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Will the Clippers overcome the Post season choke?

Will the Clippers overcome the Post season choke?

2014/15, The Clippers were in fine form during the regular and first round of the post season, playing what many dubbed as “A series for the ages” against the defending champions, San Antonio Spurs, riding out 4-3 winners.  Facing an in-form Houston Rockets, the Clippers seemed destined to make it past the second round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. 3-1 up in the series, with a 20+ point lead in the 4th Quarter, it seemed unlikely, yet, the Clippers blew up, and that was probably the most costly quarter in Clippers history,  as Houston would win the series 4-3.

Paul (3), Griffin (32), Jordan (6), the 3 best Clippers players
Paul (3), Griffin (32), Jordan (6), the 3 best Clippers players

Arguably, the Clippers possessed one of the biggest star trios in the NBA right now, Forward Blake Griffin, Center DeAndre Jordan and Guard, Chris Paul.  The Summer however was uncertain.

Many players were obviously, below the standards of Doc Rivers and there were several trades and acquisitions. However the biggest worry was the lost of DeAndre Jordan, who is arguably a top 3 center in the NBA right now.  Jordan declared himself for the free agency period and rumors of a rift with Chris Paul was the reason to leave Los Angeles. He was set to return back to Texas, and had publicly said he will sign a $80 million, 4 year contract with the Dallas Mavericks.

However, just hours before teams could sign the players, Clippers GM, Doc Rivers and several Clippers players all flew to Jordan’s home to convince him to stay, and he backtracked, signing with the Clippers when the Moratorium period ended. This ended his limited association with the Mavericks (who are more than likely to give him a hostile reception).

Jordan was the centre of attention and speculation during the free agency period.
Jordan was the center of attention and speculation during the free agency period.

For the Clippers this was a major hurdle resolved. Jordan is one of the most efficient shooters in the game right now and an excellent defensive player, having led the league in rebounds per game in the last two seasons and is the first person since Moses Malone  to average 10 points, 15 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 blocks per game.

This is why Dallas wanted to sign him badly, and even more that Clippers wanted to keep him. If reports are accurate he wanted to leave because of a bust up with Paul, it seemed to have healed as Paul was one of the players that came, to convince him to sign with Clippers.

Of the major teams in the NBA, the Clippers were one of the most active in the market. They had already traded their draft picks of 2015, and were without a draft. During trades, they acquired Lance Stephenson and parted company with  Spencer Hawes and Matt Barnes (the latter a starting member of the Clippers), a gamble since Lance did not have a great 2014/15 with Charlotte.

They also acquired the 56th pick of the 2015 Draft, Branden Dawson from New Orleans in a cash deal the same night after he was picked by the Pelicans. Dawson was pretty good in the NBA Summer League, which is why he has been rewarded with a 2 year contract.

Lance Stephenson was acquired from Charlotte
Lance Stephenson was acquired from Charlotte

In addition to that and Jordan, Austin Rivers who was signed from New Orleans midway through 2014/15 season has been given a 2 year contract. He did produce a lot of good play off the bench, a reliable source of bench points along with Jamal Crawford.

The Clippers have made a lot of additions and let several players to leave. The players leaving the squad (not including Hawes and Barnes) are Glen Davis, Dahntay Jones, Hedo Turkoglu, Jordan Hamilton, Lester Hudson and Ekpe Udoh. Additions to the squad include Wesley Johnson from Lakers, Paul Pierce from Washington (reuniting him with Doc, who led him and the Celtics to the title in 2008),  Cole Aldrich, Pablo Prigioni, Chuck Hayes and Josh Smith.

Pierce, who last played for Washington is a major signing for the Clippers this time
Pierce, who last played for Washington is a major signing for the Clippers this time

The first two are major coups as Wesley Johnson and Pierce both have had fine 2014/15 seasons (especially considering Pierce is 38). Josh Smith if played right could provide some bench performances.

Overall, The Clippers side does pack more of a punch and is now deeper in the bench. Compared to last season, only Rivers and Crawford provided good bench play, this time they have much more options along with a strong starting line up. This is the year the Clippers need to and will go past the Western Conference Semifinals and reach the next round for the first time.

Clippers Coach, Doc Rivers
Clippers Coach, Doc Rivers

The Pre-season has been mixed but given the injection of new blood, a 3-4 result with 1 match to go is a good result. They are experimenting around, the team chemistry is being built but glimpses of the future are there, as the Clippers beat the Warriors 130-95 in a pre-season match.

Overall, the Clippers do possess one of the biggest and most in-depth squads this time in the NBA, it would be a shame to not reach the finals but they have their work cut out in an extremely tough Western Conference.

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