Blake Griffin’s dynamic ability nearly single-handedly led the Los Angeles Clippers to a 32-50 record last year despite winning the Rookie of the Year award. This year, however, the Clippers’ roster figures to take full advantage of the young dynamo’s talent with the addition of All World Point Guard Chris Paul and former NBA Finals’ MVP PG Chauncey Billups. Paired with DeAndre Jordan in the front line of Vinny Del Negro’s offensive scheme, already in this young 2011-2012 season the media is calling the Paul/Billups to Griffin/Jordan frontcourt “Lob City,” in reference to the enormous number of impending, highlight-reel ally-oop dunks that are sure to awe NBA fans from Game 1 to Game 66. Most appealing about the Clippers now, though, is the potential they now possess. Unlike in previous seasons, the Clippers now possess a pre-made NBA playoff team. Although Chris Paul is arguably the best point guard on the planet, other key additions (and subtractions!) to the Clippers’ roster make them infinitely dangerous, with the potential to compete for a title every year for the foreseeable future as long as their young players continue to grow all-around games.
The creation of “Lob City” may have begun oddly enough with the trade of Baron Davis’ departure to the Cleveland Cavaliers last year. Interestingly, along with Davis and his scruffy beard, the Clippers traded their first-round pick in exchange for much maligned Mo Williams and defensive-minded athlete Jamario Moon. The draft pick eventually helped the Cavaliers land two top-five picks, including the number 1 overall pick in PG Kyrie Irving and Texas hot-prospect PF Tristan Thompson. Clippers fans may rejoice, though, as it was this exact deal that enabled the Clippers land Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, and Caron Butler. Baron Davis is known as a shoot-first big point guard who had all of the potential in the world. However, due to injuries and a somewhat lazy disposition towards passing the rock to younger players, Davis’ departure should be seen as a boon. Eric Gordon, a future top 10 guard in the league, can fill up the stat sheet with his insane offensive ability. But Gordon has become an injury risk and is too small to defend top-tier shooting guards and not strong enough to slash to the hoop to take the game over in the 4th quarter like Dwayne Wade. In short, it was never sure that Eric Gordon or the pick that became Kyrie Irving would develop into world-class talent, so the gamble for Chris Paul at this moment should be seen as a success. Through trading Davis for reliable veteran Mo Williams the Clips cleared out a head-case and acquired one of the best PGs of this generation.
Shortly before the CP3 trade was finalized, the Clips reached an agreement to sign Chauncey Billups for the league minimum, as the New York Knicks bought out his contract. Billups is a one of a kind combo guard with tremendous experience and leadership abilities. So far in the young season he has been starting at the SG position and hitting a ton of three pointers. Most importantly though, Billups can mentor a young CP3 into maturity as the backcourt is sure to experience numerous long playoff battles before Billups retires. In addition to signing Billups, the Clippers acquired SF Caron Butler and PF Reggie Evans, two signings that have gone under the radar.
Caron Butler is fresh off winning an NBA Championship with the Dallas Mavericks and brings a solid all-around game to the burgeoning Clippers. He defends well and plays the passing lanes on defense leading to steals and fast break opportunities, a situation in which CP3, Billups, and Griffin will undoubtedly shine. He can also hit the open jumper and move the ball unselfishly, an important trait for a starting SF on this type of roster. Reggie Evans is another veteran player who has made the most out of his career despite an unfortunate size. Known around the league as one of the best rebounders, Evans brings a type of hard-nosed approach to the glass that DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin will benefit from. He will not eat a lot of minutes but when he does see time in the playoffs, his quirky maneuvers to acquire offensive boards can treat fans to even more opportunities for CP3 to Griffin dunks.
So far the Clips are 3-2 but have been coming on strong as of late. As the team gels together and each player finds his role, the lack of backcourt size will become less noticeable as the team finds creative ways to play the passing lanes using Paul and Butler’s speed. Most importantly, in addition to likely making a strong playoff run this spring, the team has the flexibility to add front-court depth via free-agency and still draft a serviceable backup SF to take the reigns from Butler. Fans should watch the development of this team from embryo to contender in less than two years.
Definitely looks like it. Here is why.
Clippers, though they have been consistently bad throughout the years, now have fresh players in their roster, too young to either be aware of or care about the sad franchise history. With youngsters such as Blake Gordon, Eric Bledsoe, DeAndre Jordan, Al-Faruq Aminu, who are all less than 24 years of age, wins are sure to pile up for the Clippers.
With Griffin and Jordan up front, and Kaman off the bench, you are looking at one of the strongest frontlines in basketball and Clippers have that. Griffin can score in any game, Kaman has a great mid-range shot and there is nobody to beat Jordan when it comes to shot blocking. This is an extraordinarily brilliant combination and not many teams will be able to compete with Clippers here.
If we say that Clippers are the most athletic team in the NBA, that’s no exaggeration. Griffin and Jordan were the second and third respectively in slam dunks last season. Along with other players such as Eric Gordon, Eric Bledsoe, rookie Travis Leslie and Al-Faruq Aminu, Clippers will be a team to reckon with.
They can’t get any worse
Clippers, however they perform, can’t get much worse than how they have fared in the past. If they make it to the 2nd or 3rd rounds of the playoffs, it would be a great season indeed for Clippers. With their current roster, this seems eminently achievable.
Griffin Griffin Griffin
Need we say more? Haven’t we all marveled at how Griffin goes over the rim and slams the ball down, after all the defenders have already fallen back to the ground like a deck of cards?
Blake Griffin is a superstar. We expect a lot of good things from him.