NBA Picks: Clippers Making Moves to Become Best in West
by Aaron Smith - 8/21/2013
The Los Angeles Clippers were knocked out in the first round of the NBA Playoffs last year. It was a bitter pill to swallow for a team that had very high expectations heading into the season. Los Angeles has been a streaky team in the past two seasons. They have looked like the best team in the NBA at some points, and at others they have looked like a borderline playoff team. Unfortunately for the Clippers, they haven’t been able to play their best basketball when it matters the most.
To the credit of the Los Angeles Clippers management, they decided they weren’t about to sit around and hope the team got hot at the right time next year. The Clippers front office decided to make some big moves to try to make this team better. Did these moves make the Clippers a legitimate contender? Let’s take a look at the offseason of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Doc Rivers Gets the Coaching Job
While many believe Vinny Del Negro might have deserved another shot as the Clippers coach, there aren’t many who would deny that Doc Rivers is a better coach. Rivers has proven himself to be one of the best coaches in the NBA over the past few seasons, and he is terrific at motivating his players. During Del Negro’s time in Los Angeles, it seemed like he had a somewhat rocky relationship with some of the team’s best players. Rivers is known as a guy who relates to the players very well, and that should really help this Clippers team.
Rivers is a guy who has been very successful in the NBA Playoffs, which has to make Clippers fans upbeat about their chances once they get back to the playoffs again this season. Rivers knows how to win when it counts, and he instantly makes this team a bigger threat in the Western Conference.
Locking Up Chris Paul
You could argue that the best move the Clippers made in the offseason was locking up Chris Paul. He signed a five-year deal worth $107 million to stay as the point guard for the Clippers. There was a lot of doubt around the NBA as to whether Paul would be staying in Los Angeles, but bringing in Rivers as the new head coach seemed to really help.
Paul has proven himself to be one of the very best point guards this league has seen in a long time. In his career, Paul averages nearly 10 assists per game versus only 2.4 turnovers per contest. He has improved his jump shot in the last few years, and he is probably the most complete point guard in the NBA.
New Offseason Player Acquisitions
The Clippers brought in J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, and Darren Collison. None of these guys are huge names, but I think they all serve a purpose on this Clippers roster. Redick gives the Clippers one of the Top-5 long distance shooters in the NBA. Dudley is a forward who can stretch the floor and shoot it well from outside. Guys who shoot it well from outside fit in well and make this offense more balanced. Opponents must clog up the paint to defend Blake Griffin and keep Paul from penetrating, and that should leave extra room for guys like Redick and Dudley on the outside.
Collison is one of the better backup point guards in the NBA. Paul is going to need some breaks throughout the season, and it is nice to have a solid option that doesn’t have much of an injury history in the league. Reggie Bullock was the team’s first draft pick this year, and he is a versatile player who could step in and be a contributor off the bench right away. Byron Mullens had his best season as a professional last year in Charlotte, and he has the tools to be a solid scorer off the bench.
NBA Picks: Los Angeles Clippers Futures
The Los Angeles Clippers are listed at +500 to win the Western Conference, according to current odds from BetOnline. That makes them the third favorite behind the Thunder and the Spurs. Bovada lists the Clippers at 12/1 to win the NBA Finals in the year ahead. They are tied with the Indiana Pacers as the sixth-favorite to win the NBA Finals.
There is a lot to like about the Clippers offseason. Locking up Paul was a great decision, and they got some terrific shooters that should help the team quite a bit in the upcoming season. Probably the best move of them all though was to bring in Rivers as the team’s new head coach. He’ll make this team better right away on the defensive end. Rivers should help the overall chemistry of this team as well.
Expect to see an improved team on the Staples Center floor this year, and I’m not talking about the Lakers. I’m not sure the Clippers can quite be considered a true title contender quite yet, but they should definitely move the bar higher in the 2013-14 season.
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