Over the past five years the Los Angeles Clippers have evolved from being the butt of the NBA’s longest running joke, to becoming one of the most competitive and valuable franchises in the league.
Most remember the arrival of Chris Paul as the catalyst of change in Los Angeles. A controversial chain of events gifted Paul to the Clippers as their front office waited with open arms. The team has a salty David Stern and several “basketball reasons” to thank for that.
Since the franchise acquired Paul in 2011, they have reached five straight playoff appearances and become legitimate contenders for the first time in franchise history. Within a few years of signing Paul, Deandre Jordan emerged as the league’s premier center.
The former second round pick has excelled with his immense size, defensive ability, and acrobatic athleticism.
With the additions of Paul and a developing star in Jordan, the Clippers had finally created the ‘Big Three’ they needed in order to land a top flight NBA head coach—enter Doc Rivers, a highly coveted coach with an NBA championship to boast.
Thus the Clippers rise to become a true NBA powerhouse.
It would be easy to attribute the newfound success of the Clippers to their acquisition of Paul or coach Rivers, but it would also be wrong.
The Clippers success goes way back to 2009, when the team drafted Blake Griffin with the No. 1 overall pick. After sitting out the first season with a broken kneecap, Griffin burst on to the scene in LA, posterizing opposing stars and jumping over Kias.
Griffin became one of only a handful of player’s worthy of being considered a “face” of the NBA. Many speculated his presence in Los Angeles may even one-day rival that of the legendary Kobe Bryant.
It was Griffin’s emerging stardom that was responsible for dragging the Clippers out of NBA purgatory and transforming them into the superstar destination they are now.
It was this reason that last year’s injuries to Griffin spelled immediate doom for the Clippers’ post-season aspirations. Griffin played great last season, but saw limited action as he missed parts of the season due to an injured hand and quad.
The quad injury would become aggravated in the first round of last year’s playoffs (along with a fractured hand for Chris Paul), resulting in a first round upset to the Portland Trailblazers.
The Clippers have always and will continue to go as Griffin goes. And without him even the point-god and gold medalist Deandre Jordan can’t carry this team to a deep playoff run on their own.
If the Clippers want to have any chance of defeating the Super friends— I mean, Warriors, they need a healthy Blake Griffin.
When he can avoid injury, Griffin has proven himself as perhaps the best power forward in the game, rivaled by only Pelican’s forward Anthony Davis.
With extreme athleticism and strength, the Oklahoma standout can bully any defender down low, and uses his above average speed for his size to maneuver through defenders and burst to the rim.
Griffin has been working on his mid-range shot for years now, and all that hard work is really beginning to show.
In both of his two pre-season games Griffin shot the ball with confidence, and his teammates obviously understood his newfound shooting skill, as they continuously fed him the ball.
Griffin even knocked down a couple of three pointers for good measure.
Griffin looks healthy as the regular season approaches, something that should be a relief for Clippers fans. With his injuries behind him, there is no reason Griffin can’t duplicate or even build on his great 2014 season, in which he finished third in MVP voting and averaged 24.1 points, 3.9 assists, and 9.5 rebounds per game while leading the Clippers to a third seed with Paul sitting on the sideline.
Only time will tell if Griffin can stay healthy, but if he does, he is guaranteed to have a resurgent year. It should not surprise anyone if Griffin is in fact in the MVP race one again this year.