5 Things Keeping the Los Angeles Clippers from Being NBA Title Favorites
The Los Angeles Clippers have had a season of ups and downs. They were on a 17-game winning streak, where they were playing like the best team in the NBA. Now, they have lost seven of the last 10 games because of injury problems. The losses have dropped the Clippers into third place in the Western Conference with a 35-16 record.
The Clippers have depth throughout their roster to win their first title. But there are things that need to be fixed if they are going to have postseason success. Everybody on the roster needs to play their best basketball and get back to their winning ways for the second half of the season.
There is still a lot of basketball left, but is this the year that the Clippers bring home a championship title after traditionally being a losing franchise?
The Clippers are plagued with injury issues at the moment, which has been one of the reasons for their recent losses. Blake Griffin is still day-to-day with hamstring problems but should be coming back very soon. Hopefully he makes it back for Friday's road game against the Miami Heat.
The big injury news is about Chris Paul. His presence and ability to facilitate the offense has been missed. Paul has been off the court because of his bruised knee, but signs of his recovery look positive. Also, Chauncey Billups has only played three games this year because of his knee injury.
According to a Daily News article, both Paul and Billups could be returning as soon as Friday night against the Heat. It's good that the Clippers will be getting back some crucial pieces to the team because they need them to keep up with the teams at the top of the conference.
The Clippers need to become a better rebounding team down the final stretch this season. They currently rank 18th in the league with 42 rebounds per game. Rebounding is a crucial statistic, especially in the playoffs.
DeAndre Jordan needs to step up and grab more rebounds per game. He is averaging 7.3 RPG and has the potential grab more boards. Lamar Odom has turned into an effective rebounder for the team off the bench, even though he hasn't posted his usual points per game.
Finally, Ronny Turiaf needs to have more than 2.5 rebounds per game. He doesn't get much time on the court, but he needs to become a more useful player when he's on the court. Rebounding isn't the Clippers' biggest problem, but if they are going to have success down the road, it needs to be better.
Trading for Kevin Garnett
According to a Boston Globe article, the Clippers have shown interest in trading for Kevin Garnett. The article said that the Clippers would trade Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler for Garnett. But could trading KG for DeAndre Jordan be a better deal? Jordan hasn't performed up to his potential, and the Clippers need him to if they are going to win the title.
KG is a versatile big man who would bring lots of playoff experience to the roster, which most of the players on the roster lack. Also, he would be another great rebounder to the rotation for head coach Vinny Del Negro. Upcoming weeks will show if the Clippers actually do pull the trigger and trade for Garnett.
Great Teams Throughout the Rest of the Conference
The Clippers might not win the title this year because of other experienced teams in the Western Conference. The San Antonio Spurs are on an 11-game winning streak and will be one of the teams to watch out for because of the playoff experience on the roster. The Spurs players really gel well together and have continued to play stellar this year.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are another team for the Clippers to worry about come playoff time. The Thunder possibly have the best duo in the league with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Also, they defeated the Spurs in last year's Western Conference Finals and almost defeated the Heat to win it all.
Also, the Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors are all teams to watch out for in the playoffs. The Clippers need to play exceptional basketball when they face these teams in the playoffs. Most players on the Clippers roster don't have years of experience in postseason play, and that might show in the playoffs.
Crucial X-Factor to Win It All
The Clippers are playing well this season, not just because of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but also because their bench is one of the best in the NBA.
Sixth man Jamal Crawford is averaging 16.9 points per game, which is second on the team behind Griffin. Matt Barnes has really stepped up and is having one of the best seasons of his career. Barnes has turned out to be an excellent outside shooter and a very solid defender for the team.
Also, Eric Bledsoe brings energy and athleticism off the bench. Bledsoe provided his best game of the season against the Magic on Wednesday with 27 points, six rebounds and six steals.
The Clippers needed that spark to win the game, especially with the injured starters not playing. Finally, Chauncey Billups should be back in the rotation as soon as Friday night. Billups will be another key bench player for the team. The bench will be very important if the Clippers are going to win the title.