No elite team went through as many changes as the Los Angeles Clippers this offseason, and seeing that kind of turnover from a 56 win team is very rare. The Clippers replaced Vinny Del Negro with Doc Rivers in one of the biggest trades of the offseason, and then they brought in J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley and Darren Collinson to fill out the roster. All this, of course, came after re-signing superstar point guard Chris Paul to a max contract.
Redick and Dudley are the perfect fit for a team that badly needed outside shooting, as is first round pick Reggie Bullock. The Clippers have completely remodeled their shooting guard and small forward positions, and they should be much better for it. The new players will complement the pick and roll game of Paul and Blake Griffin well, and they will provide needed perimeter defense.
However, if the Clippers are going to take the next step, the pressure falls squarely on the shoulders of Griffin. The Clippers cut Griffin’s minutes last season, resulting in career low averages of 18.0 PPG and 8.3 RPG. However, Griffin has become a more efficient offensive player, and he is developing post moves to complement is jaw-dropping dunks.
Rivers should immediately improve the defense, and he will be focused on getting the best out of Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers are thin up front, so those two both have to make major strides on both ends of the court. Rivers will also be able to design a more creative offense than what the Clippers have been using, and he should be able to provide a buffer between the Clippers’ young players and the sometimes overbearing leadership of Paul.
The West is absolutely loaded, but no team other than the Houston Rockets improved more than the Clippers this offseason. I am predicting them to finish with a 57-25 record, a slight improvement over last season. The West is simply too stacked for anyone to win 60 games, but the Clippers should be right in the mix for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
The Clippers believe that they have the pieces in place to win their first NBA championship, and they should play like a contender in the regular season. Continued improvement from Griffin is the most important factor for the Clippers’ title hopes, and if he does that then the Clippers have a great chance reach the NBA Finals.