The Los Angeles Clippers get set to host the Phoenix Suns Saturday night for the team’s home opener after tipping off the 2017-2018 regular season with a 108-92 win over the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday.
Let’s take a closer look a few things to watch for in the matchup.
Blake Griffin’s Versatile Play
One of the most anticipated improvements to Blake Griffin‘s game following the Chris Paul trade was his passing. We always knew he had above-average handles and court vision at his size, but having Paul on the team naturally limited his need to use that skill set.
Through his first seven seasons in the NBA, Griffin has averaged 21.5 points, 9.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists on 51.8 percent shooting; the only other player who has averaged at least 21 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists on 50-plus percent shooting in his first seven seasons is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Griffin’s career average of 4.1 assists per game ranks fourth all-time (Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Chris Webber) and first among active players 6’10” and taller (minimum 100 games played).
We’ll see a lot of this from Griffin — leading the break from rebound to finish ala Charles Barkley.
On another but related note, Griffin has gotten better from deep over the past few seasons, making a conscious effort to improve from beyond the arc.
In 2016-2017, Griffin made 36 three-pointers after making a combined 42 in his first six seasons. More importantly, he increased his shooting percentage from 27.1 percent in those first six seasons to 33.6 percent in 2016-2017.
Griffin finished 3-of-6 from three-point range Thursday vs the Lakers.
AccuScore — an industry leader in game simulations — projects Griffin to finish Saturday’s matchup with 17 points (zero three-pointers), 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block and 2 TOs.
DeAndre Jordan — prior to the start of the season — pledged $100 for every rebound he secures this year towards the Hurricane relief efforts in Houston. Jordan finished Thursday’s game against the Lakers with 24 boards, second-most by any player in a season opener the 1983-1984 season.
AccuScore projects Jordan to finish Saturday night’s game with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Jordan also became the first player in franchise history to play ten seasons with the team, making him the longest-tenured player on the roster.
Role Players, Chemistry in the Wild, Wild West
In a Western Conference that features loaded rosters like Golden State, Houston, and Oklahoma City, the Clippers feature nine new players on the 14-man roster, the highest number of fresh faces in the conference.
It’ll take some time for the team to gel, given the additions of guards Milos Teodosic and Patrick Beverley. What’s been working, and what will ultimately get the most out of this roster is a delicate balance between the two guards on opposite sides of the ball. Teodosic will continue to make ball movement his contribution, while Beverley will use his defense to make the most impact.
Get this — the Clippers held the Lakers to 0.48 points per possession in plays Beverley defended Lonzo Ball.
Beverley is projected to finish Saturday’s game with 9 points, 3 assists and 2 steals. Teodosic is projected to finish with 7 points, 3 assists and 1 steal.