Is the Clippers’ bench too deep to win an NBA title?

By: Gabriel Ibrahim 

Jamal Crawford has fueled an outstanding Clippers bench. (Craig Mitchelldyer/US Presswire)

Jamal Crawford has fueled an outstanding Clippers bench. (Craig Mitchelldyer/US Presswire)

The Los Angeles Clippers are on top of the Western Conference and just came off a 18 game winning streak. The streak may have been the best stretch of basketball for the franchise since moving to Southern California in 1978. Chris Paul’s leadership at point guard and Blake Griffin’s development have put the team on a new level this season, but what made the team unbeatable during streak is their bench play.

Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Eric Bledsoe, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf, and even Ryan Hollins have given the Clippers solid minutes throughout the streak. Crawford averages 16.4 points and could take home his second Sixth Man of the Year Award this summer. Bledsoe gives the team extra speed and athleticism. Barnes and Odom bring veteran knowledge and great defense.

The quality play of the Clippers’ bench players allows Vinny Del Negro to rest his starters for long stretches in games. No one on the Clips plays more than 32 minutes a game.

Just for a comparison, the Miami Heat, another very deep team, have 3 players averaging over 32 minutes with Lebron James leading the way with 37 minutes a game. Eleven players play more than ten minutes a game, not including injured veteran point guard Chauncey Billups and swingman Grant Hill. The Clippers, when healthy, have 13 players that can all contribute solid minutes. The depth of the Clippers has created championship hype usually reserved for the Lakers.

But what makes this team exceptional, their depth, might also make them vulnerable in the playoffs. The Clippers might have too many good players. Only two of the past 13 NBA champions have had ten players who each averaged ten minutes a game in the playoffs. Two others had nine players in their playoff rotation.

The rest used eight players, except for the 2001 Lakers who used seven. So the Clippers will have to cut down their rotation by at least three players, more likely four or five, by the start of the playoffs. Del Negro faces the decision of cutting out players and figuring out where those minutes will go. There is where the trouble comes. For example, Matt Barnes plays his best basketball in 19-22 minutes a game so adding or subtracting minutes from his total will affect his play.

There is another option for the Clippers: Roll with the current rotation. Del Negro and his staff could decide to try being the first team to win a championship with a 12 player rotation. I believe the Clippers will cut down their roster as players like Ronny Turiaf regress to their averages, but they will go into the playoffs with the deepest rotation in the league.

Regardless of what happens with the rotation throughout the season, the Clippers will be a championship contender in the Western Conference.




One Comment

  1. Pingback: Is the Clippers’ bench too deep to win an NBA title? | JockSpin Sports Aggregator

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *