Will the Los Angeles Clippers Finally Be Relevant Again in 2011-12?

Mark EvansCorrespondent IIIAugust 1, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 09:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers on the court against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on February 9, 2011 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. The Clippers defeated the Knicks 116-108.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Clippers have been the laughingstock of the NBA for quite some time now.

Their owner, Donald Sterling, does a terrible job running the franchise. He signed Baron Davis to a terrible contract, then proceeded to heckle him during games.

When coach Kim Hughes needed cancer treatment, Sterling refused to offer financial assistance to cover medical bills. He has long been considered a racist, and has also been accused of sexual harassment. To say the least, he's not a terribly nice person.

The team has often over-payed for players. I hate to rip on Baron Davis, but he is the perfect example.

I understand a 32-50 record isn't very promising, but there is certainly hope for "the other team in L.A."

First of all, Blake Griffin is electrifying. After missing an entire season with a knee injury, Griffin managed to average 22 points and 12 boards in his "rookie" season. You might have even seen him on SportsCenter once or twice. He can definitely be one of the league's top players for years to come, especially if he can work on developing a reliable mid-range jump shot.

Eric Gordon is a very nice piece on a young team. He can certainly shoot, as we all saw during his time with the U.S. national team. His 22 points per game for the Clippers should not be overlooked, and neither should his defensive ability on the perimeter.

DeAndre Jordan is an absolute freak athlete who protects the rim with the best of them. He's nothing special offensively, but very few centers in the league today are. Is he one of the better centers? Probably. Will he only get better with more opportunity? You better believe it.

Eric Bledsoe showed promise in his first professional season after leaving Kentucky. He may not be the definite point guard of the future , but he is certainly a piece. At the very least, he could be a good backup or a solid trade asset. At best, he is a very good starter who can hold his own for a long time in the league.

So are they only one or two players away?

In a league with a lot of elite wing players, it would seem that a small forward would be a huge step in the right direction.

Andre Iguodala is a name that has been thrown around in exchange for Chris Kaman. Iguodala is a pretty good offensive player, but his strength is neutralizing opposing small forwards. Is he the type of offensive weapon that a team can build around? Maybe not. But would he need to be that on a team with Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon? Maybe not.

Last offseason, Rudy Gay was rumored to possibly be on the L.A. radar. After his injury and the success that the Grizzlies had without him in the playoffs, it may be worth inquiring about a possible trade, although it doesn't appear that Memphis is willing to trade Gay.

Is Josh Smith a possibility? At first glance, it might seem like an okay fit. Could you imagine watching that team on the fast break? Wow.

But does Josh Smith make them serious contenders? I think not.

All that being said, it appears that the Clippers are at least on the way to respectability. They certainly have some nice pieces in place, and at the very least, they could be a fun team to watch with some great young talent.

I would not at all be surprised if they were competing for a playoff spot for the next few years. And who knows, with a move or two, maybe they can take it to the next level. But don't expect them to be a laughingstock anymore.

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