The Clippers have made a couple of moves this off-season that have possibly put them atop the West. With the additions of a couple of veterans and new head coach Doc Rivers, the Clippers will be looking to finally give themselves a better chance of competing for the Championship in today’s league – dominated by one team, the Miami Heat, led by the best player in the world, LeBron James. Everything was going great for the franchise last year. They won a franchise record 56-wins, grabbing the 5th seed in the West. However, their season ended in a disappointment, losing the last four to the Memphis Grizzlies, after being up 2-0 in the 1st Round of the Western Conference. This year will be a new year, with a new head coach, in a new “era.” There are some keys to the Clippers success next year if they want to compete and possibly go to the NBA Finals.
Superstar Play: Chris Paul
Chris Paul, without a doubt, is a Top 5 player and arguably the best point-guard in the league when healthy. He can control the game by himself, make teammates better around him, and when he has to, he can take over ball games just as well as any other player in the league. He, along with Blake Griffin, helped change the entire Clippers franchise. The Clippers went from a lottery team to a good team to a championship contender. However, if the Clippers want to win, they need more of Chris Paul. He needs to have a great post-season in order for the Clippers to go deeper in the playoffs.
Statistically, Chris Paul’s regular season and playoff stats look very similar and identical, however teams somehow always find a way to stop or slow him down when it most counts. He needs to be more aggressive offensively so then he can open up the lanes for Blake Griffin and other players around him. Paul is one of the best leaders and passers in the game today. Everyone knows Paul’s ability to make his teammates better is unmatched and unseen; but if the Clippers want to go far in the playoffs, they need a little more aggressiveness from Paul. When he is aggressive, defenses collapse and with his ability to find open man, the Clippers are better. When he is sitting back and just passing, the Clippers are very easy to detect and even easier to slow down. Chris Paul’s aggressiveness will open up the floor for other teammates and that’s vital.
Post Play: Blake Griffin & DeAndre Jordan
Blake Griffin has a knack of disappearing in the playoffs and it is clear why. In the playoffs, when the game slows down and there is very little room for “Lob City,” Griffin often struggles in the half-court. He is a freakish athlete, one of the best dunkers in the history of this league, but he is very one-dimensional. Blake’s weaknesses are his poor low-post play, inability to step back and shoot, and his poor free-throw shooting (even though he has improved). Defensively, he is big and can clog up the paint, but he is not a good lateral defender and if you physically play (hence, Zach Randolph), he will back down and not challenge you.
DeAndre Jordan is very similar to Blake Griffin. He is very athletic for his height, but has the same weaknesses as Blake Griffin. He struggles offensively and defensively is not a great lateral defender, nor a great rebounder for that matter. Therefore, in order for the Clippers to have success in the playoffs, they need a better post-presence and it starts with Griffin and Jordan. They need to establish themselves in the post and force teams to have to defend them. The better they get in the post, the harder it becomes to focus on Chris Paul and the shooters around them.
Bench Play: Role Players
Having a deep bench is very crucial for a team that is competing for the Championship. We have seen in the past what a bench can do (Dallas Mavericks in 2011). With the new additions of Jared Dudley, Darren Collison, and J.J. Redick, the Clippers arguably have the deepest bench in the league. Can you imagine a bench that consists of Dudley, Collison, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Reggie Bullock, Byron Mullens, J.J. Redick, and Willie Green? They are all players that can come in and just change the game offensively and defensively. Jared Dudley is a veteran who knock down open shots and defend on the perimeter. Daren Collison is a young point-guard who can come in, score, and run the point when Paul is sitting on the bench. Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes are proven bench players who can change a team’s identity when they come off the bench. Reggie Bullock and Byron Mullens can come off the bench and stretch the floor because of their ability to shoot the ball. The Clippers are arguably the deepest team in the league and if they play up to their potential, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Clippers and Chris Paul go far next year.
The Los Angeles Clippers are ranked 2nd Overall in the power ranking for the 2013-2014 season (via Summer Forecast, ESPN.com). With the acquisitions of sharp shooters J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, they can make teams pay when they double Paul off Pick & Rolls or double Blake in the paint. Anything less than a Finals appearance would be a disappointment for this team and with the roster they have, they have no excuse to not win the West. There are some questions that need to be solved about Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and the team’s chemistry with the new additions, but there shouldn’t be any major problems that can affect their season and potential run for the Finals.