Jazz Jam Session: Part 2 with Clippers Steve!

NBA Preseason 2012-2013, Game 6:

Los Angeles Clippers (2-2) @ Utah Jazz (3-2)

Jazz Jam Session #2

Here are some more questions with our favorite Clippers blogger from Clips Nation -- Clipper Steve!

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Amar -- 1. I enjoyed watching the halfcourt sets that would develop off of the pick and roll last season. I've seen a few Pick and Rolls in my life, so I kinda appreciate them on a different level. While a number of the threes the Clippers took (and made!) were in transition, I felt like the willingness to pass by all parties in the halfcourt made threes off the P&R something more than just an option. Defenses had to overplay on your stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. And with Paul, the lob to a third party is always a serious threat. This allowed for a TON of spot up threes. In fact, I think the Clippers were #3 in Spot up Threes last year. I think that's the fantastic, natural evolution of the game. In a way, it's a smart step beyond what the Jazz were running in the late 90's. Who deserves more of the credit for this -- Chris Paul, or the auxiliary passers?

Steve -- This is a great question, and I don't know that I can answer it definitively. I'll start with an aside which is to say that the one area where the Clippers are clearly not as strong this season as last is three point shooting. Mo Williams and Randy Foye made a ton of threes last season, and they're both gone (I forget where they wound up; some NBA backwater no doubt) -- Nick Young made a bunch after he joined the team. Other than Chauncey Billups, there's no one on the roster you really consider a knock down three point shooter, and who knows what will happen with Chauncey returning from injury. They have lots of guys who are capable of making threes, but beyond Billups, no one great. So you've touched on what I think may be a weakness of the team this year.

Back to your question, if the spacing is good, the Chris Paul pick and roll, combined with the post up ability of Griffin and the threat of Jordan at the rim, all works like a vacuum sucking defenders into the paint. If the spacing is good, folks are going to get clean looks, and it's not really that tough a pass. So I'd basically give credit to the basic set up -- there are a lot of things in place that will create open perimeter looks. Which is why I'm a little disappointed that the Clippers don't have more shooters with deep range. As it happens, they have many more playmakers capable of making good passes this season -- Grant Hill, Lamar Odom and Jamal Crawford can all create. This team will get all the open perimeter looks it wants; what they may not have enough of is the spot up shooters to knock them down.

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2. The evolution of the PF spot seems to be primarily dictated by ever increasing efficacy from farther and farther away. Guys like Rasheed Wallace, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Love have legit three point games. Blake looks like he has worked on his shot quite a bit, and it's a great compliment. However, I'd love to see him remain a back to the basket scorer. He's big. He's strong. He'll dominate inside with his athleticism. What's your ideal split for his shot attempts by location? Do you think I'm crazy to have him be a 'throwback' and avoid shooting jumpers?

I haven't done the leg work to look up the stats on this (you probably know better than I) but my impression of Karl Malone is that later in his career he was getting the vast majority of his offense from mid range jumpers. He turned into a deadly shooter from 18-20 feet, and he killed people from there. I don't think Blake Griffin is ever going to be that guy. He needs the jumper to keep defenses honest -- the ensure they don't just back five feet off him and take away his drive. But I don't think Blake should be exclusively a back to the basket guy either. For one thing, there's just a ton of wear and tear in that style. For another, Blake has a massive quickness advantage over most power forwards, and he's got a great handle as well. He can face up and beat most fours off the dribble if they have to play him honestly. So he has to keep working on the jump shot to the point where an open 15 footer is money, if only to set up his opportunities to drive.

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3. Last game was quirky in a lot of ways. One of the biggest surprises to me was DeAndre Jordan's meltdown at the line. Last season he was better than 50/50 at the line. What do you think is a reasonable rate for him to make free throws at this season, and if he does not reach it, does he present a problem down the stretch of close games? (A la: Hack a Shaq?)

Sigh. DeAndre is working with the Clippers new shooting coach, Bob Thate, and he completely reworked his free throw mechanics during the offseason. What's interesting is that, unlike a Shaq or an Andris Biedrins, Jordan actually looks pretty good at the line -- the results are just terrible. If you look at his splits last season, he was 63 percent in April (though he did backslide a lot in May and the playoffs, in relatively few attempts), so it SEEMED like he was getting there, and then they decided to start over. It's normal to get worse before you get better when you start over like this, which helps to explain his epic struggles in the preseason so far. But I don't have a warm fuzzy feeling about where this is headed -- not this season, anyway. I'd be happy if he achieved 60% this season (which would be a career high) -- but even then, the Popoviches and Mark Jacksons of the world will employ the hack-a-Jordan (a strategy I hate, and which backfires as often as not in my estimation).

Thanks again Clippers Steve! Check out Clips Nation Clips Nation for all your Clips info!!

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