October 22, 2008
SI.com's NBA Enemy Lines
Los Angeles Clippers
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Clippers

This is Baron Davis' third team, and he has had issues in his previous stops. When he's been on, he has been an extremely dangerous player. But I would still rate several point guards ahead of him, starting with Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups. Chauncey isn't as skilled in a one-on-one game, but he's more of a leader than Baron. In Detroit, the players govern themselves and Chauncey presides over that. There's a huge difference between him and Davis, who is more of a mercenary who has yet to show that he can develop the team chemistry that defines the elite point guards.

A promising variable for the Clippers is that Davis is from Los Angeles and so this is a homecoming for him. He has a chance to come in and win the entire city over as the local guy -- and he has the personality to do so if he chooses. But, in the past, there has always been one or more nights when Davis has gotten frustrated and opened his mouth and the other side of Baron has come out. And that's when things have usually begun to fall apart. To date, he hasn't shown that sense of responsibility that you'd expect from your leader at point guard.

Acquiring Marcus Camby in an exchange of second-round picks with Denver was a huge bailout for the Clippers after losing Elton Brand. Camby isn't the perfect solution; he has a record of not playing every night, he refuses to play under the basket offensively and he doesn't have much of a game other than to shoot from the top of the key. But he'll have a chip on his shoulder and will probably play pretty well, especially when he faces Denver.

How will Camby and Chris Kaman play together? I would think Camby will be the power forward because he really doesn't want to be near the basket on offense anyway. I would start the game that way, but I would also make sure one of them is on the floor at all times so that Camby can spend some time at center when Kaman is taking a rest. But even with Camby at power forward, nobody is going to go out there and guard him. He might make the shot, but most teams are going to let him have it in order to help off him and stop a teammate who can really hurt you, so that defender will sag off to stop the drives of Davis.

On defense, they should be very good together. Coach Mike Dunleavy is going to have principles about how to defend, and they'll make it very difficult to get into the paint when those two shot-blockers and rebounders are on the floor together. Defensively, Camby is an upgrade over Brand. Camby is a better shot-blocker and he has more length.

I like Kaman. He can finish with either hand, he has a variety of moves in the post and he can shoot the facing jumper. His skills are pretty good. The worry is whether he brings it every night, but give him credit for playing for the German national team last summer. He caught flak from his own family for playing for another country, but he wanted the experience, and he helped Dirk Nowitzki get to the Olympics.

As much as I wonder about their chemistry, I also know that Dunleavy is a very good coach. He's on the rigid side, but he'll bulldog them through the season somehow. If they're healthy, they could surprise some people. But I could also see injuries being an issue because this could be a fragile team.

Al Thornton got lost early last season, but at the end of the year he played a lot of minutes. He's a pogo-stick athlete who is developing a good jump shot. They'll spend this year trying to develop him and rookie Eric Gordon, who had a tough second half of the season last year for Indiana.


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