The dust has settled on the Celtics summer of destruction (we think), and the C's officially have begun walking down the path of a total rebuild. After the moves they made, it's pretty apparent that the Celtics will not be winning the 2014 title. But what about the former C's? Doc Rivers is in LA, where the Clippers have added Jared Dudley, J.J. Redick and Darren Collison to an already good roster, while Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry have joined forces with an already stacked starting line-up in Brooklyn. Now the question becomes, which team has a better shot of winning it all next season? Lets break it down, position by position.
Point Guard - Clippers have Chris Paul; Nets have Deron Williams
Deron Williams is a really good point guard, with career averages of 18 points and 9 assists per game. Unfortunately he's matching up with the best point guard in basketball. Paul is the perfect combination of scorer (career 18.6 PPG on 47.3% shooting) and assist man (career 9.8 APG with only 2.4 turnovers per contest), who also happens to have made five NBA All-Defensive teams. Williams on the other hand is a top 5 point guard, but has already butted heads with both Jerry Sloan and Avery Johnson, and needs to mature quickly as his teams title window won't be open long.
Shooting Guard - Clippers have J.J. Redick; Nets have Joe Johnson
This one was tough for me, as both players have vastly different games. Of course, Johnson is much higher paid, and his career accomplishments (10 consecutive seasons averaging 15+ PPG) dwarf Redick's. But Redick is a lot more efficient (58% true shooting percentage compared to 53% for Johnson), and may be a better fit for his team as he does not need a lot of touches to be successful. Johnson on the other hand is a volume scorer, and an aging one at that. Despite the red flags, I'm giving Johnson an edge here.
Small Forward - Clippers have Jared Dudley; Nets have Paul Pierce
The Clips could also start Matt Barnes, but considering he came off the bench in 76 of his 80 games last year, I think it's a safe bet that he'll continue in that role. However, whether you pick Barnes or Dudley, Pierce easily wins this category. It's easy to forget just how good Pierce was last season. He averaged 18.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 4.8 APG, becoming the teams leading assist man after Rajon Rondo injured his knee in January, often times playing far more minutes than any 35 year old should. Dudley will provide LA with much needed three point shooting (career 40.5% from deep over six seasons), but The Truth is a better player.
Power Forward - Clippers have Blake Griffin; Nets have Kevin Garnett
I know what you're thinking, how the hell could I chose 37 year old KG over 24 year old Blake Griffin? Well it's quite simple: Garnett is still a better overall player than Griffin, even at his advanced age. Last season, at age 36, KG gave up only 0.76 points-per possession on defense according to Synergy Sports, the 29th best number in basketball, and among the best for players who primarily played center. Griffin on the other hand gave up 0.83 PPP, 107th in the NBA. Not a terrible number, but far from the elite numbers KG posted. On the offensive end, despite playing with a healthy CP3 all season, Griffin barely outperformed Garnett (0.99 PPP to 0.96 PPP). In fact, this would be an easy win for Garnett based on his defensive abilities and more well rounded offensive game if it weren't for one simple fact — he has more miles on him than any other active NBA player. The Nets need to understand that playing KG more than 26-28 minutes per game during the regular season is paramount to playoff suicide. To seriously challenge the Heat they'll need a healthy, full speed Garnett, something he can only be if he gets significant rest during the regular season.
Center - Clippers have DeAndre Jordan; Nets have Brook Lopez
In terms of efficiency, Lopez and Jordan are a lot closer than you'd think. Both allow 0.86 PPP on defense (below average), while Jordan averages 1.02 PPP on offense compared to Lopez' 1.01 (both strong numbers). However, it's how they get their points that differentiates Lopez. The Nets big man is one of the best offensive centers in basketball, able to shoot from mid range and dominate the game from the paint. Jordan on the other hand is a one trick pony. Sure he can dunk you into oblivion — but how many times per game does that opportunity present itself? Jordan does have the advantage of being a better rebounder, but Lopez wins this one pretty easily.
Bench - Clippers have Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Ryan Hollins; Nets have Shaun Livingston, Jason Terry, Andrei Kirilenko, Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans
A week ago I would have thought there was no shot that the Nets bench would be comparable to the Clippers. However, after Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov convinced Russian millionaire Andrei Kirilenko to join the Nets (and take a $7 million pay cut in the process..no nothing fishy at all going on I'm sure), the gap was narrowed significantly as both benches now have some great pieces. I give a definite edge to Crawford over JET in the "bench scorer" position, but I give Kirilenko, Evans and Blatche big time wins over Barnes and Ryan Hollins. In the end Crawford's ability to dominate the game coming off the pine give LA the W, but don't sleep on Brooklyn's backups. Edit: originally forgot Blatche. Oops. Thanks for those who pointed it out. Definitely swings things, but with LAC's bench coming off an amazing season, and with the team still talking with Odom and Jamison, I think these benches could end up being really even.
Coach - Clippers have Doc Rivers; Nets have Jason Kidd
Easiest one on the board. The Clippers are upgrading from Vinny del Negro to Doc, one of the biggest single season upgrades you'll ever see, while in Brooklyn the Nets are handing the car keys of a ready to win club over to first year coach Jason Kidd. Kidd may very well end up being a great coach, but making an instant transition from player to coach can't be easy, and Kidd has no time for a steep learning curve. The expectation for the Nets is to win it all, and to win it all right now. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Doc has coached in every possible scenario and shouldn't skip a beat heading to the left coast. Crazy to think this team was actually balking at giving up a 2015 1st rounder for Doc just five weeks ago.
Ok so if you're going by categories, the Nets won this one 4-3, but of course that doesn't tell the whole story. Brooklyn has six key players in their 12th year or beyond, a staggering number that could doom them if their old legs don't get enough rest. The Clippers on the other hand have a relatively young roster, with no starters over the age of 29, and one of the top five players in the NBA in Chris Paul leading the way. The Clips also have a significant coaching advantage, and less roster shake-up with only three new rotation players compared to six for the Nets.
If Brooklyn was guaranteed to be healthy, I'd pick them. I really like their combination of talent and how Pierce and Garnett compliment what they already had. But they aren't a lock to stay on the court. And trusting a rookie head coach to learn the coaching side of the game on the fly while managing the minutes of his older players may prove to be too big of a job for Kidd.
That's why I'm giving my final decision to the Clippers. My two biggest concerns for them last year, and the reason I picked against them in round one, were coaching and an inability to stretch the floor with shooters. With Rivers, Redick and Dudley joining the team, they've solved both of those problems.
What do you think? Who's in better shape to win a title in 2014? Let us know in the comment section.
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For more of my articles, click here Michael Dyer 7/19/2013 04:19:00 PM Tweet