|2011-12 Team Rating|
|4th Overall||22nd Overall|
Stats through Feb. 16
Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Caron Butler works. Griffin and anyone works, of course, but Jordan is good enough on defense and the boards to make an impact without getting shots, and Butler is an important scoring punch.
Losing Chauncey Billups' championship presence is a blow and finding a dependable replacement at shooting guard has been a problem. But Chris Paul is one of the best bets to unseat midseason leader LeBron James for MVP.
The Clippers have not merely struggled. They have regressed from last season's encouraging numbers, a surprise considering the evidence that the arrival of Paul along with Griffin and Jordan back for their second season as starters would mean improvements.
Getting a reserve big man was a priority as the season opened, and the Clippers signed Kenyon Martin. Billups and Eric Bledsoe went down with injury, and L.A. looked great for keeping Mo Williams. Strong decisions.
Vinny Del Negro moved on to the hot seat the instant the Paul trade went through, but he has done well at meshing the roster on the fly. That aspect cannot be overvalued.
The preseason potential has turned into the actual. Even with a roster yet to have a chance to settle in -- the Paul trade during camp, the Martin signing, the Billups injury, the pursuit of J.R. Smith -- the Clippers have instantly become factors in the West, with the real possibility of turning into favorites.
Improvements on defense, the difference to an overall A grade, will be required to make that next step. This isn't a bad place to be at midseason, though, not when the former lottery regulars are challenging for a top-five record in the league and not close to playing their best.
-- Scott Howard-Cooper
Explanation of Marking System
|Golden State Warriors||C-|
|Los Angeles Clippers||B|
|Los Angeles Lakers||B-|
|New Jersey Nets||D|
|New Orleans Hornets||F|
|New York Knicks||C+|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||A|
|Portland Trail Blazers||B-|
|San Antonio Spurs||A|