Are these 2012-13 Los Angeles Clippers well, to put it bluntly, the best Clippers team ever?
Given the relative struggles of the maligned franchise, this isn’t that much of a hyperbolic statement. Really.
Through nine games — yes, I realize nine games represents approximately 11 percent of the NBA’s regular season — the Clippers are among among the top five teams in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The only team to accomplish that feat last season was the Chicago Bulls.
This is encouraging news as the detriment of the athletically gifted Clippers squad, albeit creatively inept, predicated in their 18th ranked defense. San Antonio scored 110.3 points per 100 possessions with little difficulty in their four-game sweep of the Clippers.
The Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan frontcourt combination struggled to form a solid base in which the backcourt could consistently rely on to impede opposing guards. The athleticism is there but there is a bit of cognitive disconnect that is preventing the two from forming a deadly combination that can cover a ton of ground and, most importantly, help at the correct time.
As it stands, Griffin and Jordan are earning the majority of minutes in the Clippers’ third-ranked defense. Both are currently producing career high defensive ratings, which estimates the amount of points they allow per 100 possessions.
The underpinning of the entire Clippers offense — point guard Chris Paul — has been a prevalent member of the offense, which has scored 109.4 points per 100 possessions and is shooting at a league-high 49.5 percent from the field. The five-time All-Star has nailed 46.2 percent of his attempts in the pick-and-roll, good for 0.94 points per possession.
Jamal Crawford, whose staking an early claim for Sixth Man of the Year, is currently ninth in player efficiency rating (24.9), seventh in true shooting percentage (.683) and 10th in points per game (20.5) despite averaging fewer than 30 minutes. Adjusted for 36 minutes, generally starter minutes, and Crawford is besting his second most prolific scoring season — the 2009-10 season with Atlanta — by nearly six points per 36 minutes.
So what should we make of these Clippers, who are first in the Pacific division with a 7-2 record? Given that five of their seven victories are via legitimate contenders like Memphis, Miami, San Antonio, Chicago and the Lakers — by an average of 13.8 points, no less — there shouldn’t be a question.
These Clippers are good. Perhaps good enough to eventually become the best Clippers team ever.
Where to watch: The game will be shown on Fox Sports Southwest (FSSW) in San Antonio, FSN Prime Ticket (PRIME) in Los Angeles and NBA League Pass at 7:30 p.m. CST. It will also air on stations 1200 WOAI and 1350 KCOR in Spanish.
Injury report: Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps tendinitis) is out.
Gary Neal (finger laceration) will return after missing two consecutive games.
Chauncey Billups (Achilles), Grant Hill (right knee) and Trey Thompkins (left knee) are out.