For years, the once lowly Los Angeles Clippers had always been associated with inevitable failures and irrelevant when compared to their prestigious counterpart the Los Angeles Lakers. With each passing decade, it seemed that the Clippers presence in the NBA was nothing more than a dubious spectacle that was only present to amuse conceded Lakers fans. However, while the Clippers have been the epitome of a disgrace throughout most of their tenure in the NBA, in the last few years this blossoming franchise has quickly taken the Western Conference by storm and has steadily evolved into one of the most intriguing teams in the game. Although the Clippers will have to go up against some tough conference opponents before they can make it to the biggest stage in the NBA, their unwavering determination and progressive improvements is an encouraging sign for Clippers fans that have waited for what has felt like an eternity for their team to finally shine.
Although the Clippers have developed into a fairly deep and athletic franchise over the last few years, one player has been this teams saving grace since he entered the league in 2009. While power forward Blake Griffin has always been known for his sensational dunking prowess and swift rebounding skills, his high post game has actually flourished this year. In the absence of Chris Paul, Griffin knew he had to develop into a more versatile forward that could both play in the paint while taking outside shots if the situation called for it. Despite Griffin’s foray into uncharted territory, his impressive field goal percentage has remained unchanged (53.7% from the field) while his free throw shooting has seen progressive improvement throughout this season (he has shot 70.2% from the free throw line, a career high).
Yet, even with Griffin’s legitimate improvements, the Clippers still get plenty of production from their prolific shooting guards, especially from J.J. Reddick. Although Reddick suffered a hip injury against the Denver Nuggets at the beginning of February, his offensive contributions have been vital to this teams immense success. While Reddick may not put up the most points for a shooting guard, his accuracy from the perimeter (he shoots 39.6% from the perimeter) along with his clutch free throw capabilities (he has shot 91.4% from the free throw line) make him a valuable asset especially down the stretch.
Luckily, the Clippers have a deep roster that contains a plethora of proficient shooters (Jamal Crawford, Chris Paul) and dynamic big men (DeAndre Jordan). Speaking of exceptional centers, DeAndre Jordan is by far the Clippers most valuable defensive asset due to his consistent rebounding capabilities and accuracy from the field (he has shot 65.6% from the field this season). As an avid rebounder, Jordan has made his size and unwavering tenacity a part of his game that the opposition usually has trouble keeping in check. While Jordan was a solid young center last year when he averaged 7.2 RPG, his rebounding prowess has skyrocketed since then as he has more than doubled his rebounding average in just one season (he has garnered 14.1 RPG this season, a career high).
Of course, it’s hard to discuss the Clippers illustrious success without mentioning one of the most unselfish point guards in the game in Chris Paul. Although Paul has been out of the Clippers starting line up due to injury, he is slowly making his way back onto the court. While Paul has been phenomenal at being a methodically intelligent ball facilitator, his shooting prowess can’t be overlooked. Whether it’s from the free throw line (86.6% from the free throw line) the perimeter (he shoots 35.6% from the beyond the arch) or anywhere in between, Paul can always be relied on to take a smart shot regardless of where he is one the court.
In the end, the Clippers have continued to develop their strengths while making vast improvements to their shooting capabilities and overall team chemistry. Although the Western Conference has been unforgiving as of recently, the Clippers have put themselves in a prime position to compete against the likes of Oklahoma City and Portland. As long as the Clippers key stars can continue to persevere until Chris Paul comes back 100% healthy, this team shouldn’t be counted out come post season play.