Team Preview #25: Los Angeles Clippers
by Eric Wong AKA Roto EvilSeptember 5th, 2008
LAST SEASONThe Clippers were a miserable 23-59, and missed the Playoffs for the 10th time in 11 years. Of course, it didn't help that Elton Brand missed 90% of the season. How bad were they? The Clips finished 27th in rebounds (40.1), 28th in threes made (4.3), 29th in 3P% (32.4%), 29th in FG% (43.8%), and 29th in scoring (93.8).
OFFSEASON MOVESKey Additions: Baron Davis, Marcus Camby, Ricky Davis, J. Williams, E. Gordon, B. Skinner, J. Hart
Key Losses: Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, Quinton Ross, S. Livingston, B. Knight, J. Powell, D. Dickau
The other L.A. team added a whopping 10 new faces to their roster over the summer. The loss of Elton Brand cannot be fully compensated for, but the signing of superstar Baron Davis was a real coup for a team with a just deserved reputation of being cheap and driving away top free agents. Their new point guards (Baron, Jason Williams, Jason Hart, Mike Taylor) will be a major improvement over last season (Sam Cassell, Brevin Knight, Dan Dickau, Smush Parker).
Adding Camby for next to nothing was a sweet deal, and Ricky Davis is an excellent (read: much cheaper) replacement for Maggette. To replace Josh Powell, the Clippers added veteran big man Brian Skinner, who played for them from '98-01. In the draft, they selected 6-3 shooting guard Eric Gordon at #7, and 20-year old center DeAndre Jordan at #35. Gordon is a scoring machine, but he can't play defense like Q-Ross.
ROTATION / PLAYING TIMENo question, this is now Baron Davis' team, so mark him down for 36-38 minutes at point guard, while Jay-Will & J-Hart battle to be his backup. Joining Baron in the backcourt is Cuttino Mobley, who just turned 33 a few days ago. He averaged 35 mpg last season, but with more depth, you can expect that number to fall to 30-32 for '08-09. I'm projecting the former Hoosier Gordon to get 10-12 minutes backing him up.
Al Thornton had a solid rookie season (12.7 points in 27.4 mpg) and is expected to start at small forward. I was projecting big minutes for him until L.A. added Marcus & Ricky. Now I think he'll hover around 28-30 mpg. Ricky Davis could challenge for a starting spot, but will likely be the team's leading scorer off the bench instead. If he accepts his new role, he could get 30+ minutes and be one of the league's top 6th men.
After years of playing center, Marcus Camby will slide over to power forward this season. He's 34 years old, but you can still expect 34 solid minutes from him. Kaman saw 37.2 minutes of action last season and enjoyed a breakout season in Brand's absence, but that number will likely fall to 35-36 thanks to improved depth. Skinner is a very capable backup center, and he and Camby will make sure this team finishes better than 27th in rebounding. The odd man out appears to be Tim Thomas, who scored 12.4 points in 30.8 mpg last season. Until someone gets injured, TT will likely struggle to average more than 15 minutes per game.
BE CAREFUL OF: Al ThorntonThornton was thrown into the fire as a rookie and performed fairly well, earning 1st team All-Rookie honors. In 31 starts, he averaged 15.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, .7 steals, .65 blocks, and .6 threes in 35.5 minutes while shooting 42.6% FG and 76.2% FT. Since he's likely to improve to in his 2nd season, you can see why a lot of people like him. After Elton Brand bounced to Philly, I liked him too, but then the Clippers traded for Marcus Camby, signed Ricky Davis, and signed Brian Skinner.
While Skinner won't steal minutes from Al directly, he and Kaman will push Camby into the power forward slot. This is key, because Thornton played the majority of his minutes at PF last season. So Al will have to get most of his minutes at small forward this season, but the addition of Ricky Davis is going to cramp his style. Davis can play shooting guard as well, but Mobley & Gordon are already there, which means that Thornton will struggle to get 32+ minutes unless there's an injury.
Even when the former Seminole got 35+ minutes, he wasn't a great fantasy player. Sure, he can score in bunches, but he shoots a poor % from the field (without hitting a lot of threes to make up for it), doesn't get a ton of steals or blocks, and rarely passes the ball. As I said, he pulled down a respectable 6 boards per game in 31 starts, but do you think he'll even come close to that number with Camby & Baron (the top rebounding PG after Kidd) now in town? Some people are projecting him as a Top 100 fantasy player, but I say he'll struggle to crack the Top 150.
DON'T SLEEP ON: Ricky DavisNot too long ago, Stephen Jackson was considered a talented team cancer with a bad temper and a penchant for getting into trouble. But then he hooked up with Baron Davis & Don Nelson, became a LEADER, and immediately turned into one of the most versatile and valuable players in the league. Similarly, Ricky Davis has gotten a rep for being a selfish player with a bad attitude. He doesn't turn 29 until later this month, but the Clippers will be his 8th NBA team. But if there's one superstar PG who can help him turn his career around, it's Baron Davis.
Even tho he played in all 82 games and got plenty of PT, last season was a disaster for Ricky Davis & the Miami Heat. As a result, his points, assists, and FG% suffered badly. Due to his poor '07-08 stats and the fact that he'll likely come off the bench this season, Davis could fall far in your fantasy draft. But just like Stephen Jackson, Ricky Davis is capable of putting up excellent all-around numbers, so don't be afraid of this "team cancer."
*Thanks to long-time Clipper fan John L. for the assist, altho he likes Thornton much more than I do.
ROUND BY ROUND TARGETS(Where you should draft these guys in an 8-cat Roto league with 12 teams and 14 man rosters)
B. Davis: Late 1st - 2nd