Times have been good recently for the Los Angeles Clippers. As they come off their first-ever division title and fight to position themselves as best they can for the playoffs, the focus has inevitably been on the present. But as the end of the season approaches, there are some off-season issues that we should begin to consider. For one, will Vinny Del Negro even be the Clippers’ coach next year? Should he be?
Last Tuesday, Bleacher Report’s Oren Friedman posted an article titled “Should the Clippers Renew Head Coach Vinny Del Negro’s Contract?” In it, Friedman asserts that the Clippers would do well to find another coach next season, as Del Negro just doesn’t have what it takes to take the Clippers to the next level. Let’s take a look at some of his criticisms and see what you Hubsters think…
First, Friedman criticizes Del Negro for his “suspect minute allocations” and in particular, not playing Eric Bledsoe enough this season. Bledsoe has only averaged about 20 minutes a game, despite putting up pretty impressive stats. For example, Bledsoe has averaged over 41% from the 3-point line and boasts the third-highest PER on the team at 18.1.
The article does acknowledges that Bledsoe is playing behind Chris Paul, but it sort of breezes past this very important fact. I mean, c’mon, Paul is an All-Star, MVP, director of all things offense who was able to talk Mr. Bigshot Chauncey Billups to coming to the Clippers. Paul’s presence deserves a bit more recognition than that, and it’s understandable why Del Negro (or any coach for that matter) would honor that.
The article also fails to mention that while Paul was injured and unable to play, Bledsoe had his chance to run the team. And it didn’t go so well, mostly because of the intangibles that have hindered Bledsoe’s performance this season. For example, Bledsoe often seems rushed and sloppy when running plays as the Point. And that’s not something that is necessarily in Del Negro’s control. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that Bledsoe should get to play more–he is an incredible talent. But I think it has more to do with where and under what circumstances he should play. The fact that his PER is as high as it is this season shows that he seems to perform best as a 2-Guard and playmaker under Paul’s experienced guidance.
So, on to the article’s next criticism: Del Negro’s uninspired and limited playbook. As the article points out, Del Negro even acknowledges that the Clippers’ offense this season is just “Chris Paul.” While it is true that Paul drives the offense for the team–both by scoring himself and assisting others–let’s not forget about the other players that have put up incredibly impressive numbers this season. Do the names Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Bledose ring any bells? If you remember, Del Negro was brought in to foster their talent, and they all have grown into the players that they are under the guidance and leadership of him as their coach.
But I agree with the article to a certain extent. The Clippers have relied heavily on a Paul-guided offense that works best when they can rule the game with fast-breaks and big dunks. When they are forced to slow down and run plays, the Clippers’ pick-and-roll that involves either Paul driving to the net or passing it off to Griffin/Jordan is pretty predictable. They do have some great 3-point shooters, but the team also commits a lot of unnecessary turnovers when forced to slow down. So the important question then becomes: does Del Negro have anything more offensively for this group of extremely talented players with a ton of potential?
But let us not forget another important aspect that the article significantly leaves out: the Clippers’ defense. Defensively, the Clippers have been performing very well this season. Aside from their problem with guarding the 3-point shot, the Clippers have done a good job of forcing turnovers and making the most of their many steals. In fact, much of their offense is possible because of their defense.
While the article makes some extremely valid points, I don’t think it lends quite enough credit to Del Negro and all the work he has done with a team that was labeled “the worst franchise in sports history.” He has facilitated and worked with the incredible depth that the team has, allowing players such as Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, and even Lamar Odom to shine and often be just as dangerous as the starters. He has also won Coach of the Month for the Western Conference, as well as set franchise records for number of wins, home wins, and road wins. And he’s done it all in just three seasons.
What do you think, Hubsters? Should the Clippers keep Del Negro?