The injury to Chris Paul, as big as it is, hasn't seemed to cause the panic other key injuries to other teams have caused this season. Is this because the injury is not expected to be long term, or is it because the team has managed to play so well without him?
Both. What hurts the most (is being so close and having so much to say and watching you walk away) about losing Paul is that the Clippers still haven't had a chance to figure out what their starting lineup looks like over a large span of time. For now, the team knows Paul will return soon and it's a pleasant surprise that they're doing more than simply treading water without him.
The Clippers' starting lineup is one of the best in the NBA. In my opinion, the bench is what is separating the Clippers from title contenders to fringe title contenders. What do they need to to do to get put in the same conversation as other title contenders?
Hard to say. Like I said earlier, the Clippers haven't fleshed out what their starting lineup will look like on a nightly basis. That makes parsing weaknesses a challenge. What's clear, though, is that the Clippers need help on the front line. They need a defensive-minded big to man the paint while the starters rest. And no, Hedo Turkoglu is not that guy. In the mean time, Doc Rivers is intelligently staggering Blake Griffin's and DeAndre Jordan's minutes to keep one of them on the floor as much as possible.
J.J. Redick has been extremely important to the Clippers success. Is that extra creator on the court really all Chris Paul and Blake Griffin needed to take last year's team and go from playoff team to fringe contender?
J.J. Redick is a machine unto himself. He's skyrocketed the Clippers' offense, one that was bound to be strong with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin at the helm. The real trial for L.A. will be on the defensive end. The thinking going into the season was that the Clippers would go as far as their defense allowed them. It hasn't changed. (Authors Note: Seerat wrote a really good post on the importance of Redick on the Clippers)
DeAndre Jordan has been considered a disappointment this season by some. Are Jordan's disappointments on the defensive end, or has he been given unfair expectations to make a jump that he isn't ready to make? Can Jordan ever become that player that many want him to become?
Sohi: I have no qualms with D.J. this season. That's a rarity for me- just ask any of the other writer at Clipperblog. Look, you don't build a house overnight but as far as brick walls go, DeAndre is learning to cement his position. Regardless of the numbers, Jordan is having his best defensive season yet and that's what matters.
Blake Griffin is still so young but he already has some of the skills of a multi year vet. Does he have the ability yet to be the number 2 guy on a championship team or does he still need to hone his craft for another year or two?
I've no doubt Griffin will continue to improve as his career wears on. The trajectory of his career suggests the same: He's improved his shooting from the free throw line and the floor and his defense, while it still leaves something to be desired, now treads much closer to the line of acceptability. Here's the best part of Griffin's game, though. And no, it's not the dunks. His playmaking skills have gone astronomical. There isn't a power forward in the league who can execute a fast break like he can and when teams opt to double team him in the post, they pay for it.
Why are we not hearing more about Jared Dudley? He got benched the other night in favor of Matt Barnes, was this so he could play with the second unit or has he really not been as good as Barnes in that role?
Jared Dudley's season has been a bit of an outlier as far as the rest of his career goes. He was slumping early in the season and then struggled through a knee injury that would have seen him lose time if not for the fact that the rest of the Clippers' wing rotation was also on the injured list. When Rivers switched Barnes into the startling lineup, he did so with defense in mind. The results, on offense, haven't been pretty but the group hasn't had much of a chance yet to acclimate themselves.
I'll send you off with this. If you could take anyone on the Bobcats roster and put them on the Clippers for the rest of this season, and only this season, in an effort to help with their title campaign, who would you take and why?
Do I have to? Just kidding. I know I said the Clippers need a defensive upgrade in the middle but Al Jefferson coming off the bench might just move the pendulum too high on offense for the rest of the league to recover.
Seerat's a fantastic blogger over at ClipperBlog. She also spends time writing for Hardwood Paroxysm. Her twitter is @DamianTrillard and in my opinion is a must follow.