halcyon days with Golden State. Most veterans typically adjust their games as they get on in years, but the 31-year-old Davis has remained stubborn in his approach to the game.
Despite this, Del Negro seems confident he'll be able to get Baron Davis to buy into his philosophy.
"I told Baron we're going to run things the right way here and he needs to jump on board," Del Negro said in his introductory press conference. "At the end of the day obviously Baron has been in the league a long time. A lot is expected of Baron, as well it should be. He knows that. We'll get together, get on the same page as quick as possible and make things work."
But beware, Vinny. You can't stop Baron Davis. You can only hope to contain him.
2. You have only one efficient outside shooter to work with.
Can the Clippers make defenses pay for collapsing on Gordon and leaving other shooters open? Last year they certainly couldn't. The Clippers ranked 27th in 3-point percentage, and, not coincidentally, 27th in offensive efficiency.
Under Del Negro, the Bulls were actually worse offensively than the Clippers last season. Chicago ranked 28th in both 3-point percentage and offensive efficiency and attempted more shots from 16-to-23 feet than any team in the league, an area where the Clippers ranked a measly 24th in field goal percentage.
Many of the nagging offensive issues in Chicago will follow you to Los Angeles, but at least you have one bullet in the chamber with Eric Gordon. Use him wisely.
As the focal point of the Clippers' offense last season, Chris Kaman earned his first All-Star bid while recording a career-high 18.5 points per game. Kaman had always been a good low-post scorer with an arsenal of moves, but had never been a true number one scoring option. As Kaman's touches increased, he developed a serious affection for his mid-range shot.
The new love for his face-up jumper came with a heavy price. In the month of March, Kaman almost completely abandoned his post-up game and consequently went to the line just 42 times on 220 field goal attempts. During that stretch, the Clippers won only three games.
Kaman has never been much of an offensive counter-puncher. Instead of reacting to what his defender gives him, he usually decides what he wants to do long before he even touches the ball. Eliminating Kaman's mental desire to settle for jumpers will go a long way in building a more efficient offense. After being completely devoid of one in Chicago, you finally have a low-post scoring threat. Now you just have to get him down there.
Opposing teams will defend the Clippers' pick-and-roll in the same way they did against Chicago: by going under every ball-screen. So what's the big difference between Chicago's pick-and-roll and the Clippers' pick-and-roll? Derrick Rose was fast enough to turn the corner and get into the paint. Baron Davis no longer can.
According to Synergy Sports, on plays in which the pick-and-roll ball-handler shot the ball, the Clippers only scored .72 points per possession, which registered as the worst number in the league.
With the same ball handlers (Baron Davis and Eric Gordon) back this season, you may need a new offensive calling card.
Every once in a while a player comes along with potential that appears limitless. Blake Griffin is one of those guys.
With his size, athleticism, and work ethic, Griffin could be the remedy for a lot of the Clippers' problems. Maybe his offensive prowess makes Baron Davis start deferring more. Maybe his presence around the rim on the offensive glass opens things up for Eric Gordon. Maybe if he demands double-teams on the block, Chris Kaman can hang outside the paint and shoot jumpers all he wants. Maybe every pick-and-roll turns into an all-out assault on the rim.
You've developed Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and even Taj Gibson into fine players. If you can help Blake Griffin fulfill his immense potential, life will suddenly become a whole lot easier.
D.J. Foster is a staff writer for Clipperblog.com and has contributed to ESPN.com's TrueHoop Network.