LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Last Season: 56-26 (55.5 projected wins) and 3rd seed (beat Spurs in 7 and lost to Houston in 7 games)
Key Additions: Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith, Wesley Johnson, Pablo Prigioni
Key Losses: Glen Davis, Spencer Hawes, Matt Barnes
2015-16 Vegas: 56.5 projected wins and 12:1 odds to win NBA Championship
The Clippers have been that team to underperform in the postseason. They’ve been able to have a great regular season, and you’re hesitant on believing in them. They then win in the first round and you’re like, “Heeeeey! Watch out for the Clippers!”… Then they lose in the Western Conference semis, and you’re there looking like an idiot to your friends. With all the talent they’ve had, the Clippers have been underwhelming in the past couple years! Now this year, with the offseason acquisitions, they should have no excuses.
There’s so many offseason additions to cover. First of all, Paul Pierce reunites with his Celtics coach, Doc Rivers, whom he won a championship with. Pierce has the ability to make the game-winning shot because science has come out and said Pierce has ice in his veins, and that’s The Truth! Then you have Lance Stephenson, who was a significant piece to the deep playoff runs by the Indiana Pacers. He then chose to go on his own and be “the guy”, so he signed with the Hornets. He obviously wasn’t the same player, and then his big contract was traded to the Clippers. I feel we’ll see the Pacer Stephenson in LA, rather than the Hornet Stephenson. Lance doesn’t have to worry about being “the guy” in Los Angeles, because he’ll be “the seventh guy”. And then there’s Josh Smith, who was in Detroit and Houston last year, and hasn’t been the same since his Atlanta Hawk days. On a veteran minimum, he isn’t expected to do much. If Josh can keep a level head and accept his role, he may prove to be a key factor in the 2nd half of the Clippers season.
As much that the Clippers acquired in the offseason, the big story missed is what they already have in place. DeAndre Jordan, after a long soap opera episode, decided to stay with the Clippers, instead of heading to Dallas. Jordan brings 2.2 BPG back to the Clippers, as well as last year’s career high in points per game (11.5) and rebounds per game (15.0). Then there’s Blake Griffin, obviously. Griffin’s considered a rising star in the league, and many believe he is one championship away from being considering on the level around LeBron James (there’s my ESPN impression). Blake obviously has to improve his defense if he wants to do absolutely everything he possibly can to get the Clippers to the Finals. But despite all the talent in the world, it all relies on C.. P.. 3. Paul’s more crucial to this team’s success than people think. Chris Paul has the highest net rating with on and off court point differential, +12.2 with him on and -7.6 with him off, a 19.8 point differential. That’s more than last year’s MVP, Stephen Curry.
The big deal for this team is can they avoid the injury bug, can they live up to the hype, and can Doc Rivers keep the personalities and egos in check. If Rivers can do that, and he can propel this team to the NBA Finals, win or lose that series, Doc will have to be considered one of the best basketball coaches today, behind coaches Pop and Spo.
Do I see this team as a playoff contender once again? Absolutely! I believe they can achieve as high as the 2nd seed in the difficult Western Conference. Again, what matters, is can the Clips win the Western Semifinals? I believe they have been put in the position to do so. I think this team is a contender for the NBA Finals, but it’s all going to rely on Chris Paul’s leadership and Doc Rivers’ mastermind.
What do you think the Clippers can do this season? Let me know in the comments below your expectations!