Doc Rivers has been boasting about the fact that he has moved to a team with another ‘big three’. The comparisons between his new job with the Los Angeles Clippers and his former role with the Boston Celtics have reached a point where Rivers has decided to label Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan as a ‘big three’ in LA. Rivers might just be stretching a little bit on this occasion though.
The Celtics’ big three featuring three unquestionable stars (not to mention the emerging Rajon Rondo). Paul Pierce was a long time star in Boston, Kevin Garnett arrived as a bonafide superstar and Ray Allen is one of the best shooters from beyond the arc and on the free throw line in NBA history.
What does Rivers have in LA? Well, Paul is an unquestioned superstar and one of the top point guards in the league. He has regularly averaged near 20 points per game and near 10 assists as well. He is also a gutsy, aggressive player with tremendous determination to win. Paul is definitely a worthy member of any ‘big three’ that might exist.
The problem is when Rivers includes his two front court presences. Griffin and Jordan both spent plenty of time in the morning highlight reels last seasons often putting together some of the NBA’s most impressive dunks and earning Clippers’ basketball the name ‘Lob City’. As much as both players might be box office, they might also just be a little short on substance.
Griffin enters his fourth season knowing that he has the talent and ability to be an NBA star. The former first overall pick has posted up some impressive statistics scoring around 20 points per game and picking up another 10 rebounds. Griffin has the ability to be dominant. However, he is not yet a superstar or even a star. He significantly improved his game away from the basket and his free throw percentage in 2012-13 compared with the previous season. Still, those are areas that can be exploited by opposition defenders and they were undoubtedly found out when the Clippers met the West’s stronger teams last year, and certainly in the playoffs.
The other major issue blocking Griffin from stardom is his toughness and ability to compete physically. That was very clearly exposed by Zach Randolph in the first round of the 2013 playoffs. Rivers will need to bring out some extra bite and compete from his power forward/center if he expects the 24-year old is to ascend to the level of ‘star’.
The biggest question mark in Rivers’ big three is Jordan. Many thought the 25-year old would depart during the offseason, even potentially as a part of a deal to re-unite Rivers with his Boston Lieutenant Garnett. Jordan is powerful and can dunk with the best of them. However, he has yet to score or even rebound at an impressive pace. He wasn’t even able to average 25 minutes per game last year. There are concerns about some bad fouling habits and especially poor free throw shooting. Right now Jordan is some raw talent that may or may not emerge as a consistent member of a starting five, let alone a member of some sort of Clippers ‘big three’.
There is a lot of pressure on Rivers entering this season. He has a pretty good roster, but he is being asked to transform a pretty unchanged team that Vinny Del Negro did a pretty good job with. He has a lot of work to do and little time to do it. His nine years in Boston are a testament to his tremendous skill as a head coach. Still, he might be better off ignoring the big three comparisons and focusing as much as possible on the work he has to do with his new talented, but very raw roster.