As a site, we ranked all the NBA teams from worst to best for our release of season previews. Day twenty-six’s release of a season preview ends up being the championship contending, Los Angeles Clippers. Step-Back J will provide a recap of their past season, an offseason recap, and then finally the season preview all of us fans are eager for.
Los Angeles Clippers:
Last Season Record: 56-26
Playoff Status: Lost 4-3 in the Western Conference Semi-finals against the Houston Rockets
In the beginning of the 2014-2015 season, the Los Angeles Clippers were viewed as title contenders, and even as Western Conference favorites during the offseason, after casting away the shadow of Donald Sterling. The power of their starting 5 (who outscored opponents by a league-leading 7.5 points per game) was good enough to power them through the regular season to a record of 56-26 and the 3rd seed in the West. After beating the San Antonio Spurs in an epic 7 game series they amazingly blew a 3-1 lead over the Houston Rockets and failed to reach the conference finals. Questions about their mentality, bench depth and cohesiveness came up and were a hot topic during the offseason. Unlike other offseasons, this was one to remember for the Clippers.
During the NBA draft, without any pick (1st round owed to Boston and 2nd round owed to Denver), the Clippers sent cash to the New Orleans Pelicans for the 56th pick, and selected small forward Branden Dawson out of Michigan State. He doesn’t figure to be much of a contributor, but could nonetheless surprise (he averaged 12.8ppg, 10.3rpg and 1.3 bpg in the summer league), especially in case injuries occur. Giving up only cash for Dawson makes the draft a minor success, as they were able to increase the depth.
The offseason was the epic part of the summer for the Clippers. After nearly loosing DeAndre Jordan to the Mavericks, a sudden change of heart reversed their fortunes. They re-signed their starting big man to a 4-year $87 million contract. Jordan is arguably the best defensive center in the game, with his rebounding skills (leading the league with an absurd 15 rpg), shot blocking ability (2.2 bpg) and his ability to change shots. All this earned him a All-Defensive 1st team and All-NBA 3rd team nomination. Despite this, his offensive game is mediocre at best. Lack of free-throw shooting and post moves make him a liability to have on that side of the ball. It was said that one of the reasons that lead to him initially signing with the Mavericks was the promise of a more prominent offensive role. It was also mentioned that Chris Paul agreed to feature him more on offense (and not just as an alley-op dunker) so it is going to be interesting to see how that works during the season.
But this wasn’t the reason the offseason was so good for the Clippers. They signed a number of above-average role players to finally add depth to the bench. The addition of Paul Pierce will bring the leadership, toughness, and a proven championship winner, which many believed the Clippers lacked. Los Angeles also traded for Lance Stephenson, who is only a season away from his breakout season as a member of the Indiana Pacers, where he emerged as a two-way force in the form of a valuable playmaker and defensive presence. Los Angeles traded away Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes in order to acquire Stephenson. The loss of Matt Barnes hurts. He was usually assigned to the opposing teams’ best wing player and added a certain grit and grind (à la Memphis) that was extremely valuable to a team that lacked toughness. Hawes, although could space the floor, did not seem very inclined to play at a high level after a big extension, so his presence will not be missed. Josh Smith is a valuable player to have coming off the bench, if the Clippers get the Houston version, the one who did not take a lot of 3-point shots and focused on defending and play making. Wesley Johnson (who some hinted may start in order to preserve Pierce), Pablo Prigioni and Cole Aldrich are solid additions that complete the bench boosting process that the Clippers undertook during the summer. Nonetheless, the additions seem likely to offset the players that are missing, and the overall level of talent has significantly increased. Also, let’s not forget the Crawford remains in a Clippers uniform, an extremely valuable player to have off the bench with his shooting ability,
Heading into the 2015-2016 season pressure is at an all-time high for this Clippers team. Regular season success is no longer important, playoff success is now a necessity. Hitting the 60-wins plateau seems a viable objective, but Doc Rivers will probably learn from last season’s mistakes and provide more rest to his star players, which may lead to a more modest record (always north of 50 wins). Los Angeles has made quite a few improvements this offseason, in aspiration of a championship. The starting five of Paul-J.J. Redick-Johnson-Blake Griffin-Jordan, blends scoring and defense perfectly, and will rank in the top ten for both categories. The revamped bench, built around Pierce, Smith, Crawford, Stephenson, and Rivers possess offensive and defensive abilities, and some could argue that bench is better than some line-ups across the league. With Paul’s legacy on the line, a renewed bench, Griffins’ and Jordans’ improvement, and now Pierce’s’ leadership, a trip to the conference finals seems to be the basement for this team. However playing in the Western Conference adds a lot of uncertainty towards this objective. Clipper fans can expect success this season. The ceiling could be the first parade in Los Angeles that does not involve the Los Angeles Lakers. A lot of things need to go right, but a conference finals/Finals trip is more likely than not.
By: Step-Back J
Edited By: Mac Crowe, Mac_Truck17