Whenever I start to write an article about the Clippers, especially one in which I'm making predictions, the first thing I do is remind myself that, regardless of their "potential" they always find a way to screw it up.
Therefore, I temper my hope, optimism, and predictions; saving myself later embarrassment.
However, going into this season, the Clippers have something we haven't had going into any other season- a bona-fide proven super-star.
Blake Griffin is the real deal. In his rookie season he not only put up staggering stats which the league hadn't seen in over a decade, but he dominated the paint in a manner I don't think we've seen since Karl Malone.
Thus, this year, as much as I try to contain my excitement and expectations, as much as I try to keep hope on lock down, I can't do it: this team is just too exciting.
I see big things.
Thus, here are 7 bold predictions for this year's Clippers:
As ridiculously incredible a dunker that Blake Griffin is, he may only be the second most authoritative dunker on his own team.
Last season, Blake Griffin finished second in the league in dunks.
DeAndre Jordan finished third, in about half the minutes.
Jordan lacks anything resembling a mid-range shot. Whenever he gets the ball within ten feet of the hoop, he takes one Goliath step, jumps in the air, spreads his ridiculous 17 foot wingspan, and dunks the ball with authority.
And his post-dunk scowl is just as impressive as the actual dunk.
This year, when Blake decides that he's become too big and famous for the dunk contest, teammate DeAndre will be asked to join.
And he will win.
It's no big secret that the biggest thing holding the Clippers back right now is the lack of a legitimate starting shooting forward.
Most "experts" believe the Clippers need to deal Chris Kaman to fill this void; however, I'm in the minority. I believe that they will hold onto Kaman for three reasons:
#1- Chris Kaman, DeAndre Jordan, and Blake Griffin will make up the most formidable front court in the league.
#2- Kaman's contract expires after the season, which will give them cap space to chase after a big-time free agent (CP3 or Dwight Howard maybe?)
#3- They don't need to trade Kaman to get a quality starter.
Tayshaun Prince can not only be had at a reasonable price, and without giving away their third best scoring option, but he's a better fit for the team than the often discussed Andre Iguodala.
In Iguodala, you have a superb, athletic freak. A man who can take the ball to the hole and make an electrifying dunk.
The Clippers already have more dunkers than they know what to do with. Iguodala's game doesn't compliment Blake Griffin's.
What they need is not another big dunker, but instead a top-notch defender, who can knock down a three-pointer.
Most importantly, they need to hold onto Kaman for this season's playoff run, and have his cap-space available at the end of the year.
In a trade for Iguodala, you can kiss any shot at Chris Paul or Dwight Howard good-bye.
Tayshaun Prince is the best fit for this team, and I expect them to sign him as soon as the lock-out ends.
This past season, Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon shocked the NBA by combining for a combined 44.8 ppg.
This season, I expect them to hit 50 ppg.
These two fellas compliment each other beautifully, and with both of them under the age of 24, I expect them to become one of the top three duos in the league in the next season or two.
Blake is a hard driving, hard dunking, power guy, while Eric has as sweet a shot as anyone this side of Ray Allen; he also possesses a highly under-rated ability to go to the hole, dunk the ball, and get to the line.
If they don't combine for 50 ppg this year, I can honestly say that I'll be surprised.
The Clippers last went to the playoffs in 2006, when coach Mike Dunleavy caused them to lose game six by making a ridiculous defensive substitution, putting in little-used rookie point guard, Daniel Ewing for the game's final play. Seconds after, Raja Bell hit a three-pointer over Ewing, sending the game to overtime. The Clipper's lost the game, and went on to lose game seven as well.
The Clippers last playoff appearance before 2006 pre-dates the internet, as well as any modern bookkeeping methods, so I can only assume it came sometime in the 1700's.
That sad streak ends this year.
Not only will they make the playoffs, but they will do so with a winning record, and they will be one of the top 6 seeds.
This team, young though they are, are a solid small forward away from being a legitimate contender in this league.
They will sign that forward, and they will make a splash in the playoffs.
Picture this line-up:
PG- Chris Paul
SG- Eric Gordon
SF- Tayshaun Prince
PF- Blake Griffin
C- DeAndre Jordon
This is a team that could compete for a title, and this team could happen.
Chris Paul wants a new team, he wants to contend, and he wants to be in a major city.
With the Clippers, he would get all three.
And the Clippers, with Minnesota's #1 pick in the 2012 draft and Chris Kaman, are one of the only teams with the necessary assets to pull off a trade like this.
It's not likely, but it's very possible. And keeping with the positive feel of this article, I'm going to go ahead and predict it.
CP3 finishes the season as a Clipper.
Is this the boldest of all Clipper predictions?
But consider this, in 2006, when the Clippers last made it to the playoffs as a low seed, Elton Brand received considerable consideration for MVP.
Blake Griffin's statistics will be better than Brand's of 2006, and Blake is a world-wide phenom, a super-star by any standards, and this gives him a leg up.
Blake will get the day to day media attention that seems to be a pre-requisite for any MVP. He will lead the lowly Clippers to a winning record and he will put them in the play-offs. He will do this during a down year for the Lakers, and he will be adored by fans, women, and aspiring hoopsters.
With Kobe getting old and Lebron turning into the league's biggest villain, Blake Griffin is poised to become the face of the league.
I wouldn't be surprised to see league officials remove Jerry West from the logo and replace it with Blake Griffin posterizing some sad seven-footer.
Okay, so maybe I'm getting a little carried away here.
But maybe not.
In 2006, when the Clippers last made the playoffs, they made a surge towards being this town's most popular team. That season, the Lakers had a down year, and there was no shortage of Laker fan refugees finding residence with the Clippers.
One thing you must know about this wonderful town is that we are not Pittsburgh or Green Bay. We do not stand by our teams through thick and thin.
This town, Tinseltown, is about fame and winning. If you aren't both, then you aren't either, and we don't care about you.
Right now, the Clippers are neither, thus only a few diehards are there to support them on a nightly basis.
However, last season, with the emergence of the Blake-show, celebrities started making appearances, and there was a real buzz surrounding the team.
If the Lakers don't get their problems figured out, and Blake, Jordan and crew continue to dazzle fans with their thunderous dunks, while piling up wins, then you can bet your butt that the Clippers will be well on their way to becoming Los Angeles' #1 team.
I can hear Mychal Thompson and Vic "The Brick" Laughing right now, but I also remember the way "The Brick" deserted his beloved Lakers back in '06 to hop on that Clipper bandwagon.
Hop on fellas, this train is leaving the station.