Great teams aren’t built overnight. While the Los Angeles Clippers have the blueprint for being title contenders, there are still things they need to do to turn what looks good on paper into reality. A little disclosure in advance; I’m a huge Chris Paul fan. One of my most prized possessions in the whole wide world is a signed CP3 jersey that I won in a create-a-caption contest. I had it framed and it’s hanging on my bedroom wall. I followed the “Chris Paul sweepstakes” very closely before the 2011-12 season began, and to be honest I was pretty excited to find out that the LA Clippers won out and landed the All-Star point guard. I found it interesting to see what a future Hall-of-Famer can do to lift up a perennial underdog.
There it was, in the blink of an eye – well at least it felt like it – “Lob City” was born.
It was a whirlwind of a shortened NBA season, and before we knew it the Clippers made it to the playoffs. It had been a while. The last time the franchise cracked the postseason was in the 2005-06 season. After defeating the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round, the Clippers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the semifinals.
So, what needs to happen in order for the Clips to build on last year’s success and go deeper into playoffs, possibly setting themselves up to win a championship a few years down the road, if not sooner?
1. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin need to improve on their chemistry
They’re both phenomenal athletes and can ball like it’s nobody’s business. They’re the team’s core, its one-two punch. However, being talented is one thing, and getting an intuitive feel for one another’s play is another. They have a good thing going, but it can get even better. They can be like a modern day Stockton and Malone, except more exciting and with a lot more dunking. It’s not as much about knowing how the other guy plays, but playing to his strengths and complementing him in such a way that his weaknesses aren’t as easily exploited. It was unfortunate that they missed out on extra time on the court during the Olympics due to Griffin’s knee injury, but that’s water under the bridge now. They both have the 2012-13 season to get so in sync, you’d think they were BFFs who finished each other’s sentences – or more like finishing hard at the rim after receiving a pinpoint pass on the break.
2. The Clippers need to lock down Chris Paul to a long-term deal
Paul agreed to use the player option in his contract to stay with the team until 2012-13. Next summer, CP3 will be an unrestricted free agent. While it is a good thing that Paul actually preferred the Clippers to joining the Los Angeles Lakers, the Clips still have to convince him that this will be the place that he will win an NBA title and call home. The sooner this gets done, the better. We’ve all seen how uncertainty surrounding a star’s tenure with a team can totally wreak havoc in the locker room and crush a team’s morale. While Paul has not exhibited any indication that he’s a diva or a drama queen, it’s always best to settle things clean and quickly for everyone’s peace of mind.
3. The Clippers need a third superstar
The Miami Heat has its “super friends” and the Lakers recently formed their “army and then some,” gearing up for war. Even the Oklahoma City Thunder have last season’s NBA Sixth Man of the Year as an additional X-factor to their Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook combo. Times have clearly changed. One-two punches aren’t enough to get it done as franchises up the ante in the talent arms race year-after-year. It’s probably too much to ask for another “superstar,” but Paul and Griffin need another elite player to play alongside them in order to stay competitive in today’s game.
4. DeAndre Jordan needs to improve his game
Defense is critical to winning championships and team defenses need an anchor. Jordan is supposed to be that guy for the Clippers. He needs to be more aggressive on the defensive end without falling prey to committing those questionable, ticky-tack fouls. He’s now entering his fifth year in the league and his second one as the anointed starting center of the team. The Clips can’t count on Paul sneaking interceptions in the passing lane forever, so they need someone (Jordan) who can alter shots in the paint.
5. The team needs to get younger
While their recent additions of Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Lamar Odom, and Matt Barnes definitely amp up the experience level of the team, none of those guys are young and represent pillars of a future dynasty. I get it though, they’re here to show the team’s commitment to Paul that they want to partner with him to win a championship and surround him with enough talent to keep the team competitive. It’s a delicate juggling act and it’s not easy to execute, but the Clippers need to balance acquiring long-term assets while securing short-term veteran experience.
Yes it’s somewhat of a wish list, but it is doable, and if done right expect the Clippers to go very far… maybe even all the way to an NBA title.