The Clippers made major upgrades to their bench this summer, bringing in Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith and Cole Aldrich. But they’re still looking around for depth, and the Los Angeles Times‘ Brad Turner reports that they’ve had discussions with three-year veteran forward Chris Singleton:
Singleton hasn’t played in the NBA since 2013-14, and hasn’t really proven himself to be a consistent rotation player. It couldn’t hurt to give him a training camp invite, but if the Clippers are looking to add another player that might stick around beyond training camp, the one position they’re still a little thin at is point guard. Beyond Chris Paul, their main options are Pablo Prigioni and Austin Rivers, neither of whom is really a viable full-time backup. Signing Singleton wouldn’t really help them there, but they could do worse if they’re just looking for bodies for camp.
Doc Rivers the GM tied the hands of Doc Rivers the coach last season — their lack of depth caught up with the Clippers. Players emptied their tanks into beating the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, then got up 3-1 on the Rockets with a big lead in the second half of Game 5 — then just ran out of gas. Houston played better and played desperate, but the Clippers had energy left to match them.
This summer Doc the GM did well. The Clippers added Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith, Pablo Prigioni, Cole Aldrich and others who can take some pressure off a Clipper starting five that played 972 minutes more than any other Clippers lineup last season.
Blake Griffin, for one, is pumped that he will get to sit more. He told Rowan Cavner of the Clippers’ official site why it matters.
“It’ll help a lot,” Griffin said. “My third season in the league when we had that unbelievable bench, I think I dropped to like 32 minutes a game in the regular season…You definitely feel fresher toward the end, but you have to find that right balance of not holding back too much, being able to give everything. Having an elite bench is going to help us tremendously, especially come playoff time.”
Last season Griffin averaged 35.2 minutes a game to lead the Clippers, while (because they didn’t miss much time due to injuries) Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan were both in the top seven in the league in total minutes played. In his third season, Griffin did play “just” 32.5 minutes a night, the lowest in his career.
As Griffin notes, for the Clippers it is all about being right come the playoffs.
Doc Rivers is not afraid to rest players, and now he can do it and still win, still get a high seed. Do that and the Clippers are serious title contenders.
The challenge is there are at least four other teams in the West alone that can make that claim.
The Clippers have been pretty good the last four seasons, going 40-26, 56-26, 57-25 and 56-26 the last four seasons. But they’ve also won only one, zero, one and one playoff series in that span.
What do they need to get over the hump?
Newly acquired Clippers guard Lance Stephenson, via Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times:
“They’re just missing that guy that’s tough and doesn’t bow down to no one,” Stephenson said of the Clippers.
I suppose Stephenson thinks he’s that guy.
But I don’t think the Clippers had a huge need for that guy. Matt Barnes, traded for Stephenson, was pretty tough. So is Chris Paul. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have made huge gains in that area.
The Clippers need a better bench. More to the point, they need Stephenson to play closer to his final season with the Pacers than his lone season with the Hornets. If he does, he’ll provide a huge boost as a reserve.
Stephenson’s toughness is a nice asset and a big part of who he is. But his productivity is questionable – and that’s what the Clippers really need.
The could also use someone who doesn’t alienate his new teammates by saying they aren’t tough enough. I’m not sure Stephenson is off to the best start.
If he plays well, though, I’m sure everyone will forgive and forget.