First off, you read the headline correctly. The L.A. Clippers are pretty much championship contenders. Secondly, that last sentence has probably never been used before.
Chris Paul has been traded from the New Orleans Hornets to the Clippers according to ESPN's Marc Stein, a move that teams the perennial All-Star with current Rookie of the Year and dunk-master Blake Griffin and a dynamic young center in DeAndre Jordan.
If that trio doesn't strike fear into the hearts of the rest of the Western Conference, the rest of the Clippers' roster will. To complement this core group, the Clips inked veteran guard Chauncey Billups and snatched Caron Butler from under the Bulls' nose to put together a starting five worthy of a title contender.
The weakness of the Clippers as they currently line up is the lack of depth behind Blake and Jordan. They have plenty of back court reserves with the likes of Mo Williams, Eric Bledsoe and Randy Foye still on the roster.
As if the Clips' situation couldn't get any better, they are still an incredible £14 million under the salary cap. For that sort of money they could sign the players needed to cover Griffin and Jordan in the front court or, more likely, they can combine this money in a package deal that sends one of their reserve guards (Williams, Foye etc) to another team in return for a seriously impressive backup forward/center.
Since their inception, the Clippers have been a joke of an organization. I'm not being harsh saying that. They have posted winning records in just six of their 33 seasons. They have regularly made poor moves in trades and free agency and their owner is far from the model citizen.
How times have changed. Landing Blake Griffin in 2009 (although he didn't play until 2010) was a major turning point for the franchise as it gave them a young, popular starlet to build around and team up with DeAndre Jordan. Getting Vinny Del Negro is looking like a solid decision. One criticism of Del Negro's tactics has been that he uses too many pick and rolls. Will anyone really complain this time, with CP3—a master at using the pick and roll—and Blake Griffin running them to turn Hollywood into Lob City?
Chris Paul, Billups and Butler all provide vast amounts of experience of big games and playoffs to help the Clippers go from the basement to the penthouse of the Western Conference. That's right, Clips fans. You need players with playoff experience. That's where this train is headed and it's going to be a dunk-filled ride.