Remember a month or so ago when most were proclaiming the Los Angeles Clippers as the best team in the NBA? After a 17-game winning streak was snapped by the Denver Nuggets on New Year’s Day, the Clippers have come back to earth and are just 9-10 for 2013, with most of the losses coming without All-Star point guard Chris Paul as he nurses a knee injury. Paul’s absence has pointed out a glaring whole in their team: true chemistry.
Chris Paul is without a doubt on of the best players in the league. Any team would struggle after losing a player of Paul’s caliber. But, the Clippers were supposed to have enough depth to overcome injuries. Third-year back up PG Eric Bledsoe was supposed to be good enough to start at the NBA level, but that hasn’t been the case for the Clippers. While Bledsoe has indeed improved this season, he’s not yet ready to take the reins of an NBA team full time.
In the past 10 games with Bledsoe running the show and playing starter’s minutes, the Clippers are just 3-7, with their three victories coming against the Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers and the Minnesota Timberwolves. In that ten-game span, Bledsoe is averaging 12.6 points, 5.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds but only connecting on .410 of his field goal attempts. Also with Bledsoe starting, the Clippers back court depth has taken a hit, with shoot-first-ask-questions-later guard Jamal Crawford picking up back up PG duties, throwing off the chemistry of the second unit. Bledsoe’s energy is better suited for a reserve role with the Clippers bench and allows everyone to maintain their normal roles.
In essence, Chris Paul’s injury has proven just how valuable he is to the Clippers’ success. The Clippers went from looking almost unbeatable and having the NBA’s best record in December to barely treading water in January, all due to the loss of the superstar. Blake Griffin is the most exciting Clippers’ player, but Chris Paul is the engine that makes the Clippers run effectively. For that alone, Chris Paul deserves some serious MVP consideration.