The Clippers will return to the playoffs next year. I said it.
The two major changes of getting Baron Davis and Marcus Camby put the Clippers into the postseason. Although it is possible to argue that skill-wise Davis-Camby replaces the Corey Maggette-Elton Brand duo, Davis and Camby have been to the playoffs in multiple seasons. They bring the leadership, success, and experience that Maggette and Brand do not have.
While a part of me feels that the Clippers are not done this summer, the current roster holds key elements that will push them into the top eight in the west.
They have a fairly strong starting five with Davis, Cuttino Mobley, Al Thornton, Marcus Camby, and Chris Kaman.
Their frontcourt has immense size (Thornton 6’8”, Camby 7’0”, Kaman 7’0”) which almost matches the potential Lakers front court (Odom 6’10”, Gasol 7’0", Bynum 7’0"). Very few teams can boast one, much less two seven foot players in their starting lineup.
Thornton, Camby, and Kaman are all capable rebounders. Camby led the league in blocks. Kaman can keep opponents out of the lane with his 265 pounds. Thornton is very athletic and quick. Davis has been a leader since his arrival in the NBA. He knows how to control the tempo of the game and can make the clutch shot.
After putting up with Sam Cassell the past few years, coach Mike Dunleavy should be comfortable with Davis’ shot selection.
Cuttino Mobley has been fairly consistent the past few years. He can shoot the three and make set shots. If Davis were to penetrate and drive, Mobley should be open enough to knock down the open shot.
The Clippers’ bench isn’t too shabby either. Tim Thomas gives the Clippers some size as well as another three point threat. He can stretch defenses and play a physical defense.
The two rookies, Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan, have shown promise in summer leagues. While those games don’t mean that much, it was an opportunity for them to showcase some of their abilities.
Jordan, once projected a top 10 draft pick, looks to be a young Marcus Camby and gets up and down the floor well. Playing with Camby should provide a lot of experience on the floor and during practice sessions.
Gordon has been accustomed to being the team’s primary offensive weapon at Indiana. Those experiences have given him many weapons to work with. He will not be required to provide all the offense with the Clippers, but we do know that he can score when he has to.
The offseason is not over yet. I hope that the Clippers can sign another swing man or backup point guard. Shaun Livingston is a possible candidate to back up Davis, as is Smush Parker and Dan Dickau. Marcus Williams is very athletic and hopefully will resign with the Clippers.
Just to stir the rumor pot, one addition I would like to see is for Vince Carter to come to the Clippers for Mobley. Carter would bring more playoff experience and a solid outside touch.
The Clippers now have the skills and the right combination of players to make the playoffs. I do expect a least one team over .500 to miss the playoffs (likely the Blazers and Nuggets).
Western Conference playoff teams: Lakers, Hornets, Jazz, Suns, Rockets, Spurs, Clippers, Mavericks.