Los Angleles Clippers: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2011-12 Season
The NBA season officially tips off this weekend with a series of thrilling matchups on Christmas Day: Boston at New York, Miami at Dallas, Chicago at L.A. Lakers, Orlando at Oklahoma City, L.A. Clippers at Golden State. This should provide NBA fans who have been waiting for the season to start for over a month with much needed non-stop action for an entire day. With these games on, who needs presents?
Post-lockout NBA is filled with teams that just a year ago looked drastically different. Lamar Oden is now a Maverick, Tyson Chandler is a Knick, Chris Paul is a Clipper and most importantly Ron Artest is now Metta World Peace. This NBA season should be like no other in history.
With all these big storylines, one has outshined the rest and for good reason; the trade team between the Clippers and Hornets. After a trade between the latter and the "other" L.A. team fell through, the Clippers jumped on the opportunity to add superstar point guard Chris Paul to their roster. To gain Paul, L.A. had to lose much of their young talent including, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and Al-Farouq Aminu, but it is well worth the price to add a superstar such as Paul.
For the first time in franchise history, the Clippers come into the season with playoff-or-bust expectations.
So here it is—five bold predictions for the Los Angeles Clippers in the upcoming season.
They Will Take over L.A.
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The Clipper have always been the "little brother" of Los Angeles. Depending on who you ask, L.A. is either a Lakers town or a Dodgers town, and the Clippers would like nothing more then to change that. The rafters of the Staples Center are filled with Lakers banners, but lack a single one for the Clips.
The Clippers are ready to start new chapter in what has been a unsuccessful existence and this is the opportune time. They just traded for a superstar point guard who is just going help Blake Griffin's development into one of the leagues elite big men. They have constructed a solid starting lineup around these two stars and are on the uprise.
Just as the Clippers are adding talent the Lakers are on the decline. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher and Metta World Peace are only getting older. They lost Zen master Phil Jackson to retirement and Lamer Odom to the Mavs in a nasty breakup. It seems their title window in closing faster than Kris Humphries' marriage.
In a 66-game season with many nights of back-to-back games and at least one stretch of three straight games for every team, the Clippers have two young stars definitely have the upper hand on the aging Lakers.
The Clippers will finish the shortened season at 45-21, first in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference and, of course, ahead of the Lakers, for the first time in franchise history.
DeAndre Jordan Will Solidify Himself as a Legitimate NBA Center
In his first two seasons, Jordan saw limited playing time, but last year he was on the court for over 25 minutes per game. At times his tremendous talent emerged, but the only thing he showed consistently was dunking.
He attempted 341 field goals, and 158 of them were successful dunks, so virtually half of all his shots were dunks. Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard, who are the most popular high-flyers in the game, successfully converted dunks on 16 and 22 percent of their field-goal attempts respectively.
Last season, he averaged 7.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 25 minutes per game. He only put up four shots per game but had a outstanding field goal percentage of 68.6.
Adding Chris Paul to the Clippers should bring out the best in Jordan. Everyone has been talking about the potential of this 6-foot-11, 250-pound center, and this is the season he needs to step up and start producing.
Jordan might be the Clipper who will benefit most from the addition of Paul. Everyone wants to see the Paul-to-Griffin alley-oops, but Paul to Jordan might be more numerous.
Jordan is a good defender and will just continue the make shots at a high percentage. He just needs to work on his endurance and consistency.
Jordan will average a double-double this season and solidify himself as a legitimate NBA center. His improved play will help free Blake from double teams and improve the entire team in the process.
Both Paul and Griffin Will Finish in the Top 10 of MVP Voting
Last season Derrick Rose won the NBA Most Valuable Player Award in a landslide. Blake Griffin finished 10th and Chris Paul finished 14th in the voting.
Both players are on a "new" and improved team this season, and playing with one another should only enhance each of their abilities.
Last season Griffin averaged 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds per game, which were good for sixth and third in the Western Conference. He greatly outplayed every other rookie and was named conference rookie of the moth all six months, the first player to accomplish that feat since...Chris Paul during the 2005-06 season.
Coming off injury from the 2009-10 season, Paul's ability took a slight dip last year. His averages of assists and field goal percentage were his lowest since his second season and the lowest points-per-game average of his career. This season, he's rejuvenated and surrounded by more talent, expect his numbers to be back to normal.
The Clippers will have the best winning percentage in their not so fantastic history, due to the high-flying pass-catch combo of Griffin and Paul. Both players will be critical to the Clippers success and take MVP votes from each other, they will each finish in the top 10, but neither will win the award.
They Will Make the Western Conference Finals
The Los Angeles Clippers are on the uprise right as many teams in the west are on the decline.
San Antonio and the Lakers are getting older by the day and their title window is closing fast. Portland lost their 27-year-old franchise player, Brandon Roy, to retirement, due to knee problems. And teams like Phoenix, Utah and Denver are going into the second year without their star players.
The 66-game season could benefit a young team like the Clippers. By the time the playoffs roll around, the older teams will be much more worn down, while the Clips should be in good shape.
The experience at point from Chris Paul and the leadership of Chauncey Billups will help them when playing a best-of-four series against the West's elite teams.
No team in the West can match the combination of size and athleticism the Clips have down low. Griffin and Jordan will be unstoppable on the offensive end with their youth, size and athleticism and with Paul throwing the rock up to them.
The Clippers will make the Western Conference Finals, but due to the lack of chemistry and good consistent defense they will lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Chris Paul Will Sign a Contract Extension with the Clippers
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This might just be the boldest prediction of all. This prediction could take place after the upcoming season, but it ill began to take place the minute Paul got off the plane in L.A.
The Clippers traded for Paul because of, talent and ability to turn around the team in the short term. If he doesn't experience much success, he will most likely head into free agency after the 2012-13 season. But with such a young talented team, they should enjoy success in the next two years.
Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are a point guard's dream. They are big, athletic and young; Paul knows all he has to do is throw it to either of them for an easy assist. He won't have to worry about scoring 20-plus points per game and carrying his team like he did in New Orleans.
With a good young team around him Paul will realize there is no better spot in the league for a great point guard, and he will sign a contract extension and be in L.A. for a long time.