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NBA season preview: L.A. Clippers

Oct 16, 2012, 12:00 PM EDT

Blake Griffin, Chris Paul AP

Last Season: Perhaps it was the start of a cultural change in Clipperland, or maybe it was simply the beginning of a very short-term spike of relative success. Either way, your 2011-12 Clippers were competitive, fun to watch, and a team that made its way into the playoffs — three qualities that have been completely absent from the team for most of its tortured existence.

Key Departures: Randy Foye was serviceable as a starter for most of the season, and the rest of the dearly departed — Mo Williams, Nick Young, Kenyon Martin, and Reggie Evans — made up the majority of the contributions off the bench.

Key Additions: The combination of Lamar Odom (one year removed from receiving the league’s Sixth Man honor), Grant Hill (an excellent on-ball defender and still a top fast break finisher), and Jamal Crawford (instant offense, or at least instant shot attempts) should be immediately better than the combination of players who filled those minutes a season ago. But the biggest addition might be that of a healthy Chauncey Billups, who was lost to injury early in last season’s campaign. Offense was the Clippers’ strength last year, but they should be even better with this group heading into this season.

Three keys to the Clippers season:

1) The evolution of Blake Griffin. There’s no question that Griffin is one of the most powerful and athletic players in game today. His dunks are already the stuff of legend, and his physical style of play is both effective for his team and aggravating for opposing players (see: Cousins, DeMarcus). If Griffin can extend the range on his jumper and be a better positional team defender, those things will do wonders for the Clippers’ chances to compete with the league’s elite.

2) Chauncey Billups playing alongside Chris Paul. The return of Billups should be a huge boost to the Clippers offensively. However, there is a little issue here, and that’s the fact that Billups likes to play with the ball in his hands. Paul is one of the game’s elite point guards, and he was the one most responsible for guiding the team’s explosive offense a season ago. Billups will need to slide into the two-guard role without kicking and screaming, and when he does have the ball, he’ll need to show patience instead of constantly looking to launch as many three-pointers as humanly possible.

3) Which Lamar Odom shows up? The reality show aspect of Odom’s persona worked out just fine for the Lakers, but that, along with some other much more serious family issues, eventually took their emotional toll on the mercurial one whose unique skill set makes his potential team contributions almost limitless. After a season where he essentially sat out in Dallas, we’ll see if Odom’s head is in the right place, and if he is able to get back into peak physical condition to be able to contribute as we all know he can. It was a calculated risk for the Clippers to bring him back, but one that’s really all upside.

What Clipers fans should fear: This season couldn’t be more crucial for the immediate, long-term future of the franchise. A dramatic statement, sure — but one based in fact. Consider that Vinny Del Negro is in the final year of his head coaching contract, and that not many observers believe he’s strong enough to lead a talented team to the next level. How he does managing this veteran squad will go a long way in whether or not he’s asked back. But more importantly, his relative success will undoubtedly affect the decision of Chris Paul, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season.

If Del Negro underachieves with this group, Paul — as much as he says he likes L.A. and wants to stay — will surely consider other options. The super-team model in the NBA isn’t going away anytime soon, and while the Clippers have plenty of talent on paper, the grass can always seem greener unless winning goes along with playing in that comfortable large market, and all of the ancillary benefits it can provide.

Prediction: A top-four seed in the Western Conference playoffs should be an attainable goal for this team, especially with the talent upgrade it was able to pull off this summer. But it won’t be easy or guaranteed, with teams like San Antonio, Denver, and Memphis right there in the mix behind the Lakers and Thunder juggernauts. A three-seed out West at best, a six-seed at worst.

  1. Eberwizzle - Oct 16, 2012 at 12:17 PM

    Preview:
    Balke Griffin dunks, then gets fouled, then runs up like he’s going to do something tough, then backs down like a girl.

    • michaeljordanseviltwin - Oct 16, 2012 at 12:55 PM

      Alternate preview: Blake Griffin attempts wild dunk over 3 defenders, falls awkwardly without a foul call, gets up to one knee and glares at referee for 5 seconds too long.

  2. mat9844 - Oct 16, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    Blake’s game looks better than ever; I expect the Clippers to do great this year. They’re just a lot of fun to watch, too. BTW good article.

  3. rueg10 - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    they will live and die through griffin. if peter, i mean blake, has worked on his range, his defensive toughness and rebounding consistency, they’ll be contending. if the core of his game continues to be dunking and stare-downs, they won’t progress and LA will belong to the lakers…

  4. jerdogthompson - Oct 16, 2012 at 8:45 PM

    Eberwizzle.

    Yeah like the time last year when he Mozgoved Gasoft MMA style & sent him crashing to the floor and Gasoft folded up like a .99 cent lawn chair. Then & only then he stood above him and gave a hard stare yet did nothing else. Like what’s he supposed to do? Put him in a rear naked choke? An arm bar perhaps? Or better yet he could have rained haymakers on that filthy Spaniards face until Ron-Ron came over to try and slap him “ala Indiana Pacer style”.

