When the Los Angeles Clippers signed Josh Smith, Paul Pierce and Wes Johnson, while trading for Lance Stephenson, I thought they were title contenders. I even wrote and article to demonstrate my point. However, through the NBA season so far, they have been absolutely nothing but disappointing. The team that I believed would be a powerhouse this season and challenge the Golden State Warriors for the NBA title is languishing at 7th in the Western Conference. They hold just a 7-7 record, a record that is worse than the Dallas Mavericks, who had to scrape the bottom of the barrel for free agents after losing out on DeAndre Jordan, to these Los Angeles Clippers. I don't think that the way they're going now is the type of play that they need to turn this thing around. So it's time for a few changes. Here are a few quick suggestions to Doc Rivers:
Play Pablo Prigioni Ahead Of Austin Rivers
The Clippers signed Pablo Prigioni to basically a minimum salary contract in the offseason. At the time I assumed that he would play backup point guard. He is a good, consistent shooter. He passes the ball well and has been around basketball for a long time as he is already 38 years old. Prigioni doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective either. Prigioni can be just as good as an off-ball guy as he is on-ball. This makes him the perfect back up point guard for the Clippers as a majority of their other players are ball dominant. From Lance Stephenson, to Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul, these guys need the ball in their hands, otherwise they will be wasted.
So why then has Pablo Prigioni only played in 5 games this year? I'll give you two words: coach's son. Yep, that's right, the man playing back up point guard is Austin Rivers. A guy that plays decent defense (yet has somehow become their defensive wing stopper. How the hell did that happen Doc?), shoots poorly with awful shot selection and although he plays point guard, averaged a solitary assist per game. Don't give me the "Oh, he doesn't play point guard!" Or "Oh, he doesn't play many minutes!" Because that just isn't true. Austin averages 24.1 minutes per game and according to basketball-reference, spends 63% of his time at the one.
What makes Rivers such an awful back up point guard is that he is also ball-dominant. Austin just can't play with Jamal, Lance or CP3, because in order to contribute offensively, he needs to have the ball in his hands and drive to the paint. Not allowing any CP3 pick and rolls, Jamal isos or Lance doing things that only Lance does.
Doc, it's time to end the freak show of your son playing point guard and shooting 24% from three, play Pablo instead and see the results already.
Trade Jamal Crawford
Here's part two of fixing the backcourt rotation:
There is no doubt Jamal Crawford is a good player, in fact he is one of the greatest sixth men ever, but he just doesn't fit in with that second unit. His game is all about taking the ball up and creating shots for himself and teammates. But with Austin Rivers, Lance and CP3 already doing that, is there really a need for a fourth? The simple answer is no.
Not only does he not fit in, he just isn't playing very well at the moment. Crawford is averaging the least amount of points and assists since he arrived in LA. Jamal is also shooting a woeful 38.5% from the field and a career low 29% from the arc. g
His poor shooting takes away the only advantage that he holds over some of his other teammates (LANCE) that could be traded. Other than scoring the ball, Jamal does nothing else. He plays poor defense and isn't a great passer. This means that keeping a different ball-dominant player instead of Crawford will be more beneficial. Someone like Stephenson is a better defender and distributor, making him a seamless fit with the Clippers' second unit.
If the Clips were to trade Crawford, he is such a valued trade chip that they could presumably get something really good in return for him. Maybe a wing defender that could start, that doesn't need the ball in his hands? That would be ideal, but they could also need another big, or if they aren't going to play Prigioni ahead of Austin Rivers, they could swing Crawford for a backup point.
A trade here just makes too much sense.
Let Paul Pierce Take A Holiday For The Rest Of The Regular Season
I'm taking a page out of Gregg Popovich's book here.
Paul Pierce is an NBA legend that is probably on his last set of wheels. He has clearly lost a step, becoming more and more reliant on his savviness to get him baskets and stop opposing players, instead of going to his talent and non-existent athleticism. As a long time Celtics fan, it is painful to watch Pierce and the Clips. He is clearly struggling to keep up with other, youthful players and has looked a touch out of shape.
Despite this, Doc is playing him 22 minutes per game and has begun to start the old fella.
But why? Not only has he been bad this season (5 points, 33% shooting) but the only time Pierce is going to add something to this Clippers team is come playoff time, when the games are twice as important and the Truth can start hitting clutch shots and trash talking more than ever. Just as he did last season with the Wizards.
But until that point, Pierce is less than useless. All Doc is doing right now is wasting away Pierce's legs and piling more miles onto his tattered tires. In my opinion, it would be more beneficial to let Wes Johnson and Lance Stephenson get his small forward minutes and allow Pierce to rest until postseason time, where Pierce proves his worth as a role player.
These aren't extremely difficult things to do, nor are they complicated. But in my opinion, these are the three things that Doc Rivers should do to turn the ship around.