A New Way
For the first time ever the Los Angeles Clippers went into an NBA season with people thinking that they would be able to compete with the Lakers. For the first time, they weren’t a team that was just there to be walked all over. They weren’t just a confidence booster for a team that was just coming off of a horrible loss. They were competent and they were skilled. They had two All-Stars that were dangerous every time they touched the ball.
Things were looking up for the other team in La La Land. They had championship aspirations because of what was the greatest move in their franchise’s history–trading for Chris Paul. So what if that meant giving up Eric Gordon? So what if that meant giving up a pick that would eventually become Kyrie Irving? You have what is most definitely the best point guard in the game today and someone who is conceivably the best point guard to touch the hardwood since Magic Johnson in his prime.
Chris Paul gave that organization something that it had never seen before. They were playing with confidence and efficiency. They were effective on the offensive end of the floor and defensively they were adept. Sure, they’d need to improve in some areas, but for an inaugural season I don’t think you could’ve asked for a better one after achieving a postseason berth.
Now the Clippers are heading into next season with even higher expectations and an even harder road to victory. They’ll have to play through the new look Lakers (going further in depth later in this post) with four studs in their starting line-up.
They made significant roster upgrades to their bench this offseason. The highlight of their offseason was re-signing Blake Griffin–easily a success. The most major upgrade they made outside of Griffin was providing him a spell in Lamar Odom.
Along with Lamar Odom will come Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, and Grant Hill. All will provide major upgrades in positional depth that the Clippers lacked last season. And for all of these “middle-class” NBA players, the Clippers will only play about $4-5 million dollars over the salary cap next season.
The Clippers seemed to have focused on depth in the offseason rather than acquiring someone who is able to provide them a service as a starter. At almost every position, the Clippers were able to provide depth and bodies that are going to produce.
After the Paul trade, the Clippers roster was basically gutted for all it had. It wasn’t that talented to begin with outside of Griffin and Gordon, but with Gordon and other prospects being moved it became thin.
Their aforementioned offseason additions along with Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf will come together to form what could be an incredibly potent bench if everyone plays up to the standard in which they were brought in for.
Claiming the Throne
In order to play for an NBA Championship, the Clippers will now have to play up to the Los Angeles Lakers standards once again. Just when we thought there was about to be a changing of the guard, so to speak, in LA, the Lakers pulled the magic bunny out of their hat again. In fact, they managed to do it twice in one offseason–that has to be a record or something.
The point is, they managed to swing Steve Nash and Dwight Howard and did it while not caring about how much cash they’d have to throw up to do it.
The Lakers rule over the Pacific obviously hasn’t been stopped yet, however, the Clippers are setting themselves up to at least have a shot to beat the star studded cast of the Lakers.
They can’t do it through talent, obviously, because the Lakers have the most talented team in the NBA. So instead of attacking it from that standpoint, they’re doing it through bodies. Playing the Lakers won’t be an easy thing to do, but if they are going to take them down they’ll need every point they have to offer.
All of the Clippers acquisitions are meant to somewhat counteract what the Lakers have brought in offensively. They acquired Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins to specifically check Dwight Howard one on one. They acquired Barnes and Hill as defensive stalwarts that they’re going to put on Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash at times. Lamar Odom is going to stretch the floor for the team and drag one of their rim protectors to the perimeter while Green and Crawford will provide a much needed scoring touch that they were sorely lacking last season.
It won’t be easy to stop all of that talent from meshing together–last season they were all on All-Star teams aside from Gasol who, lets face it, produces All-Star numbers. The Lakers are going to be entertaining to watch night in and night out because of their ability to attack from dozens of angles.
However, these proactive moves by the Clippers could help them deal with all of the Lakers talent and multiple attacks. It’s a long shot, but a perfect Chris Paul with plenty of talent around him is something that most teams aren’t able to deal with.
The Clippers obviously have a team filled with talent unlike last season. They were stockpiled with guards and nothing else. This season, they are going into camp with three centers, three power forwards, and three small forwards as well.
They’ve upgraded much of their roster and Chris Paul will have a lot more to work with. Below are the minutes that I think each player is going to get. I’m not sure how much I actually need to type that because you guys know the drill….but whatever.
Chris Paul- 35.3 Mpg
Chauncey Billups- 28.1 Mpg
Caron Butler- 27.9 Mpg
Blake Griffin- 37.1 Mpg
Deandre Jordan- 30.8 Mpg
Lamar Odom- 25.3 Mpg
Jamal Crawford- 28.7 Mpg
Grant Hill- 23.6 Mpg
Matt Barnes- 26.4 Mpg
Willie Green- 18.8 Mpg
Eric Bledsoe- 23.9 Mpg
Ronny Turiaf-15.3 Mpg
Ryan Hollins- 19.3 mpg
Ryan Gomes- 14.5 Mpg
I think that the Clippers have a great year ahead of them. Their core group of players will have a full offseason and training camp under their belts along with the chemistry that they formed last season. Chris Paul will make every player on this team leaps and bounds better than they were before. They’ll be a contender with a higher seed in the playoffs.