Clippers, its what the Doc ordered. After a franchise best 56 win season, the Clippers are starting the season with a new coach, Doc Rivers. New regime, but expectations of a championship remain the same. Five years ago who would have thought the Clippers would be knocking on the door to contention. Clipper Nation got their wish by hiring one of the best coaches in the game.
Last season: The Clippers finished the regular season with a record of 56-26, fourth in the Western Conference. A first round defeat at the hands of Memphis Grizzlies rendered disappointment spread across the southland.
Key Additions: Reggie Bullock (North Carolina), Darren Collison (Dallas/UCLA), Jared Dudley (Phoenix/Boston College), Antawn Jamison (LAL/North Carolina), Byron Mullens (Charlotte/Ohio State), and J.J Redick (Milwaukee/Duke)
Key Losses: Chauncey Billups (to Detroit), Eric Bledsoe (to Phoenix), Caron Butler (to Milwaukee), Grant Hill (retired), Lamar Odom (FA), Ronnie Turiaf (FA), and Dejuan Summers (FA)
Projection: 57-25 with back-to-back Pacific Division Championship and 3rd overall seed in the Western Conference.
Projected lineup: PG: Chris Paul, SG: J.J. Redick, SF: Jared Dudley, PF: Blake Griffin, C: DeAndre Jordan, 6th Man: Jamal Crawford
Donald Sterling is bringing out the heavy artillery. The two stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are in their prime, with the best days of hooping ahead of them. By far, Chris Paul is the best player on this team. Can you image the perennial All Star getting better? Well believe it! Shooters that spread the floor will surround CP3. He will easily have a career high season for assists, eclipsing 12.0 per game. Or would the defender dare to have Chris Paul take them one-on-one. Either scenario will favor the Clippers.
All-Star Blake Griffin is ready to "take the next step" towards a consistent low post scorer. He’s shown glimpses of the moves and great footwork he can do down low, but consistency was always the question. This summer at the Jamal Crawford Pro Am in Seattle, WA, BG mentioned he "is very focused on getting ready for the season" because he feels "we have a great chance to contend for a championship." Points per game will likely increase from last season (18.0/ppg). Rebounds will need to be the biggest point of interest. I expect nothing short of 22 points per game and 10 rebounds per game.
This team will be an offensive juggernaut. Similarities can be drawn from the 04-05 Run and Gun Phoenix Suns led by Steve Nash. Chris Paul will put up astronomical numbers that will put him in every MVP conversation. Without the added shooters, Clippers were in the top five in team assists with 23.2 and offensive scoring efficiency with a rating of 107.7. It is particularly important that Blake Griffin has a more consistent low post game. The synergy of the team will rely on how well Blake is able to draw double teams. The shooters should give him admirable space to operate. Redick and Dudley are both career 40% 3-point shooters. You can see the value of adding a 3-point shooters by looking at Ray Allen and the Heat. Pick your poison with this offense. They will be fast breaking, shooting treys and catching alley-oops.
Lob City’s bench is much improved from past seasons. Only the point guard position was compromised with the loss of the 6’1 LeBron type athlete in Eric Bledsoe. Darren Collison is a capable back up PG with starting and playoff experience. Maybe coming back home (Los Angeles) is all he needed to be more effective. Jamal Crawford finished his 13th season as runner up to the 6th man of the year. All hope is he will remain at the top of the voting. Jamal was superb in leading the second unit with 16.7 point per game. Matt Barnes, remains the teams best defender. A 6’7" enforcer with a tenacious attitude is a thing of the past, but Barnes is a fearless competitor. Did not hurt that he averaged career high 10.6 points per game.
Like the old Suns teams, defense can be the thing that prevents the Clippers from reaching their contending potential. Aside from Matt Barnes and Chris Paul, no one is even remotely known for being an above average defender. Will one of the best defensive coaches in the game please stand up? If Doc Rivers can install the same defensive principles given to the Celtics, watch out western conference. At worst they will still win 48-51 games and hold down a playoff spot in the deep western conference. Potential best-case scenario consists of 55-60 wins. Winning on the road must be improved this year. Doc Rivers and the general Chris Paul will have the Clippers ready for war in their attempt to reach the first NBA Finals in team history.
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