Can the Clippers Keep Rolling Without Blake Griffin?
Last season, Blake Griffin missed a total of 47 games due to suspension and injury. The main reason for his absences were two substantial injuries -- one a torn quadriceps, and the other a broken hand.
This time, it's a right knee issue that will sideline Griffin for three to six weeks. However, the injury itself is not major nor is the surgery one that will require a long recovery time. The arthroscopic surgery is considered routine and only intended to clean up "loose bodies" from Griffin's knee.
Three to six weeks ranges anywhere from roughly 12 to 25 games for the Clippers. In comparison to 47 games, that's nothing. But, as we know, every game matters in the West -- especially as it concerns seeding and home court advantage in the playoffs.
That being said, what will Clippers coach Doc Rivers likely do sans Griffin, and how can they sustain their early-season success without their five-time All-Star?
Shoes to Fill
On the season, Griffin is averaging a team-leading 21.2 points to go with 8.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game through 26 contests. He also leads the Clippers with a usage rate of 29% and trails only Chris Paul with a total of 3.3 win shares so far. But, it's not just Griffin's raw production that they'll miss. It's his overall impact on the team's performance, as well.
According to NBA Wowy, with Griffin on the court, the Clippers' offensive rating is 118.3 points per 100 possessions while their defensive rating sits at 103.5 points allowed per 100 possessions. That makes for a net rating of 14.8. Absent Griffin, the Clippers offensive rating per 100 possessions is 105.5 while their defensive rating checks in at 107.5 points allowed per 100 possessions for a net rating of -2.
That's a staggering difference.
What can Coach Rivers do to compensate for Griffin's absence?
Last year, the immediate replacements at power forward were Josh Smith and Paul Pierce. Nowadays, Smith is no longer in L.A. while Pierce is another year older and yet another year removed from being a startable NBA player.
Enter Marreese Speights, one of the Clippers' main depth additions this offseason. In limited play this year, Speights has produced 9.1 points with one three-pointer and 5.1 rebounds in only 15.5 minutes per game. That's respectable, but if given more time, Speights' per-36 numbers indicate that he would produce at even higher level.
Now, given the fact that he is 6'10" and 255 pounds -- not to mention a lack of defensive versatility -- Speights is unlikely to play 30 let alone 36 minutes. Others will be called upon to step up, as well.
When the Clippers aren't able to go big with both Speights and DeAndre Jordan, they may look to Luc Mbah a Moute to shift over to the four spot while either Jamal Crawford or Austin Rivers slot in alongside J.J. Redick.
Of the lineups to appear with Paul but without Griffin, the one that has had the most run is the lineup of Paul, Redick, Rivers, Mbah a Moute and Jordan -- a grouping that has played 33 possessions and 15.6 minutes together. In that little amount of time, the lineup has been very effective with an offensive rating of 137.1, a defensive rating of 96.3 and a net rating of 40.8.
Things aren't looking too down, after all.
A Shift in Production
In the main 45-game stretch without Griffin last season, both Paul and Jordan added 3.6% and 2.5% to their respective usage rates prior to Griffin's extend absence. Naturally, they were asked to do a lot more without him, and they answered with production.
Both players upped their games when their team was in a pinch. As a result, in those 45 games, the Clippers went a very honorable 30-15.
So, are they going to be hurting for a while? Without a doubt. Will it be easy? No. Nevertheless, if the numbers are correct, the Clippers should do more than survive without Griffin. They'll continue to thrive.