Los Angeles Clippers 2012-13 Season Preview
Seed: No. 5
Playoffs: Swept in second round by San Antonio Spurs
Draft picks: Furkan Aldemir
Signings/trades: Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Ryan Hollins, Ronny Turiaf, Willie Green
Reggie Evans, Randy Foye, Kenyon Martin, Maurice Williams, Nick Young, Bobby Simmons
Projected starting lineup
C - DeAndre Jordan
PF - Blake Griffin
SF - Caron Butler
SG - Chauncey Billups
PG - Chris Paul
What to expect
The culture completely changed for the "other" Los Angeles team in December of 2011 when the Clippers acquired Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets. After missing the playoffs for five straight years, the Clips returned in 2012, ultimately falling in the second round to the Spurs.
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Los Angeles then went to work in the offseason, adding pieces like Crawford, Hill and Odom to try and get over that hump. The Clippers will also be getting Billups back from a ruptured Achilles, but how effective he will be remains to be seen.
Regardless, L.A. will certainly be a very good team this season. It has probably the most athletic frontcourt in the league with Jordan and Griffin, not to mention arguably the league's best point guard in Paul tossing them lob passes.
The "Lob City" mentality can only get you so far, though, and San Antonio proved that to the Clippers last year. That's why the Clips made a concerted effort to go out and beef up the overall "completeness" of the team over the summer.
This is no longer just a team that is going to rely on scoring points off of alley-oops. This is a team that is going to be able to score the basketball in multiple ways. It's not just scoring, though; Los Angeles possesses a versatile group of guys who can play on both ends of the floor.
Even at the age of 40, Hill is still a fine perimeter defender, and Butler and Barnes are pretty good on that end of the floor, as well. It is going to be tough for opposing wings to score on the Clippers, especially with Jordan patrolling the paint.
Of course, the main concern with the Clips is whether or not they can consistently generate offense out of the low post. As incredible of a talent as Griffin is, he still doesn't have much of an idea of what to do on the low block.
He has certainly shown flashes, but his back-to-the-basket skills need a lot of work. If he can start scoring regularly when he gets the ball in the post, L.A.'s offense becomes that much more dangerous.
The depth on this ballclub is very impressive, as the likes of Crawford, Hill and Odom will be coming off the pine, not to mention Eric Bledsoe, a player who had a coming out party of sorts during this past postseason.
While the 23-year-old averaged just 3.3 points per game off a paltry 38.9 field goal percentage during the regular season, he put up 7.9 points on 58.7 percent shooting in the playoffs, demonstrating the Kentucky product's rapid growth.
The expectations are high for the Clippers this season, and rightfully so.
Key player: Blake Griffin
As stated earlier, Griffin has to improve his offensive repertoire this season. We already know he can jump out of a building and probably could have posterized Goliath (and stared him down afterward). However, there is no doubt that the kid needs to work on the rest of his game.
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What is nice about Griffin is that he is a very good passing big man and he can handle the ball. So, those are two parts that he already has down, and that is huge. The next step is definitely some moves down low.
Griffin is a load at 6'10" and 251 lbs, so he should be using his size and strength for more than just throwing down monster jams. If he can develop a drop-step or a turnaround jumper, look out. Heck, if he can simply develop that little bank shot that Shaquille O'Neal patented in his prime, look out.
The 23-year-old also needs work defensively, but right now, he just needs to focus on completing his offensive game. Jordan will be there to clean up any of Griffin's mess on the other end of the floor.
Sleeper: Eric Bledsoe
Whether or not he can even be considered a "sleeper" anymore after his playoff outburst is up for debate, but when you think of the Clippers, you generally don't think of Bledsoe. You think of the Pauls, the Griffins, and now and the Odoms and the Crawfords. Well, this season, Bledsoe could make himself a rather common name in NBA circles.
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Bledsoe has all of the tools to be valuable regular contributor in this league, possessing toughness and just a great overall feel for the game. He is also a very good defender.
Bledsoe isn't going to be putting up huge numbers, but he will definitely be a key cog in a potential Los Angeles run this season. You can bank on that.
Seed: No. 4-5
Playoffs: Could get to Western Conference Finals
Yes, 49 wins might not seem like an awful lot, but keep in mind that the West has improved from top-to-bottom. Teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings will likely be better this season, making it much more difficult to achieve 50+ wins. In any other year, they Clippers would probably reach that.
That being said, there is little doubt that Los Angeles will be a top-five team in the conference. There is too much talent here to deny them of that. Griffin's knee is a bit of a concern, but the Clips say that he is healthy and is feeling no ill effects, so that is great news.
Given the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers and the defending Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder are still around, it's hard to imagine this team making a run to the finals. The talent is there, but it's just that those top two teams (and even the Spurs to an extent) are so good that the Clippers may have just found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Vinny Del Negro's team can certainly challenge the likes of the Lakers and the Thunder, but beating them over the course of a seven-game series might be another story.
Fortunately, the Clips still have a very young core, and they will have plenty of opportunities in the future.
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