Clippers first in the Pacific, third in the WestBy David A.
The Los Angeles Clippers hold the league’s fourth best record behind San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Miami. Los Angeles is currently leading the Pacific division by 6 1/2 games over the struggling Golden State Warriors. The Clippers have decided to stay with the players they have as the trade deadline passed, the possible trade for Kevin Garnett of the Celtics did not go through.
As the season heads down the backstretch and teams jockey for playoff position, the question of the day is, do the Clippers have what it takes to be a champion in the NBA. Even asking that question seems strange to some Clippers’ fans that went years between playoff appearances until last year’s playoff exit in the second round.
Los Angeles is only 5 ½ games behind front running San Antonio in the West and they have beaten the Spurs two of the three times they have met head to head this season. The Clippers only trail the Oklahoma City Thunder by a game and a half.
Los Angeles currently has the NBA’s best point guard in Chris Paul who is averaging 16.6 points per game, 9.6 assists per game and 3.4 rebounds per game.
The Clippers also have one of the best power forwards in the game in Blake Griffin. The power forward is leading the team in scoring with an average of 18.5 points per game and in rebounding with an average of 8.7 per game.
Los Angeles also has veterans that balance the team off. Chauncey Billups had played for championship teams and knows what is needed down the stretch and in the postseason. Los Angeles also has the deepest team in the league, with its bench led by Jamal Crawford. The bench is averaging over 40 points per game this season.
One of the biggest questions doubters ask is how important Paul is to Los Angeles and their hopes to win a championship. It is strange that people will even ask such a question. Not only is he the best point guard in the league, but also he is a great closer, leader and tactician on the court. Overall, he is one of the most talented players in the game today.
He will be mentioned along with LeBron James, Tony Parker and Kevin Durant as a candidate for the NBA MVP award and he just was named the winner of the All Star Game MVP award.
While Paul was sidelined with a sore knee, the Clippers went 6-6, with him in the lineup the Clippers are 33-11. Simply put, no Paul, no playoffs period.
The Clippers will need to stay healthy the rest of the season to make an impression in the postseason. Even though the Clippers are first in the division, their entire 13-man roster has only played four games out of the first 56. Only three players have played in all 56 games because of numerous injuries.
The team has great talent in their starting five and exceptional depth. The one thing they cannot afford is injuries. Let’s hope they stay healthy to so how far they have come since being swept out of the playoffs last season.