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Clippers Say Goodbye to Blake Griffin as Franchise Remains in Flux

| Sports | February 8, 2018

To say the Los Angeles Clippers are cleaning house would be an understatement. The franchise has gone through a thorough facelift, leaving the team almost unrecognizable from last year. In fact, only Deandre Jordan, Austin Rivers, and Wesley Johnson remain from the 2016-2017 roster.

Blake Griffin, who was the face of the franchise since being drafted in 2009, was surprisingly jettisoned from Los Angeles to Detroit on January 30th, along with Brice Johnson and Willie Reed. In return, the Clippers received prolific, scoring small forward Tobias Harris and defensive stalwart Avery Bradley. The Pistons also parted ways with fan favorite Boban Marjanovic, as well as a first and second round draft pick.

Although the draft picks are good assets to have in case a trade comes along, the most immediate impact of this trade comes from Harris and Bradley. The two have already entered the starting lineup, which now consists of Jordan, Harris, Bradley, Milos Teodosic, and Danilo Gallinari, who has returned from injury.

Predicting this lineup would have been impossible before the beginning of the season. While this version of the Clippers seems a little strange, the results have, so far, been promising. Los Angeles is 2-1 since the trade, their only loss coming against the Trailblazers, when the Clippers were without Bradley and Harris.

Los Angeles has gone on a two-game winning streak since inserting the two players into the starting lineup. It must be mentioned that the competition level hasn’t been exactly top-tier, as the Clippers have defeated the Chicago Bulls (18-35 overall), and the Dallas Mavericks (17-37 overall) in this two-game span. This isn’t to take away from Bradley’s and Harris’ impact; in fact, the Clippers are putting up slightly better defensive and offensive numbers with both in the lineup.

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Bradley made a name for himself in Boston as one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. Although he struggled in Detroit, he appears to be bringing the same level of defensive intensity that he did with the Celtics. In his two games, he has registered a defensive rating of 104.4 points per 100 possessions, good for third on the team.

Harris, who had a 109.3 defensive rating in Detroit, has dialed in on defense since joining Los Angeles, obtaining a defensive rating of 102.5 points per 100 possessions, second only to Jordan. Both his and Bradley’s contributions on the defensive end have not gone unnoticed. The Clippers all season have allowed opposing offenses to post 107 points per game. In Bradley and Harris’ two starts, that number has dropped to 102.

Los Angeles was expecting to get immediate offensive help from Harris, and he has not disappointed on that side of the ball either. He is currently second on the team in points-per-game, with 21.5, hitting 49 percent of his field goals, and 36 percent of the 3-pointers.

Bradley’s offense is taking a little more time to come into its own with the Clippers. He only scored eight points against the Bulls, and 12 against the Mavericks. However, he is scoring efficiently, shooting 53 percent from the field. In Bradley and Harris’ two starts, Los Angeles is scoring 108 points per game, one point higher than the 107 they have been averaging for the season.

The Clippers’ next game is potentially the biggest of the season. They square off with the Detroit Pistons on Friday, the first time Los Angeles will have to play against Blake Griffin since the trade.
At this time, it appears that both teams have benefited, as Detroit has embarked on a four-game win streak since Griffin joined the fold, although he didn’t play in the team’s 125-114 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pistons now sit one game outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Griffin, in his three games, is already Detroit’s leading scorer, providing 20 points per game. He is also their leading assist man with six per game. In the three games with Griffin in the starting lineup, the Pistons are scoring 108 points per game after averaging 103 for the season. The team already played solid defense, allowing opponents to score 102 points per game for the year, and have found a way to improve that number with the addition of Griffin, holding opponents to an average of 100 points per game with him in the starting five.

When the Clippers travel to Detroit, Los Angeles fans may feel like they’re watching a basketball game from a parallel universe. This is how hard it is to fathom Griffin on any team other than the Clippers. It appears consultant Jerry West, who most recently helped construct the current Golden State Warriors, is trying to build an even better version of the Clippers that once boasted Griffin, Chris Paul, and J.J. Redick.

Although Bradley and Harris have made immediate contributions to Los Angeles, it is somewhat disappointing that West’s vision of the Clippers doesn’t include Griffin. It’s an end of an era once dubbed “Lob City,” and although that rendition never made it past the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, they brought the Clippers to relevancy, and created possibly one of the most fun teams in NBA history. This fact will never be lost to the fans of the franchise, no matter how much success the Clippers see in the future.

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About Keir Chapman

Keir Chapman began his career in sports journalism as Sports Director for iCLU Radio in Thousand Oaks. After graduating from California Lutheran University in 2013, Keir used his experiences as a writer and a college basketball player in a weekly blog for the New York based athletic gear company, True Athelite. Now, Keir makes weekly appearances on the Doug and John show on KHTS as Mr. Sports and is happy to contribute to the Santa Clarita Gazette.

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