THE SCOUTING REPORT
It’s only been eight days since we last played the Clippers, but the moves they made at the trade deadline make none of their past stats relevant. What was supposed to be two simple trades to create cap space for next year has altered the Clips' lineup enough to make all data from before the 18th immaterial.
The move of Marcus Camby’s expiring contract was to be anticipated. With Blake Griffin expected to return from injury and claim the starting PF role and Craig Smith performing well in the backup PF role, trading Camby for two other expiring contracts had little downside. And, it gave the Clips a couple months to audition Steve Blake for the backup PG spot
Sebastian Telfair had a player option in 2011 for $2.7M and that was way too much to pay for a shoot-first backup PG, who in five years hadn’t learned to shoot. Al Thornton, a once-promising rookie would be entering the 2nd option year of his rookie contract in 2011, and would be making $2.8M as the backup SF. So, the Clips were happy to move Thornton and Telfair for the expiring contract of Drew Gooden in the three-team deal that got Antawn Jamison from Washington to Cleveland. And, it looked like Gooden would agree to a buy-out for this year, just as he did last year with the Kings.
So, in a rather clever maneuver, the Clips moved $5.5M in bad contracts for Marcus Camby’s expiring contract and a player (Thornton), who couldn’t break into the starting line-up well into his 3rd season. And, they ended up moving a PG Telfair for a better PG Steve Blake, they moved a SF Thornton for a SF with an expiring contract Travis Outlaw, and a PF Camby for a PF Gooden who would save them money this year if he agreed to a buy-out. At least that was the way it was supposed to go.
Gooden didn’t get bought out, and moved into the starting PF spot left open by Camby leaving. Gooden’s 15 ppg and 10.3 rpg on 44% shooting has made the lose of Camby barely discernible. Steve Blake isn’t burning up the nets, 4.4 ppg on 39% shooting, but his 8.6 assists per game since joining the team, has him getting more minutes than everyone except the starters. Outlaw isn’t producing the stats that Thornton had but the numbers are close enough that Outlaw is 2nd in minutes off the bench after Blake. One starter and your top 2 bench players, not bad for a move to free up cap space.
Although Gooden and Outlaw didn’t play in the game against the Kings, in the following 3 games against CHA, DET, and PHX the three new acquisitions have had major roles. They combined for 30 ppg, 15 rbg, and 11 apg per game. And, the Clippers went on to win two and might have won the PHX game, if Kaman hadn’t gotten ejected very early in the 3rd quarter for arguing with the ref. So, the Clipper aren’t the same, not even the Clippers we saw eight days ago.
Chris Kaman is still playing at an All-Star pace 18.8 ppg and 11.8 rpg since the trade deadline. Baron Davis is averaging 11 pts, 6 rebs, and 8.3 asts. Eric Gordon is still shooting around his seasonal average of 17 ppg on 46% from the field and just under 40% from 3 pt range. And, Rasual Butler has put up 16 ppg on 9-22 from 3 pt range, over seven 3-point attempts per game in the last 3 games. Kaman and Gooden are dominating the boards, and won the ORBs during the last 3 games 46-35 even with Kaman missing the entire 2nd half of the Phx game.
The changes for the Kings haven’t been as grand, at least not until the injury to JT. And, while there are some who still question trading our best shooter for cap space and an offensive PF with defensive chops, no one can question the good timing, since JT is expected to miss 2 to 3 weeks. Landry has performed as advertised, averaging 16 pts while doing a good job defending a couple of the top PFs in the West in Amare and Boozer. But, unfortunately, his rebounding has also been as advertised at only 5.5 per game.
With the departure Martin, the big question was how would we replace his points. The answer seems to have come from PW, when he moved Beno into the starting rotation. Beno responded with a game high 25 pts, and a new starting line-up seems to have been born. Now, we need to find out if the 3-man guard rotation of Tyreke, Beno, and Cisco can outperform the Clippers rotation of Davis, Gordon & Blake.
Omri’s once outstanding 3pt shoot, has fallen to 32% for the last 2 months, and along with it, his confidence and point contribution. But, Butler doesn’t pose the same defensive challenge that Kirilenko did, so hopefully Omri’s offense will return. Either way his defense and rebounding are essential.
With Beno starting there are very few shooters left on the bench. Cisco isn’t fully recovered and I fear he doesn’t yet possess his shooter's eye. Donte has only played in 3 games since the trade deadline and went 0-4 in two of them. Ime can’t seem to hit open 3’s even from the short corner. And, Noc still thinks we’re playing hot potato instead of basketball, so the ball is never in his hand longer than a 2-count before it clanks off the rim. May, Dorsey and McGuire are long shots to make the team next year, but if any one of them can rebound, they might get extended minutes in this one. So, it doesn’t seem like the reserves will be pulling this one out for us.
The Kings lost the battle of the boards to Utah and still won the game, by eliminating turnovers, only 7 for the game. Spencer doesn’t match up well against Kaman, and Kaman & Gooden should dominate the boards again. So to keep possessions and FGA’s equal, the Kings are going to have to eliminate turnovers again. Spencer and Carl are making their short to midrange jumpers, which should pull their man away from the basket and open the lane for Beno & Tyreke. The Clippers guard line can put up some outstanding numbers, so Tyreke and Beno will need to duplicate their offensive production from the Utah game. Even so the Kings might need a wild card. Maybe Dorsey having a monster game on the boards, or Donte torching the twine, but we’re going to need someone to step up. Time for some Westphal magic.
THE KEY BATTLE
Tyreke Evans vs. Baron Davis. If Beno starts (as expected), we could see plenty of cross-matching with Gordon on Evans and vice versa, but I anticipate Baron and Reke will have a go at each other. I actually think Evans is a better shooter than Davis at this point, a more consistent (if still flawed) defender and a better slasher. But Davis can still set up teammates and finish at the rim, so we could have some highlights here.
When the Other Kevin Martin wins a championship, O Canada! will not be the song of celebration.
6 PM PT tip. Two game threads (6 and 7:15) and a post-gamer (8:45).