27 December 2011
New faces in new places certainly resonated well with the so-called 'little brother' of Los Angeles basketball in the offseason. The Clips played a near new starting five with Paul, Billups and Butler all making their Clipper's regular season debuts. Here's how their numbers looked at the end of the game:
(Source: 'LA Clippers at Golden State', www.sports.yahoo.com/nba/boxscore, Dec 25, 2011)
CP3 had an excellent opening night. Clutch, efficient and after numerous injury ridden seasons Paul looked at home in his new LA surroundings. His stats on opening night 20 points 9 assist 2 steals with excellent percentages closely reflect what we have come to expect from Paul. It has been sometime since Paul has had this much talent around him. The teaming of Paul with Griffin should create the best high wire act in the league. Billups, Butler and Williams can all catch and shoot from deep. I would expect Paul to be among the leaders in assists and steals.
Billups has a new role in LA and is starting at shooting guard for the first time in his career. He seems to have taken a liking to the new role, taking 10 three and hitting on 3 in his first game. Expect him to finish the season among the leaders in this category. At shooting guard and with a pass-first point guard, Billups will be taking a lot of shots. His career high ppg is 19.6 in his 2010 campaign at Denver. I would expect around 17-19 ppg in 2012. His assists may dip however in many ways at this stage of his career and his ability to shoot the long ball, teaming up with Paul is an ideal situation.
Butler is often the forgotten signing in LA, despite being one of the most sought after free agents in the shortened offseason. He finished the game with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Prior to his injury Butler was second leading scorer in Dallas averaging 15 ppg. Expect a similar level of production this season. In Dallas we saw a dip in his rebounds and steals largely the result of splitting minutes with the likes of Stevenson and Marion. However with a lack of depth in this position at LA we expect Butler to play 35+ min on a regular basis. I would expect 5+ rpg, 1+ spg and 1+ threes per game.
Mo Williams seems to be the odd man out playing only 22 mins off the bench. Williams spent time backing up both Paul and Billups but as expected his role is severely diminished. I would expect his minutes to pick up to around 27 mins however with two top line point guards ahead of him I wouldn't be surprised if he demanded a trade.
One tactic that did stand out in this game is the 'Hack-a-Jordan', which Golden State used as early as the third quarter. Jordan responded with 4/12 FT. Be prepared to throw away this category if you're taking on Jordan. On the plus side he did get 8 blocks.
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