After a 4-0 start to the season the Los Angeles Clippers have lost three in a row and are now 6-7. They gave up a big lead to the Warriors, lost to a Blazers team that was on a seven game losing streak and then got run out of the gym at home against the Raptors.
The Western Conference is not looking as dominant as we thought they would. The Clippers are sitting in the 8th seed but the teams above them are not great. We all thought the Clippers addressed their depth issues this off-season but they are not playing great together.
Josh Smith, Paul Pierce and Lance Stephenson sounded like good names in the off-season but their play this season has been horrible at best. Josh Smith was supposed to provide some depth at the power forward and maybe play some small ball center. He is a decent playmaker but he just launches bad 3-pointers when he gets into the game. He has to play because the Clippers don’t have any good backup big men.
Paul Pierce has been terrible this season. He looks like he’s playing in quicksand. Kobe Bryant looks great if compared to Pierce this season. Whenever Pierce moves to play defense it looks like he is going to fall over. When he shoots it looks like he can’t reach the rim. His minutes have been on the decline in recent years but he usually delivers.
Last season for the Washington Wizards he knocked big shots throughout the playoffs and shot 38% from 3-point range for the season. Clipper fans were expecting at least some shot making from Pierce this season but he is only shooting 33% from the field and 28% from 3-point range.
At this point Pierce needs to play less than the 22 minutes he’s getting every game. He’s bad on defense, not making shots and can’t create plays. Last season the Clippers averaged 24.8 assists per game which was good enough for 3rd in the league behind the Warriors and Hawks which happened to be the teams with the two best records in the NBA. This season 24.8 apg would have the Clips tied with the Celtics for 4th place however the Clippers are only averaging 21.6 apg this season which has them tied for 13th in the league.
The Clippers need to let Lance Stephenson play more. He hasn’t been great but he’s shooting better than Pierce and he is a much better defender. Given the chance Lance can make plays for this team and that’s what they need. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford are the only players on the Clippers that average at least 2 apg.
If you look at other good teams they have more than two playmakers. The Warriors have seven players that average 2 apg, the Spurs also has seven players that average 2 apg and even the Cavaliers have five players that average 2 apg. Despite playing poorly in Charlotte last season Lance did average 3.9 apg for the Hornets. Lance also had the worst 3-point percentage ever with at least 100 attempts at .171. This season he’s getting open looks and is shooting 33%.
Austin Rivers is the backup point guard but only averages 1.1 apg. He doesn’t make plays for anyone on the floor. At moments the Clips should let Lance lead a unit and see what happens. It is still very early in the season and they need to figure things out. Paul Pierce is not helping and might be done in terms of contributing on a playoff team. Lance is young and even if he’s not hitting shots, if he’s involved he will give more effort on the defensive end. Clips need better defense and better playmaking and Lance can help them on both ends. If they want to make a deep run in the playoffs the Clippers need their new pieces to contribute.