The Golden State Warriors enjoyed a great amount of success during the 2012-13 season against the Los Angeles Clippers, but one wonders if that trend will hold up going into 2013-14.
The 2013 offseason has resulted in numerous roster changes in the Pacific division. The Sacramento Kings have lost Tyreke Evans, Dwight Howard left the Los Angeles Lakers to join the Houston Rockets while the Phoenix Suns acquired Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler from the Clippers.
Golden State on the other hand jettisoned Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush to the Utah Jazz in a move that permitted them to secure the services of Andre Iguodala. In the process, the Warriors said farewell to Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry.
Also, the Dubs made some solid signings during the 2013 summer: Marreese Speights, Toney Douglas and Jermaine O’Neal are now members of the franchise.
The Warriors won 47 games in 2012-13 and will look to surpass that win total in 2013-14 with the personnel moves they have made. In attempting to do so, flexing their muscles against the Clippers once again might be necessary.
Golden State defeated their divisional rival in three of their four head-to-head battles. Their lone defeat against the Clips was a 26-point shellacking at Staples Center.
Nonetheless, their three victories against a 56-win team were impressive in their own right. Worth noting, the Warriors averaged a double-digit scoring margin in the two victories at Oracle Arena against the Clippers.
Chris Paul and company enjoyed a huge bench advantage throughout the 2012-13 campaign against the league. Their second unit either kept them in games or simply blew the doors open against the opposition’s reserves.
That advantage was nullified against the Dubs though. Jack was perhaps the best backup point guard in 2012-13 and Landry was one of the top big men off the bench during the same stretch. Plugged in with a few starters, they gave the Clips fits and more than stood their ground against the Clippers’ bench mob.
Matt Barnes posted a minus-10.8 rating versus Golden State while Bledsoe was within proximity at minus-7.8. Even Ronny Turiaf who averaged a mere 11.3 minutes per game against the Dubs was porous as evidenced by his minus-11.7 rating.
Put it all together and one of Lob City’s biggest strengths became a glaring weakness against Golden State. That spoke to the Clippers’ offensive challenges with Paul resting.
Vinny Del Negro’s offensive system was far too reliant on the exploits of Paul and when he exited games, his team struggled. The Clippers’ go-to move was to turn up the defensive pressure and force turnovers whenever their best player took a breather.
Del Negro’s pressure defense was good enough to stymie some teams in the league and create a plethora of transition opportunities, but not the Warriors. NBA.com’s advanced stats tool tells us Los Angeles surrendered 112.6 points per 100 possessions with Paul sitting on the bench against Golden State in 2012-13.
In other words, the Warriors became by far the best offense in the league — yes, better than the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat — when the former New Orleans Hornet watched the game from the sidelines.
In addition, the Clipper offense literally fell off a cliff (Cliff Paul?) against the Dubs without their best player. The previously cited plus-minus stats of the bench players speak to that but there is a better indicator that illustrates this.
NBA.com’s advanced stats tool tells us Lob City stopped lobbing without Paul and scored an anemic 92.3 points per 100 possessions against the Warriors. The 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats scored at an identical rate.
It seems pertinent to mention that Charlotte team is the owner of the worst winning percentage in NBA history. And yet, despite the Warriors’ roster moves, it certainly seems as though Golden State will no longer enjoy these advantages against their divisional foes.
The Clippers now have a head coach that has boasted a top-five defense since 2007-08. Granted, Kevin Garnett may have had something to do with that, but one can only wonder if Doc Rivers will reproduce that kind of stinginess in Los Angeles.
The Celtics’ offense offered mixed reviews under Rivers’ watch but there is a belief that some of his sets coupled with his adjustments and out of timeout plays will give the Clipper offense a dynamic it sorely lacked in previous seasons.
Furthermore, the franchise has added seemingly every rotation player they could get their hands on. They have acquired J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley and Darren Collison to help bolster their perimeter defense and shooting.
Byron Mullens also signed with the Clippers in a move that comes with a lot of intrigue. He has not shot the ball well throughout his career, but then again he has never played with a setup man like Paul. Keep in mind, he also possesses 3-point range.
This is not to suggest the Clippers are going to run the Warriors off the floor in 2013-14, but the matchup certainly is much more compelling going forward.
One of these teams will more than likely win the division and the journey certainly promises some intrigue.
And a lot of entertainment as well…
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