With a chip on their shoulders, coach Mike Dunleavy and his players started their training camp right after last year's 19-63 dismal performance. Baron Davis and his teammates lived up to their promises, vowing to have a busy off-season working on fundamentals and conditioning. The organization added Rasual Butler, Sebastian Telfair, and Craig Smith to give the Clippers depth. And that one key addition that has Clipper Nation itching to get the season started: Blake Griffin. This is a whole new Clippers team. New faces, new attitude, and new agenda. With that said, do not be surprised if the Clippers pull off 50 wins and here's why:
1) Baron Davis: He has a lot to prove. A LOT. Around the league, he is known for his personality more than his game. He does let his emotions get to him, but his dedication in the off-season has changed his ways around the organization. Physically, he looks great. Mentally and emotionally, it still needs to be seen on the court.
However, keep in mind, through his bad and good seasons, Baron is still a top tier point guard in the league. He is a leader on the floor, able to blow by opposing players or making plays for his teammates. Baron doesn’t need to be the scorer he was in Golden State. If he manages his shot selection, and punishes those smaller PGs in the post, he is capable to average 18 ppg and 10 asst. If he can successfully run the team rather than running his mouth, his leadership on and off the court can produce positive energy for the Clippers.
2) GM/Coach Dunleavy: For the past couple seasons, all I heard was that “the Clippers will run more” but really, they didn’t. This year, I think he will keep his word, due in large part to the roster. Baron, Telfair, Blake, R. Davis, Gordon, Al, etc...they ARE a running team...let me rephrase: they ARE EXPLOSIVE.
When I look at this roster, I see scorers, playmakers, defensive stoppers, runners, and more importantly, leaders. For all of this to be effectively working, it starts with Dunleavy. He needs to let his ego and personal agenda go out the door and focus on the skills of his players and run plays that coincide with the skills of his players. Hiring John Lucas to his coaching staff was the best acquisition during the off-season. Lucas is known around the league for his positive relationship with players and knowledge of the game. Building chemistry starts with the coaches, and if they established chemistry during the off-season, it can only get better through the regular season.
3) The Kids: Al Thornton, Eric Gordon, DeAndre Jordan, and Blake Griffin should all contribute and post up great numbers this season. For some reason, there is a lot of criticism of Thornton’s game, but I don't see why he's getting so much heat.
Throughout his Clippers career he has not missed much time due to injuries. He’s athletic, plays hard, and is a great scorer. Like Baron, his shot selection needs to improve and I don’t see Coach Dunleavy giving Thornton any hard defense assignments. Other than that, give him a break.
Gordon will continue to improve this season and since he will be the starter on day one, everyone will witness greatness in the making. He is a threat on all corners of the floor and he probably has one of the prettiest strokes I've seen in a long time.
DeAndre Jordan has put up great numbers during this preseason and if given the minutes in the regular season, I don't see any changes in his numbers. And now lets talk about Blake Griffin...
4) Blake Griffin: He has the size, basketball IQ, skills, and athleticism to change a game. He is so versatile that he can guard every position and play the three, four, or five.
However, Dunleavy should not use him as a “utility." Make him play the four consistently, he can make the opposing PF work harder than usual. Take them off the dribble and blow right pass them. Besides his outside shooting, he has the skills of a five year veteran. If he starts, and I don't see why he shouldn't, he can put up 20-10 every night. I haven’t seen a young player come into a NBA team with so much maturity and skills. He will be Rookie of the Year and a future All-Star.
5) The Veterans: Baron, Camby, Kaman, Skinner, and Ricky Davis are the pieces that keeps the team together. They are the leaders on the floor during those crucial moments of the game. If they can provide the leadership, the team's chemistry will stay intact for the whole season.
Coach Dunleavy has a great tool that most NBA coaches want on their teams. Rotating Kaman and Camby will cause opponents to switch up their game plans because Kaman and Camby can light up the opposing team inside and outside the paint. They are athletic, great passers, and post-up nightmares for the opposing team. If used correctly, matching up with our bigs will be tough for opponents.
On paper, the Clippers can match up with anyone in the league, but to succeed, chemistry, hard work, and dedication will be the main factors to win games. If they can put all the pieces together, I don't see why they can't win 50 games. Clipper Nation has waited a long time to see Baron and Co. back in action. Fasten your seat belts, this will be a journey to remember!