The 2014-15 season was an interesting one for the Los Angeles Clippers. With a 56-26 record, this season was similar to the 2013-14 season, with a third seed in the West and home court for the first playoff round. In many ways the season was different, however. Doc Rivers actually ran the franchise, acting as President and General Manager in addition to his head coaching duties. While many were satisfied with Doc the coach, few were enthralled with Doc the G.M. While Doc is firmly entrenched as the undisputed leader, more people feel that the Clippers would be better served with a true General Manager.
The Clippers have a solid nucleus with All-Stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. Griffin did not have as spectacular a season as in 2013-14 where he was third in the MVP voting, but he did improve his all around game. No longer just an inside player, Griffin has improved his range out to the 3 point line and is one of the best passing big men in the league. CP3 runs the team like his life depends on it. His assist to turnover ratio is again the best in the league, and he is solid on the defensive end as well. DeAndre Jordan had another good year as the starting center and was one of the best rebounders and defensive players in the league, as well as ranking among the leaders in blocked shots. It’s not certain if the Clippers can win a title with Jordan, but they won’t win it without him. SG J.J. Redick is a perfect fit in this offense with his constant motion and outside shooting touch. Matt Barnes is a hard worker and defensive stalwart at the SF spot.
The biggest problem spot last season was the Clippers bench, which many blamed on Doc the G.M. The bench was not deep to begin with and Doc made some mistakes. Signing Jordan Farmar to be the backup PG (replacing Darren Collison who was excellent in 2013-14) was a serious downgrade and Farmar did not even last the season. Doc used his mid-level exception on Spencer Hawes which also didn’t workout as Hawes was part of the recent Lance Stephenson trade. Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu were back for another season, but less effective than the previous year. Doc also gave away a future first round pick just to get rid of Jared Dudley, who was another subpar bench player last season. Doc also traded for his son Austin, who was toiling in obscurity with New Orleans. He did not make the bench any stronger, but was better in the playoffs. The worst move may have been waiving Joe Ingles before the season to keep rookie Jared Cunningham. Cunningham didn’t last long and Ingles (who Doc wanted to hide on waivers and reclaim him) was picked up by Utah and provided bench help for the Jazz that the Clippers so desperately needed. The only constant off the bench all year was 6th man Jamal Crawford, who also missed some time late in the season and wasn’t 100 percent for the playoffs.
The Clippers sustained solid play throughout the regular season despite losing Blake Griffin for three weeks during the stretch run. Chris Paul picked up the slack while Griffin was out and the Clippers ended the season in 3rd place in the tough Western Conference. Despite having home court for the first round they ended up having to play the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. In a grueling seven game series, the Clippers took it by wining a tough game at home to knock out the defending champs. In the second round they played the number two seed Houston Rockets. Without home court the Clippers played their best ball of the year and opened up a three game to one lead against the shell-shocked Rockets. MVP candidate James Harden woke up and the Rockets won game five at the Toyota Center. No worries, game six was at Staples where the Clippers opened up a nineteen point lead late in the third quarter and looked to have the series clinched. The Rockets made a great comeback, won the game with their bench before taking game seven in Houston. What should have been a Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors ended up being another second round exit and playoff disappointment.
What does the future hold for the Clippers? It’s hard to say as DeAndre Jordan is a free agent that must be re-signed if the Clippers expect to continue as a contender. Their depleted bench was hit even further with the trade for Lance Stephenson, as they gave up Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes. Now along with a better bench, they need a new starting small forward. Thursday the Clippers unveiled their new jerseys and logos. Let the Steve Ballmer era begin!