The Clippers have always had the offensive weapons.
Chris Paul can make any offense look incredibly strong with his playmaking ability. Pair him with Blake Griffin on the break or pick and roll and offense is going to be pretty easy. Add in Matt Barnes, J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley and even Byron Mullens with the ability to shoot, this is going to be a great offensive team.
That has proven true.
Offense does not win championships. The Clippers brought in Doc Rivers to bring that extra edge. Particularly on the defensive end. He would bring something that Vinny Del Negro did not. Namely, championship experience and the gravitas to get young players not used to playing championship-level defense to do that.
At the quarter pole of the season, the process is still ongoing for the Clippers. According to Basketball-Reference, Los Angeles sits at eighth in the league in defensive rating, giving up 103.1 points per 100 possessions. It has been a major improvement for the team from the beginning of the season as it settles in to this new mentality.
"That's all you want [for gusy to compete]," Rivers said before a November loss in Orlando as Los Angeles was still piecing itself together. "It's a team defense to begin with. i don't expect you to go out and shut down LeBron. Obviously no one is doing a very good job of that around the league. But team-wise, you can be a good team defense. All that requires is you to be in the right spot. When someone says they can't be a good defender, I don't buy that. You can always be in the right spot, now whether you can defend or not, that's a whole different subject."
Rivers certainly had to sell guys on solid team defense. It took a little while for the Clippers to find their footing.
Decidedly they have now. A top-10 defense is almost a pre-requisite to competing for a championship in the NBA these days. The Clippers meet that criteria.
And Los Angeles already has an elite offense. The Clippers are fourth in the league with a 108.5 offensive rating. This is all right now without offensive weapons like J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes (more of a defensive guy) and Reggie Bullock. Doc Rivers has already been able to fill in and fit guys into his rotation and keep the train moving, as Monday's win over the Spurs displayed.
Defense though will be what defines whether the Clippers will make a push for the championship. That is the sole reason Doc Rivers was brought in. There are no concerns the team will be able to score.
However, it was in the Playoffs where the team's defense and scoring let the team down. Defense is the constant for Playoff teams when the game slows down. Right now the Clippers are learning their defensive system.
"Everybody has their own defensive system, their own rotations and it's not just use but the trust word is the number one thing," Rivers said. "Trust and habits, once we get that I think we'll be OK."