At 1-10, the Los Angeles Clippers' season is all but over.
Although it's only November, it is safe to say that there will be no playoffs, that the only important spring games will be for their opponents and that Clipper Nation must resign itself to playing spoiler yet again.
If only there was a clear-cut No. 1 draft pick to fantasize about.
Despite the current futility of Vinny Del Negro's squad, the future is not quite as gloomy. Blake Griffin has been a revelation, Eric Gordon has been a stud and Eric Bledsoe has been a pleasant surprise. With the oldest of the three merely 21 years old, better times are certainly ahead. Still, it is up in the air exactly how well these pieces fit together and how much success they will someday bring.
Every franchise's ultimate goal is to win a championship. While the Clippers should aim first at decency, then a playoff berth and then perhaps contender status, GM Neil Olshey and the front office should have a long-term championship plan.
So what is the Clippers' future recipe for success?
To address this question, I've looked at past title teams to determine winning formulas, finding three unmistakable models of success throughout NBA history. For simplicity's sake, let's stick to analyzing the past decade's champions.
I will present each championship recipe, who cooked it up, why it works, and whether the Clippers have the right ingredients.
Recipe No. 1: Superstar Sandwich
Ingredients: Two or more superstars, one perimeter and one interior, accompanied by solid role players.
The Superstar Sandwich is the meal most often ordered by victorious teams. If you get at least two surefire Hall of Famers on the court together, you are almost guaranteed to have serious success. This formula works for many reasons: These squads have fantastic leadership, excellent balance, fiery competitiveness, always a go-to guy on the floor, two players who make the supporting cast better, multiple finishers in crunch time, etc.
If the Clippers are to do this, it must be on the shoulders of Gordon and Griffin. Those two would need to elevate their game to otherworldly levels. While both obviously have All-Star potential, neither screams superstar like Kevin Durant.
This recipe is conceivable, but a lot of marinating has to be done, and the perfect flavor is by no means assured.
Recipe No. 2: All-Star Omelet
Ingredients: One superstar, accompanied by at least two All-Star caliber players.
Chefs: San Antonio Spurs (2003, 2005, 2007); LA Lakers (2009-2010)
Gregg Popovich's signature dish, the All-Star Omelet has produced five total titles since 2000. This model is predicated on having one superstar as the heart and soul of the team, bolstered by a couple other guys who can really take the pressure off. These teams have too many options for the defense to focus on.
This recipe affords you versatility in your game plan and the ability to expose specific matchups.
For the Clippers, Gordon or Griffin would have to be the superstar, with the other being one of the All-Stars. Where does the other All-Star come from? Maybe Bledsoe (or Al-Farouq Aminu) develops into that kind of player or Kaman regains form.
Again, this is conceivable—but by no means assured.
Recipe No. 3: Balanced Burger
Ingredients: Five All-Star caliber players with great chemistry.
Chefs: Detroit Pistons (2004)
The 2004 Pistons were one of the unique champions in sports history, considering that they did not have a legitimate superstar. Rasheed Wallace was the most talented, Chauncey Billups was Mr. Big Shot, Ben Wallace was the emotional leader, Rip Hamilton was the consistent scorer and Tayshaun Prince was the do-all-the-little-things glue guy.
A Balanced Burger team is cohesive on both ends of the floor, extremely efficient and not vulnerable anywhere. A classic case of the whole being greater than sum of its parts.
The Clippers are unlikely to whip up this type of squad. It takes uncommon acceptance of roles, exceptional chemistry and perfect balance.
The Los Angeles Clippers have a few quality ingredients, but will they be able to generate a sweet recipe? Cooking is not just about having good base foods; the flavors must meld in the precisely correct way. Though chocolate and steak are both delicious, crudely throwing them together would not create a successful dish.
Moreover, are the Clippers missing any basic ingredients that are vital to their future recipe? Do they need to go to the market and acquire some rare Carmelo Anthony?
Finally, has anyone noticed the one major ingredient I barely mentioned above? Hall of Fame coaches. The teams above were led by three Hall of Famers (Phil Jackson, Larry Brown and Pat Riley), one definite future entrant (Gregg Popovich) and a possibility in Doc Rivers. You need someone to carefully stir the pot, and I don't know if Vinny Del Negro the right man.
Clipper fans are hungry, and not just for postgame fare at the pantry. It should be interesting to see whether the next few years are feast or famine.
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