30 Teams, 30 Days
Los Angeles Clippers Season Preview.
We continue previewing the Pacific Division with the Los Angeles Clippers. You can read past previews here.
For the third straight year, we’re glad to welcome Seth Ferranti’s insights on his beloved Los Angeles Clippers for our Season Preview collection. For those not familiar with his work, Seth is a published author whose focus is on the gritty world of America’s prison system (where he currently resides). His new book, Street Legends Vol. 2, profiles legendary gangsters Frank Matthews, Peanut King, Michael Fray, the Boobie Boys, Short North Posse and New World. Order it and his other books, Prison Stories and Street Legends Vol. 1 at Gorillaconvict.com. You can also check out Seth’s blog at the same site. That focus notwithstanding, Seth’s also a massive and knowledgeable sports fan.—Ben Osborne
by Seth Ferranti
In my season preview last year for SLAM, I predicted big things for the Paper Clips—50 wins and a playoff spot. There was room for optimism with the signing of Baron Davis, the drafting of Eric Gordon and the trade for Marcus Camby. But, instead, we got more of the same. In Clipper Nation this has been a long and recurring theme but hope springs eternal. The future of the franchise is here. With the drafting of #1 overall pick Blake Griffin, the Clippers finally have a potential superstar to build around. Can it be so? Am I wrong to believe that Blake Griffin can be a young Charles Barkley or Karl Malone? That is who he has been compared to. For a Clipper fan, that is awesome. So don’t blame me for keeping me fingers crossed.
As one of the worst sports franchises ever, the faithful Clipper fans (including me) must be holding their breath. Can it really be true? Will Blake Griffin be the franchise savior he is made out to be? Or is he the second coming of Michael Olowokandi? Or better yet Greg Oden? Another overhyped big man who can’t play or stay on the court to save his life. As a long and dedicated Clipper fan, I have one question: how long will he take to develop and when will he take us to the finals, ala Tim Duncan? Is this too much to ask? Are my expectations too high? I think not and, better yet, why not? Clipper fans deserve it. I see Blake Griffin becoming a dominant double-double power forward with athleticism and power to be a monster in the open court with Baron Davis feeding him the ball. The Clippers success will begin and start with him. He is the franchise. He must want to change the culture of losing. It shouldn’t be too hard; he has some veteran help and is part of a young core the team can build around.
With point guard Baron Davis healthy and willing to feed the ball to Griffin, the Clippers can win some games this year. Baron’s health is a must, as is his veteran leadership and the defensive presence of Marcus Camby who will man the center spot. Both of these veterans are proven winners. They can be the guiding light and veteran presence for the team’s young core.
With the aforementioned Griffin at power forward, Al Thornton at small forward, and shooting guard Eric Gordon, the Clippers have a young and improving core. All three have the potential to be All-Stars or serious role players. But they have to prove it and do it on the court. The potential is there but, as yet, they are unproven. If the three youngsters can mesh with Baron and Camby as a solid starting unit, the Clips can match up well with other teams and compete in the West.
The bench is decent, too, but not spectacular. With Rasual Butler, Ricky Davis, Brian Skinner and Chris Kaman they have some unproven role players, but the question is, how will they mesh together under Mike Dunleavy? And who is the backup point guard—Sebastian Telfair? Please, I don’t think he is the answer. There are a lot of questions with the Clips. Maybe more questions than answers, but as a long-suffering fan, I prefer to look on the bright side.
The key is Baron Davis. If he stays healthy and buys into Dunleavy’s rhetoric, this team can compete. Not win a championship but maybe make the playoffs as a lower seed. As the orchestrator, Baron controls the pace, touches and tone of the team. Baron has to be inspired, he has to want to win and compete for the Clippers to stand any chance. He has to lead the break and get the ball in the youngsters’ hands, because this team should be able to fly and to finish at the rim.
With Baron feeding him the ball and Camby mentoring, the young Griffin has a chance to be something very special. Let’s hope he is more Karl Malone than Christian Laettner. But realistically Griffin has a chance to be something the Clippers have never had before—a bonafide superstar in his prime. It won’t happen overnight, though. With patience and nurturing, Griffin can come into his own and when he does, the Clippers have a chance to compete against the best in the West. High hopes, yes, but I believe in the Clippers and think they can turn it around and win 45 games. Hopefully, that will be enough to make the playoffs. And if the Clips peak at the right time, they could be dangerous.
A lot is still to be proven, though. Blake Griffin has to live up to his tremendous potential. Baron Davis has to be inspired to play his game. Camby has to anchor the defense and Eric Gordon and Al Thornton have to continue to improve their games. A lot of ifs, but it can happen. I believe in the Clippers and I believe they can right the ship and become contenders. Call me an optimist, but that’s my prediction—45 wins and a possible 7th or 8th playoff spot in the West.