    Yeah……..D12 is next. Only doubt he gets up as quickly as Gasoft though.

    You seem to forget CP3 is younger, faster and better than Nash and he actually plays defense. Crawford looks to be wanting a 6th man of the year award again. Jordan with post moves, Caron with a sweet outside stroke. Hill playing great perimeter D. LO, slowly working himself into shape.

    Oh yeah, Bledsoe thats nearly impossible to keep from driving,scoring and he also plays sweet D and rebounds like a forward. MB looking like he has something to prove as well. Oh yeah, Big Shot Chauncy coming back soon. Shall I continue?

    Yep, it’s all about the double-double machine Griffins dunks though. You’re freaking clueless.

    • mytthor - Oct 17, 2012 at 1:25 AM

      CP3 is of course a better player than Nash at this point in their careers, but Nash is better for what the Lakers need. Also, Jordan with post moves? Are we talking about the same guy?

      But yes, that offensive foul Blake committed on Gasol was very impressive. Gasol is still the better player. Maybe not this year, Blake could and probably will improve. But you think he’s doing the same thing to the best defensive big man in the last decade? Not likely. Keep dreaming, Clipper fans!

  5. lakerluver - Oct 16, 2012 at 9:40 PM

    Dude, please, the West is coming down to two teams, Okc and the LAKERS. The Clips always have and always will be second to the LAKERS in L.A.!!

  6. jerdogthompson - Oct 16, 2012 at 10:08 PM

    That’s you’re problem. You’re living in “belief” world.

    If I haven’t chronicled the many,many problems facing your beloved team then so be it. Keep drinking the kool aid.

    How’s Jordan hills herniated disk? Have they pulled the plug on him like they’ve done on Duhon & Blake?

    Your homerism is outrageous and like I’ve said ad nauseum I can only hope you have the back bone to come back when the season ends up being lackluster as it is setting up for right now. Until then…….

  7. progress2011 - Oct 16, 2012 at 10:33 PM

    O.K. let’s look at the facts:

    Jordan vs Howard = Howard
    Blake vs Pau = Blake
    Caron vs MWP = Equal
    Chauncey vs Kobe = Kobe
    CP3 vs Nash = CP3

    Bench Play:

    Jamal Crawford vs Goudelock = Crawford +20 Pts
    Matt Barnes vs Jamison = Equal, cause Jamison can’t get his own shot and Barnes a good defender

    Odom vs Jordan Hill = Odom
    Willie Green vs Chris Duhon = Green
    Bledsoe vs Blake = Bledsoe
    Hill vs Ebanks = Hill

    Conclusion: Based on the FACTS, the Clips starters can hold their own against the laker starters. I don’t think the lakers will beat them at all during the regular season. AND the bench play of the Clips will EASILY win a series for the Clips.

    • passerby23 - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:40 AM

      Those aren’t facts, they are subjective player comparisons, which is your OPINION. Even if accurate in comparing individual players, it is beyond silly. First of all, there are a million variables: who’s guarding them, are they playing well come playoff time, what players around them make them better, injuries, age, etc.

      Yes, Dwight Howard is better than Deandre Jordan, but by a country mile. CP3 has a slight edge over Nash. So the massive Howard edge amplify the slight edge for Paul? Who cares about any of that stuff? What makes Nash great is having the ball in his hands. If it’s a Kobe dominated offense, Nash becomes a lot less effective. CP3 becomes less effective if Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin don’t make perimeter shots. And so on. It’s all about the sum of the parts.

      The bottom line is the Clippers should be a pretty good team, but individual player comparisons tell us nothing.

      • progress2011 - Oct 17, 2012 at 4:41 PM

        passerby,

        I’m sure you are just leaving your barbie doll set and passing by basketball, on your way to your easy-bake oven !!!

        So, as you pass by, let me tell you, BBALL is made up of individual player comparisons. To attempt to subtract that aspect of the team sport, concludes you have no friggin clue about the history of this sport!

        The FACTS remain….The Clippers have superior individual talent, which makes up the entirety of their team.

        I’m sure it’s hard for you to comprehend that, from all the nail polish you are inhaling, while painting Kens nails…

        Leave BBALL for the men in the room !

  8. mytthor - Oct 17, 2012 at 1:21 AM

    Let’s check your methodology.

    LeBron James vs Me = LeBron
    Kobe Bryant vs you = Kobe
    Michael Beasley vs Joe Johnson = Johnson
    Ty Lawson vs Deron Williams = Deron
    Brook Lopez vs Marc Gasol = Gasol.

    Wow, by your logic, looks like the squad of Me, You, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, and Marc Gasol is going to deny Kobe and Lebron the ring!

    The moral of the story – the fact that Howard is WAAAAY better than DeAndre Jordan and Kobe is WAAAAAY better than Billups means you can’t just vote yes or no on each matchup. But man, Willie Green is better than Chris Duhon, THAT’S DEFINITELY DECIDING A PLAYOFF SERIES!

