2015-16 NBA Record: 53-29
Additions: Marreese Speights (Golden State Warriors), Brandon Bass (Los Angeles Lakers), Raymond Felton (Dallas Mavericks), Alan Anderson (Washington Wizards), Brice Johnson (draft)
Subtractions: Jeff Green (Orlando Magic), Cole Aldrich (Minnesota Timberwolves), Pablo Prigioni (Houston Rockets)
Projected Starting Line-up:
PG – Chris Paul
SG – JJ Redick
SF – Luc Mbah a Moute
PF – Blake Griffin
C – DeAndre Jordan
After many playoff collapses, various injuries and inconsistency, the Clippers are hoping this year will finally be the year they make it to the pinnacle of the NBA. The big 3 know that the window is closing and that this may be their last shot before Chris Paul and Blake Griffin become free agents next summer. Doc Rivers did a solid effort in bringing in veterans who can contribute with such little cap space. Rivers says it’s one of the best supporting casts he’s had in LA and fans will be hoping the new signings will be better than Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith last season.
Time is running out of Chris Paul, who is still playing some of his best basketball right now. It’s amazing to think that he’s never made a Conference final coming into his 12th year in the league. One of the reasons is that he runs out of steam in the playoffs, due to the workload he carries in the regular season. This was evident last season, as a hand injury kept him out of the playoffs, which led to the Clippers collapsing to the Trail Blazers. With Austin Rivers and Raymond Felton backing him up, CP3 should be able to stay fresh come playoff time. Despite the role of the point guard changing, Paul has stayed as the best pass-first true point guard, who sets teammates up with his high IQ and court vision. He averaged 19.5 points and 10 assists last year, the third year in a row he’s averaged a double-double. Blake Griffin will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing 2015-16 campaign, which was overshadowed by a hand injury as a result of punching a Clippers staff member. Griffin has become more mature in his game, adding more range and playmaking ability rather than the high-flyer we saw when he entered the league. Griffin is the go-to guy in the clutch, but will need to step up on the defensive end to help his frontcourt partner DeAndre Jordan. DJ is coming off a strong season where made the NBA First Team. He’s the team’s rim protector and the only one at that, so he’ll have to have another big defensive year for the Clippers to compete. JJ Redick is the Clippers’ dead eye shooter who does a great job coming around screens and creating space for teammates. An underrated part of his game is his defense, where although he’s not a lockdown defender, he does enough to keep this side strong defensively. Marreese Speights is the top new guy in LA and gives the Clippers a versatile scorer in the frontcourt. He can also be a guy Doc Rivers can rely on in late game situations if DeAndre Jordan is struggling from the charity stripe. Jamal Crawford is last year’s Sixth Man of the Year who can score at will. Luc Mbah a Moute, Alan Anderson and Paul Pierce will be fighting it out for the small forward spot that the Clippers have not found an answer for in recent years. Austin Rivers earned respect after his Game 6 performance against the Trail Blazers, where he showed his toughness on the floor and will be hoping to break out this year in order to take the load of CP3.
The Clippers’ high-powered and exciting offense should once again propel them to the playoffs, but it’s their defense which will determine whether they can make the Finals or not. Their defense is above-average as a unit, but they need a strong rebounder to DeAndre Jordan. With the Big 3 era possibly coming to an end, it’s a “now or never” mentality for this squad. However, there biggest challenge is within their own division, where the Golden State Warriors have only gotten stronger.
Prediction: 2nd in Pacific Division