In 2013-14, the Los Angeles Clippers clinched the third seed in the Western Conference, good for the third-best record in the NBA. Still, there is good reason to believe that this talented team should be able to improve with title-contending aspirations. Of course the goal is to reach the Finals, but the smaller objectives have to be completed to make that possible.
Winning 60 games may not matter as much as playing the team’s best basketball at the right time, and that’s in the playoffs. However, we have seen the importance of home-court advantage, and reaching that 60-win milestone could be the difference in any series.
The Clippers emphasized two things this offseason: perimeter shooting and veteran presence. That’s what got Doc Rivers interested in signing Spencer Hawes and Jordan Farmar. An outside touch, along with championship experience, is the reason why Glen Davis was re-signed. They certainly aren’t the biggest splashes in free agency, but the Clippers don’t necessarily need a lot of outside help.
Under Rivers, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan posted career-highs in several categories, and are still far from reaching their potential. Chris Paul, the NBA’s best pure point guard and seven-time All-Star, is even opening his eyes and ears to Rivers, and is someone who should grow even more as a leader.
You don’t think Griffin is hungry after placing third in MVP voting? How about the Jordan placing third in votes for DPOY? This is a hungry team.
With the best bench scorer in the game, Jamal Crawford, the Clippers have a baller who loves to hoop. He still plays younger than his age and within his own style of play, a role that fits perfectly for the two-time Sixth Man Of The Year award winner. If Rivers can sell Ray Allen on coming back to the west coast, I’d bet on the Clippers eclipsing 60 wins in 2014-15.
The teams in Texas don’t match up favorably with Lob City, at least not during the regular season. The champion Spurs don’t play a single player over 30 minutes per game. The Dallas Mavericks are a veteran team without a point guard to orchestrate the offense. The Houston Rockets lost a trio of role players and simply failed to improve.
As far as last year’s playoff opponents, I believe Clippers have the edge as well. The Oklahoma City Thunder have a dynamic duo with an excellent defender in Serge Ibaka, but the game plan should allow Ibaka to keep shooting from the outside as nobody else on the roster can step up the scoring consistently. Then you have the Golden State Warriors, a team with a new head coach and a frontcourt made of glass. David Lee and Andrew Bogut always get banged up, while Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala won’t solve their shot selection issues overnight.
As of right now, assuming the roster is prepared for battle, I see Rivers as the favorite to win Coach Of The Year for the second time en route to 60-plus wins.