    • chrisppers - Oct 17, 2012 at 2:32 AM

      Actually, the logic isn’t that bad, and btw, Jordan has come a long way, and I mean real long. There are realistic predictions that he’ll come out of this season as a top 5 center, and with d12 coming off back surgery (back injuries for big men can’t be good) and now debatably only the number 2 center behind Bynum, they’re not as far apart as you might think they are, especially considering their physical body attributes, height/length/reach/hops/speed being almost identical, and d12 probably isn’t that much heavier/stronger than Jordan anymore either.

    • progress2011 - Oct 17, 2012 at 4:55 PM

      mythor,

      Your attempt at logic is almost funny. I almost…actually laughed at the corny-ness !

      Again, individual player comparisons are derived from statistical, historical FACTS, derived from a players performance, over time !!!

      Not just random comparisons as you have attempted to deduct.

      Ex: Dwight is statistically better than Jordan ( as you claim WAAAAY better). But that’s only relevant if he is not in foul trouble.

      We all can conclude CP3 is going to break BOTH of Nash’s ankles, everytime down the court. So, as he gets into the paint, Howard has no discipline and will foul CP3.

      So, Howard will have 3 fouls by the end of the 1st quarter. And FACTUALLY we can conclude this likelihood because the guy has been in foul trouble his entire career…those are truly FACTS.

      Lastly, the player comparisons are the best measuring stick, historically used. Then comes other factors, such as coaching (which is also equal, in this comparison).

      So, as much as the faker fans want to shift focus….the Clippers have a more talented team….PERIOD !!!

      Do some friggin research before posting your gibberish.

      • mytthor - Oct 18, 2012 at 12:38 AM

        OK dude. I tell you what. My brain doesn’t function in the same world as yours, so it’s pointless to have a discussion. You can say will happen in the future and just say you’re right about it, but it doesn’t make it true. But using logic on you doesn’t work, so let’s just say this. If the Clippers go further in the playoffs than the Lakers, I’ll come on this site and post an apology and admit you were right. If the Lakers go further than the Clippers, you do the same for me. No smartass comments, no excuses, just “Well, I guess I was wrong and you were right.” Deal?

      • progress2011 - Oct 18, 2012 at 9:07 PM

        mythdude,

        I agree your brain doesn’t function ! Re-Read my post, I was not predicting the future, I gave my Hypothesis, based on the FACTS.

        The FACT is, based on historical-statistical career numbers, the Clippers have a more talented team, than the lakers. Now that’s logical. Not your random example of me and you playing ball against NBA All Stars.

        Lastly, I don’t want your apology. It’s not possible for me to care any less about your comments or apology. I’m simply here on this blog to drill you and other deranged, delirious posters with the FACTS.

        Nothing more…Nothing less !

      • mytthor - Oct 19, 2012 at 3:08 AM

        What “historical statistical career numbers” are you using to determine who is better than who? Because there’s not any “player skill” stat. What statistic or statistics are you using that informs your post?

  9. jerdogthompson - Oct 17, 2012 at 1:25 AM

    Very nice analysis progress2011

    The ONLY small problem I have with it is your including Jordan Hill in there. I will state for the record I could be wrong, however, his own doctor stated his herniated disk is located closer to the pelvis therefore considerably higher risk than D12′s issue. Minus Jordan, they got some major problems off the bench(not to mention rotation problems that results)

    Otherwise, I feel it was pretty good. I will concede a small edge for the Laker starting 5 assuming their all healthy. That’s a big if, plus if anyone is expecting more than 30 a night from Nash or Kobe is sadly mistaken. That’s where your analysis becomes spot on. Nicely done.

    • mytthor - Oct 19, 2012 at 3:09 AM

      So Kobe played 37 minutes a game last year and it’s not possible for him to play more than 30 this year? Man, that’s quite a dropoff.

  10. cpcfan - Oct 17, 2012 at 3:34 AM

    Minutes will be crucial coming down the stretch, the Clips have a clear advantage baring any unforeseen injuries. Del Negro stills scares me and his substitutions can be mind boggling, having Billups back not only as a floor general but as crafty a player there is in the game at getting to the charity stripe is all upside..This team has great ” potential” but are still an elite coach away from great status..Clip fan since 84..

  11. jerdogthompson - Oct 17, 2012 at 9:14 PM

    Progress. Your quick wit and well placed thoughts are a well deserved change to this board.

    Keep it up.

    I’m sorry but I can only speak the truth and right now I pray for a complete implosion & dismantling of this Team Viagra they call the Lakers.

  12. KOBEshigawa - Oct 25, 2012 at 4:38 PM

    Well, it’s a new story for a preason preview for the Clips to be anything but pessimistic, but I’m a little confused about this team. They’re going to be very good, but there’s too many personnel questions. What’s the 10 man rotation? Who else can create shots that not an ill-advised Jamal Crawford 30 footer? Is Odom washed up? Same for Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups? Can Vinnie del Negro, who was almost fired last Feb, avoid the same controversey this year? Unlike the Lakers, I don’t think that the Clips have enough talent to rise past these questions and become a contender – http://thegreatmambino.blogspot.com/2012/10/los-angeles-clippers-season-preview-has.html

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