The Clippers could possible be the new team in LA. The Lakers could make some noise in LA but it all depends on the young players that they drafted and how well Luke Walton does as a coach. However, we need to take a look at the Clippers to see what makes this team so much better then in years past.
Griffin and Paul
This combination must remind a lot of Utah Jazz fans of the good old days of Karl Malone and John Stockton. However, the one difference though between what Utah had and what the Clippers have has to do deal with health. Last year Griffin only started in 35 games last year. It was a combination of injuries and suspensions. However, I believe that Griffin has a lot to prove this year because of what happened to him last year. Griffin’s image is in jeopardy and I believe that he understands that. He also understands that the door for the Clippers to be a contender is closing due to the age of Chris Paul.
The Clippers will most likely continue to contend in the West as long as Griffin can stay healthy. Paul though might be able to give the Clippers three more years of decent enough play before father time kicks in. Paul most likely understands this as well and he must be getting tired of hearing about how good Russell Westbrook, Seth Curry and Kyrie Irving are. No offense to anyone who love those players but Paul has been in the shadow of these point guards for a while. Paul in my opinion has been the most consistent player in the league the last couple of years. His consistency though usually comes when Griffin is able to stay health. If these two can stay health all year, the starting line up for the Clippers will be a threat to any team at any given night.
DeAndre Jordan or Marresse Speights
DeAndre Jordan needs to really consider what is important for this team at this point in his career. Is it more important to shoot the free throw like a shooter in this league, or make free throws like Rick Barry and go for the granny-shot. Right now the Houston Rockets have a player named Chinanu Onuaku who shoots granny-style. The difference this season between Onuaku and Jordan will be that Onuaku will actually make his shots vs Jordan who will miss a lot of his shots. Here is another item to point out to Jordan that he needs to think about. Jordan will continue to get the hack a shaq treatment because the league really didn’t change the rule that much. Jordan’s playing time will drop if he can’t make free throws. Who will take his spot? Bring in Marreese Speights.
I can tell already that the Clippers are getting ready for the fact that Jordan will not be playing down the stretch when it is a close game. Here is what is interesting is that both Speights and Jordan came into the league at the same time. Speights free throw percentage for his career is .790 while Jordan’s is .420. That is a .370 percent difference when it comes to shooting the free throw. I believe that if Jordan goes granny-style, that his percentage will sky rocket. It will also make the Clippers more of a threat should crunch time come in close games because Jordan is a threat on the boards and blocking shots. While Speights is better at rebounding the ball if given more playing time. Jordan, if you want to help your team, please go granny style soon or I can see your playing time getting cut in close games. Good thing though the Clippers signed Speights to make up the difference in close games. Excellent signing by the Clippers during the off season.
The bench for the Clippers will be huge this year. In years past, the bench was only Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers. Which at any given night, they would sometimes just disappear. This season with the addition of Speights, this team will be much improved. Here is why.
Crawford for how great he is, tends to turn the ball over a lot. In his career, he is averaging two turn overs a game. I think this year those numbers will go down since he should be able to spread the floor more and not rely on the one on one game. In fact, he might be able to improve Austin Rivers as a shooter because of the pick up of Speights. Austin I believe will be able to either do off ball screens or on ball screens with Speights. Team defenses might be focused on Crawford whether he has the ball or not and Rivers might be able to score more driving to the basket or being able to shoot the three. If not him, then you can either have Speigths or Crawford do that as well if he passes the ball. The Clippers have a big three on the starting squad. Four if you added J.J. Redick to the picture as well. Now with Speights, they will have three more scores on the floor when they need to rest their starters at any given stretch of the game.
There needs to be more games played this season to fully see the potential of the team, but they will be in the top four this season when playoffs come. There best shot at making the Western Conference Finals will most likely be if they face Golden State in the second round of the playoffs. Which means they need to get the number four seed, or the number three seed depending on how the battle that goes between the Spurs, Warriors and Thunder. Since the Warriors lack experience and rebounding in their Center positions, Jordan, Griffin, and Speights should have a field day on the boards since Golden State plays small ball. I have no doubt that the Clippers can compete with their small ball team, so it would all depend on the big men of the series. Which I give to the Clippers since they are bigger, stronger and able to crash the boards. Time will tell what happens to this Clippers team but the number one issue that needs to be focused on his health if this team wants to go far.