Revitalized Clippers hitting their stride
So far, the Clippers’ “second season” has looked a lot better than their first.
On Jan. 29, the Clippers franchise flipped upside-down, when LA traded its face to the Detroit Pistons for three unfamiliar faces and a few draft picks.
But the acclimation to life without Blake Griffin has been a speedy process, sparked by the play of Tobias Harris – one of the new faces from Detroit – as well as the rejuvenation of DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams, and the emergence of Montrezl Harrell.
And if the Clippers – sparked by their unique mixture of a young and veteran core – continue their current streak, the team could ride its recent wave right into the playoffs.
The Clippers’ season has gone in a different direction since the arrival of Harris, along with Avery Bradley and Boban Marjanovic (and what looks like it will be a good first round draft pick conveyed by Detroit). LA has won 12 of its 16 games since the trio first suited up and is currently the seventh seed in the Western Conference.
Surprisingly for most, it was the exit of Griffin that opened the door for the Clippers’ recent success, starting with Harris.
Harris and Griffin served as the key components of this NBA season’s biggest blockbuster swap. Bradley played in six games after his arrival, but is currently sidelined due to adductor/abdominal surgery. Marjanovic has won the hearts of fans and teammates alike, and produced in his minutes on-court, but is slowly working his way into the team’s rotation. Harris is the only one of the three that has played and started in every game since making the jump from the Pistons.
Over those 16 games, in which the Clippers are 12-4, Harris ranks second on the team in points per game (19.8 ppg) in a team-high 35.2 minutes per game. He is first on the team in three-point percentage (41.3) for players that take more than one three per game, and he is third in field goal percentage (48.0), trailing only Harrell (69.3) and Jordan (60.9). He is also second on the team in rebounds per game (6.9) and first in steals (1.38).
Harris has scored 20+ points in nine of those 16 games and has only scored less than 10 once.
Griffin and the Pistons have not found similar success, going 7-11 since the departure of Harris, Bradley and Marjanovic.
The past month and a half has also seen somewhat of a resurgence from Jordan, who earlier this season became the longest tenured player in franchise history. Prior to the trade, Jordan averaged 11.8 points and 14.9 rebounds, and the Clippers posted a 25-25 record. But in the last 16 games, Jordan has averaged 13.2 points and 16.4 rebounds per game.
Over the last month, Jordan has registered the two highest scoring games of his career. On Feb. 14 at Boston, he scored a career-high 30 points, and on Tuesday at Chicago, he scored 29, tied for the second highest single-game scoring output of his career.
Jordan has also notched four 20-rebound games in the Clippers last 13 games, and has had 17 or more rebounds in 10 of the last 13.
Possibly the player most affected by the Clippers midseason trade is forward Montrezl Harrell, who has seen his minutes and production soar in recent weeks.
In the first 50 games of the season, Harrell amassed six DNPs and averaged 8.8 points in 13.6 minutes per game, mostly in a backup role for Griffin and Jordan. But since the Griffin trade, Harrell has transformed into one of the team’s greatest offensive weapons.
Harrell has scored in double figures in 13 of the last 16 games and in 10 consecutive games. He has also scored 20 or more in three of the last seven games.
Lastly, Harrell is averaging 14.4 points in 18.0 minutes per game over the last 16, while shooting 69.3 percent from the field. The only qualifying players averaging more than Harrell off the bench over the past 16 are Chicago forward Bobby Portis (16.3), Los Angeles Lakers guard Isaiah Thomas (16.5), and of course, Clippers guard Lou Williams (22.1).
Regardless of the Clippers’ midseason moves, Williams is having the best season of his career, and in the last 16 games, he’s kept up his career-best production.
Since the Clippers’ Dec. 29 deal, Williams is averaging 22.1 points and 6.0 assists in 33.5 minutes per game. He’s scored 20 or more in 12 of those games.
LA will take on Houston and Oklahoma City in a crucial road back-to-back on Thursday and Friday, with all three teams vying for playoff positioning. And although Houston has won 12 straight on its home floor and OKC has won four of its last five, the Clippers have won 11 of their last 14 on the road.
One team’s fortunes will change by the end of this week. But when it comes to fortune, it’s been in the Clippers’ corner for weeks.
The answer to whether it remains there will be answered by Friday.