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2015-16 NBA Preview: The Clips Add Depth To Survive The West

We’re inaugurating our NBA player projection system, CARMELO, with 2015-16 season previews for every team in the league. Check out the teams we’ve already previewed here. Learn more about CARMELO here.

The Los Angeles Clippers had a busy (and weird) summer! They beefed up with veteran Paul Pierce and the tantalizingly erratic talents of Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith. And beyond the new additions, the Clips scored a dramatic coup in keeping DeAndre Jordan after he verbally agreed to sign with the Dallas Mavericks. Doc Rivers — entering his third season as head coach and second as de facto general manager — is hoping the off-season moves fixed two glaring problems that thwarted the team’s Finals ambitions last year: a paper-thin bench and a lack of wing defenders.

The added depth will help, but the team will still be carried by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. And the Clip offense will again be among the NBA’s best. Our CAMELO-based projections have the Clippers going 55-27. That’s a damn good record, but the Clips have been there, and their defense still looks mediocre. Can they break through the gauntlet of elite teams in the West?


And here’s what to expect from the Clippers’ key players in 2015-16 (you can find every Clippers player — and the rest of the NBA — here):


Chris Paul, the Clippers floor general and perennial MVP candidate, is running out of time. Having just turned 30, he may have already passed his peak. Paul’s CARMELO comps split into two camps. On one hand, Paul could have elite years well into his 30s — like John Stockton, Jason Kidd and Gary Payton. But on the other hand, his future could go the way of Mark Price and Kevin Johnson, who suffered precipitous falls at this age. This could be the inflection season for Paul.


Is CARMELO telling us there will be fewer dunks and more jump shots in Griffin’s future? Chris Bosh and LaMarcus Aldridge, two of Griffin’s modern comps, have made their names as stretch power forwards. It would be a shrewd move, as Griffin’s athleticism will fade with age and injuries. But more than a dunker with an emerging shot, Griffin is an underrated passer and defender, too. His top comp, Terry Cummings, perhaps forgotten by today’s young fans, was an amazing dunker:


DeAndre Jordan’s change of heart about signing with the Mavericks as a free agent in July was a good turn of events for the Clippers, and for him, too. A rebounding monster and rim protector par excellence, Jordan anchors the Clips on defense. His CARMELO comps, like Dale Davis and Tyson Chandler, are stalwart dunk-and-defense guys.


What his shooting gives, his defense takes away. J.J. Redick is an excellent threat from behind the arc, but his defensive efforts, while improved, are still substandard. His top 10 CARMELO comps — like teammate Jamal Crawford — are, not surprisingly, shooting specialists.


Doc Rivers reunited with Pierce, a scrappy veteran who still has a clutch outside shot, to provide depth on the wing. But The Truth is that, at 38 years old, an NBA player is entering his twilight. That said, Vince Carter (Pierce’s top CARMELO comp) wasn’t so bad last year!


Josh Smith, an inefficient scorer with a shaky reputation, seems like a Clipper from the team’s dismal past. In this respect, the Antoine Walker comp is too perfect, and too painful, for Clippers fans. But Smith does some things really well — namely, defense. Clippers fans should hold out hope that he’ll be like No. 10 comp Rasheed Wallace.


Wing defense is just what the doctor ordered, and Lance Stephenson provides that. But as his slew of replacement-level CARMELO comps shows, Lance comes with costs: His penchant for over-dribbling and ill-advised shots can torpedo an offense.


There are rumors Wesley Johnson might start at small forward. That’s odd because Johnson is — at least according to CARMELO — not good.

Read more:

All our NBA player projections

All our 2015-16 NBA Previews

Andrew Flowers wrote about economics and sports for FiveThirtyEight.