Los Angeles Clippers’ All-Star point guard Chris Paul will miss approximately six weeks due to a separated right shoulder. While the injury is a major blow to the Clips, they are lucky that Paul will not have to undergo surgery to fix that shoulder. With CP3 sidelined for the next month and a half, the Clippers will do their best to hold the ship and stay afloat in the always competitive Western Conference.
Without Paul for an extended period of time, the Clippers best hope is to remain somewhere in the middle of the pack out west. That being said, the Clips, who are currently 5th in the conference, will depend heavily on solid play from guys like Jamal Crawford and NBA Defensive Player of the Year candidate, DeAndre Jordan. Crawford is currently third on the team in scoring, averaging nearly 17 points per game, and Jordan is having a fantastic season on the defensive end, as he is top five in the league in both rebounding and blocks. Without CP3 around, Crawford should get more opportunities to create offense for himself, which is something that he is very capable of, and in the process, increase his scoring average. Jordan on the other hand will be relied upon even more to be a dominant defensive presence. Chris Paul is one of the league’s best defenders at the point guard position, and without him on the floor, more lead guards will look to exploit his absence.
While Crawford and Jordan are integral to the ability of the Clippers to maintain solid play, ultimately, the immediate fate of the Clips will rest upon the play of two players: Blake Griffin and Darren Collison.
Blake Griffin is having another stellar season, as he is averaging 22 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. The fourth-year player will have to maintain those statistics, and some nights even surpass those numbers in order for the Clippers to be successful. Without CP3, Griffin will have to rely mainly on an improved post and mid-range game, as he will not have the always-aware Paul to set him up for easy buckets and alley-oops.
As for Collison, there is no way that he can possibly replace Paul or his production, but he is going to have to do his best to fill the very large void left by CP3. Collison has plenty of starting experience in the league, and he knows what it takes to lead a team. He is not the playmaker that Paul is, but he is a capable scorer and has no problem attacking the basket, which will, in the process, create opportunities for shooters on the perimeter and the big men on the inside.
The Clippers should not have a problem staying in the playoff race, but it would not be surprising if they fell to one of the last spots in the West. With only three games between them and the eighth and final playoff spot, it is very possible that the three teams behind the Clips (the Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks) could make a push for that fifth spot the Clippers currently hold.
If Clippers head coach Doc Rivers can maximize the efforts of the other players on the bench, then the Clips should continue to be playoff eligible once Paul makes his long-awaited return sometime in February. The Clippers are 1-1 without Chris Paul thus far.