What’s wrong Los Angeles? Your aging superstar isn’t good enough for you? So you hopped on the bandwagon of a young team on the rise with multiple superstars? And they still can’t make the Western Conference Finals? That’s too bad. On a serious note, what’s wrong with the Clippers? They have two of the top-10 players in the league, one of the top centers in the game, and a more than capable supporting cast. Last season’s defeat was understandable, considering the injury to Chris Paul, the fatigue after 7 games with the Spurs, and the greatness of James Harden. Each season, they acquire higher expectations due to their growing talent. But for the past couple of seasons, they have been unable to advance past the second round. Is it their overflow of top talent that is their demise? To be certain, let’s compare teams that have had two top-10 players in the modern and historic eras.
Jordan and Pippen
Possibly the most well-known and successful dynamic duo. Both of them excelled on offense and defense for their tenures on the Bulls. If this trend continued throughout the modern era, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. They complemented each other well. Pippen handling the rock, hitting Jordan in the post or off screens for midrange J’s (Jordan pun). The dynasty that they created is evident of their overwhelming success together. Both of them are swing men however, is this why the Clippers fail?
Shaq and Kobe
This example is less historic than I’d like to use, but the evolution of basketball has happened so quickly that the style of the early 2000’s may as well be the dinosaur days. This pair is similar to the Clipper’s star duo. A big man dominating the paint and commanding double teams. A quick, complete guard who can score at will. Although they butted heads off the court, their games on the court did not. These two revitalized the dominance of the Lakers, and the presence of Shaq helped Kobe become the player he is today (well obviously not today today. Did you see that shot off the side of the backboard against the Jazz?). Blake and CP3 should be quite successful in the near future if this trend continues.
LeBron and Wade
Ah. The duo that had a trio so powerful, powerful enough to win 8 championships. Well, they fell a little short. Nevertheless, they did appear in 4 straight finals and took the crown home twice. The joining of these two may have been the most anticipated super-team in NBA history. The expectations were through the roof. And their first failure in 2011 created chaos. Questioning LeBron. Wade’s health. Bosh not fulfilling his role. The birth of LeBron jokes (more of a benefit than a chaotic result). The Clippers, surprisingly, have not experienced this chaos (yet). LeBron and Wade are both ball-handlers, allowing them to control the tempo of the game. The alley-oops they did draw comparisons to Blake and CP3, but the amount of rings on their fingers do not correlate with the Clipper’s stars.
Durant and Westbrook
Possibly the duo that can be most effectively measured against Blake and CP3. Two players that have the complete offensive package. The athleticism to lock down on defense. Ridiculous stat lines. However, no championships and only 1 Finals appearance between the four. In terms of the Thunder, they have consistently made it to the Conference Finals every season. The only drop-off was last season, when Durant missed the large majority of the season with a foot injury. Westbrook played out of his mind in Durant’s absence, with multiple streaks of triple doubles and 40-point games. If the Thunder have one season injury-free, they might have a championship banner in their near future.
We have to give the Clippers a break here. In their defense, the Western Conference is dominant as ever. With teams like the (revamped) Spurs, Warriors, Thunder, Rockets, and Grizzlies, the Clippers have their hands full. There is also the issue of spacing. Blake is working on extending his range, in hope to develop a decent catch-n-shoot 3.
I was at that game, and you better believe I was laughing with joy when that shot clanked the side of the backboard. If Blake can learn how to put the ball through the net from 3-point distance, he’ll be very hard to guard. Back to the issue of spacing, DeAndre Jordan holds back the Clippers significantly on offense. Aside from the constant comedy episodes of “Hack-a-Jordan”, DeAndre has absolutely no form of a jump shot. Not a close range one, nor a midrange one. If DeAndre had any kind of a midrange, the floor would open up for Paul and Blake. Furthermore, does fatigue play a part? Obviously the 82-game season of the NBA does a number on every player’s freshness, but what about the overuse of players? The Clippers have a very strong and deep roster on paper, yet it never seems to happen on the court. Jamal Crawford has been a consistent scorer and leader off the bench, but then who? Who else is going to contribute statiscally? It seemed that either Blake or DeAndre had to be on the floor at all times, and if Blake wasn’t in then Paul had to be in. This year their bench is better than ever with additions of players such as Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson, and Josh Smith (another terrific free throw shooter), so we will wait and see how much they can give.
The Clippers do not have anything in particular that holds them back from winning a championship or advancing past the second round. Their pair of superstars complement each other perfectly and are both able to dominate the game. With a tough Western Conference, subpar bench, and the lack of spacing, it will be hard for the Clippers to separate themselves and break through to the promise land. It wouldn’t hurt to have more ball movement, as their top talent can often lead to isolation plays. Honestly, the only play that the Clippers consistently run is some form of a screen play for J.J. Reddick. With health, maturing, and a little bit of luck the Clippers could bring a ring home back to the wonderful world of spoiled Los Angeles.