5 Bold Predictions for the Los Angeles Clippers During 2014-15 Season
It's no secret the Los Angeles Clippers are built to win now. With bona fide superstars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin leading the charge in their second year under a coach with winning experience, they have the talent assembled to reach their goals.
It's time for Los Angeles to go about the business of winning beyond the regular season, so this crop of bold predictions is centered around those aspirations.
Everything the Clips do from training camp through the postseason is focused on obtaining the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Head coach and President of Basketball Operations Doc Rivers articulated as much when he agreed to a contract extension through the end of the 2018-19 season.
"I am motivated by the challenge and thankful for the opportunity to stand together with [Clippers owner Steve Ballmer] as we continue to move toward our goal of winning an NBA title," he stated.
With that in mind, here's what will develop in Los Angeles this season.
1. Spencer Hawes Will Fit Like a Glove
Spencer Hawes is precisely what the Clippers need. He can score from the perimeter and play either the 4 or 5 position to complement Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Shooting may not be his best strength, though, according to Rivers (via the Los Angeles Times):
His shooting is great, but his passing is better. I mean, he just creates a lot of problems because you've got a 5 that's popping out to the three-point line and most teams' defense relies on their big clogging up the paint. Well, if they're standing in the paint and Spencer's standing out behind the three, that's hard to guard.
That's his role in a nutshell. He's there to keep defenses honest and create matchup issues for opponents.
It means that Griffin won't face as much pressure to perfect his outside shot, while Jordan will be less of a liability late in games at the free-throw line.
Hawes can defend bigs and contribute on the glass with a career 9.3 rebounds per 36 minutes.
Having the ability to shoot from beyond the arc (a career-high 41.6 percent in 80 games last season) is icing on the cake when it comes to the versatility he brings.
He's exactly what this team needs, and it will pay dividends this season. The evidence will lie in the production.
Bold prediction: Career highs in rebounding and assists on a per-36-minute basis
2. Doc Rivers Will Thrive as an Executive
The Clippers organization has been reborn under Steve Ballmer's ownership, and it already shows.
The infusion of energy and passion the former Microsoft executive brings to the table is infectious, and it goes beyond basketball.
When Seattle native Jamal Crawford spoke about Ballmer in the offseason, he opened up on exactly what the new owner brings to the table.
He knows me and I know him from living here in Seattle, doing great things for the community and I know how excited he is for the game of basketball and to show Los Angeles a winning and committed team. The NBA is in for a treat.
It's reasonable to expect that Rivers' job just got a lot easier under Ballmer, and that he'll have the ability to focus on actual basketball operations.
What a concept.
A bolder prediction is that he will take a major step forward with a year under his belt (and a tumultuous one at that) and have this team firing on all cylinders from the front office to the floor.
Bold prediction: Clippers become the first team in NBA history to improve its win total in seven straight seasons
3. DeAndre Jordan Will Have a Career Year
The second half of the team's high-flying frontcourt duo had his best season to date in 2013-14 with averages of 10.4 points, 13.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.
This time around, Jordan will one-up those numbers.
With Hawes able to space the floor and pass with the efficiency of a guard, Jordan will have plenty of room to work underneath the basket. That means more open lanes on offense to allow for better scoring and rebounding opportunities.
On defense, he won't sacrifice much with Hawes in the game instead of Griffin alongside him because of Hawes' length.
It's a win for the entire frontcourt, but Jordan stands to gain a major benefit.
Again, the numbers will support this.
Bold prediction: Career highs in points and blocks, coupled with a second consecutive rebounding title
4. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul Will Warrant MVP Consideration
The team's two best players need to remain elite for Los Angeles to have any chance at postseason success.
Fortunately, they'll only be better this year.
Griffin has worked on growing his game and adding a mid-range jump shot to his bag of tricks. If he's successful, defenses will have yet another component of his offensive arsenal to account for.
That only means more opportunities for him to beat opponents using his athleticism, which is something he already does particularly well.
Paul can anticipate a healthier year, which by itself will almost guarantee world-class production.
Both Griffin and Paul finished third in the NBA MVP voting in the past two seasons. This year, they'll both be candidates for the coveted award.
A second year under Rivers ought to have both playing with the freedom that will unleash their games as each is in his prime.
If that happens, both players will benefit, and each will be among the league's best players.
Bold prediction: Top-five MVP billing for both Paul and Griffin at season's end
5. The Clips Will Win the Western Conference
The reason the Clippers winning the West qualifies as a bold prediction lies in the difficulty of navigating the exceptionally difficult conference.
Last season, 50 wins was good enough for seventh place among the 15 Western Conference teams. In comparison, only two teams from the Eastern Conference topped that mark in 2013-14.
Los Angeles had its best regular season in franchise history with 57 victories and still managed just a No. 3 seed. This time around, they'll do it again.
This team is assembled to win now. Without off-court distractions, they'll accomplish that goal and make history in the process.
Crawford summed it up neatly via Clippers.com:
This is our second year under Doc so we know what to expect and what we need to do. He doesn’t have to learn players and he knows what to expect. We all know what the goal is and I think this will be the best year in Clippers history.
Bold prediction: 59-23, No. 2 seed, Western Conference champions