The NBA's Best Team Is from Los Angeles, and It's Not the Lakers

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIIDecember 26, 2012

December 21, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA;  Los Angeles Clippers small forward Caron Butler (5), power forward Blake Griffin (32), shooting guard Willie Green (34) and center DeAndre Jordan (6) cheer from the bench during the game against the Sacramento Kings at the Staples Center. Clippers won 97-85. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA Today Sports Images
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

When the 2012-13 NBA regular season began, many expected the Los Angeles Lakers to be the top team in the NBA. With a star-studded roster and a championship pedigree, it wasn't hard to see why.

Much as expected, the NBA's best team is from Los Angeles. Shockingly, it isn't the Lakers.

At 21-6, the Los Angeles Clippers have stepped up as the top team in the league. They're currently on a 13-game winning streak and have defeated the elite of the elite.

Almost every one of them.

The teams they have defeated include the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls. Their average margin of victory during their 21 wins has been 14.5 points.

In other words, LAC has been dominant.

Led by two All-Stars and a surplus of quality role players, the Clippers have developed a reputation as the most balanced team in the NBA (via B/R). What many aren't aware of, however, is that it is not just their offense that is winning games.

They are dominating opponents on both ends of the floor—which is why they're the league's best.


Balance, Part I: Starting FIve

With Chris Paul at the helm of the starting lineup, the Los Angeles Clippers have already established themselves as a postseason contender. For proof, check the team that CP3 won with in New Orleans.

Now understand that he has more talent surrounding him than ever before in his NBA career.

Blake Griffin may be known for his dunks, but he's also a nightly threat for 20 and 10. With a rapidly developing low-post game and an improved mid-range J, Griffin offers reason to believe he will make his third All-Star team in as many seasons.

Two stars is a nice way to start.

Joining Griffin in the paint is DeAndre Jordan, who has received praise from analysts nationwide for his development in the post. Although his numbers are capped by a less-than-fitting amount of playing time, he is a two-way threat who can set the pace for any game.

Specifically on defense, where Jordan is averaging 1.6 blocks per game.

With reliable role players in Caron Butler and Willie Green beside this trio, LAC has a powerful starting five. CP3 will get everyone involved in the proper way, thus providing offensive firepower.

Most important of all is the fact that there is the proper balance of offense and defense—as we will see.


Balance, Part II: A Tribe Called Bench

If the starting lineup isn't enough for you, the second unit should solidify their greatness.

As of Christmas Day, the Los Angeles Clippers are tied with the San Antonio Spurs for second-unit efficiency. They rank first in points per game at 41.9, fourth in rebounds at 17.9 and fourth in assists at 8.4.

They also have the league's highest defensive efficiency rating at 18.3.

Led by Jamal Crawford, who averages 16.3 points, and Eric Bledsoe, who averages 1.5 steals, the Clippers reserves have been stellar. In fact, with Matt Barnes discovering his scoring touch and Lamar Odom finally rebounding, the reserves could compete with any starters. 

A drop-off does not exist in Los Angeles.


Balance, Part III: Defense

Thus far in 2012-13, the Los Angeles Clippers rank fourth in the NBA at 91.6 points allowed per game. In December alone, the Clippers are holding opponents to an average of 86.7 points per game.

In every phase of the game, L.A. is dominating their opposition.

The Clippers are forcing a league-best 17.4 turnovers per game. They also rank first with 10.7 steals per contest.

Tack on their average of 6.5 blocks per game, and they rank seventh in said area as well.

Regardless of which defensive area you're evaluating, L.A. is one of the best.


Balance, Part IV: Offense

Contrary to popular belief, the Los Angeles Clippers are about much more than dunking.

For the season, the Los Angeles Clippers rank ninth in the NBA at 101.2 points per game. They're doing so on 47.9 percent shooting from the floor, as a team, which ranks fourth in the league.

They also rank second in the league at 23.3 assists per game.

Leading the way is Chris Paul, who ranks second in the league at 9.6 assists per contest. Four other Clippers are averaging at least 2.3 assists.

They also rank seventh in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio and ninth in turnovers per game.

This comes by virtue of the Clippers having just one player averaging more than 1.9 turnovers. Chris Paul leads the team at 2.2 turnovers, which comes on a usage rate of 23.1 percent.

It sure doesn't hurt that they can dunk at will, either.

Four different players average double-figure scoring. Seven average at least 9.0 points per game.

Nine average at least 5.7.

In other words, the wealth is being spread. This form of balance is the key to the Clippers becoming the most dominant force in the NBA.

If you can't score on them, and you can't stop them from scoring, how do you expect to win? The Clippers are the top team in the league.


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