The Los Angeles Clippers had perhaps the franchise's best regular season last year. That really is not saying much when it comes tot he Clippers. The season ended up a disappointment though as the Clippers were unceremoniously bounced from the first round.
A chance to do something really special slipped away. And then so did coach Vinny Del Negro.
Add on Doc Rivers and it is easy to think the Clippers made themselves better come April and May. The Clippers continue to stockpile talent and try to burst through the championship window in the brief moments it is still open.
Chris Paul though believes the Clippers' answer is already on the roster. And the Clippers point guard believes the team goes only so far as Blake Griffin can take them (h/t Players View) :
Blake is one of those guys, where his age has nothing to do with anything. People may say he’s a young guy, but he’s been special in this league, he’s been an All-Star. His voice carries a lot of weight and I think our team will definitely go as Blake goes. He’s our guy, and he’s good enough to do so.
That was not the case certainly in Los Angeles' first round loss to Memphis. In that six-game series, Griffin averaged only 13.2 points per game and shot 45.3 percent from the floor. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol were able to bully Griffin around and knock him out of the post, forcing him away from the basket. Griffin did not have the low post skills or consistency to combat them.
With Griffin struggling, the Clippers floundered in the postseason and the promising season ended. Griffin could not carry the team any further not with the Grizzlies front line blocking the way.
Paul will provide his steady MVP-like performance once again. There appears to be no doubt of that. Paul averaged 16.9 points and 9.7 assists per game. He took a step back on the offensive end and became more of a distributor to let Griffin and DeAndre Jordan blossom more. The Clippers also had so many more weapons to use, balance was expected.
More balance should be expected this year with the addition of J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley and Darren Collison. This is still a very deep team.
Griffin though is what makes the Clippers unique. He has the ability to change the game with his athleticism and versatility. Few post players can match what he can provide. Randolph and Gasol found a way to neutralize that with their physicality in the Playoffs.
The Clippers will not go anywhere without Griffin playing his best. Paul has done a lot on his own in his career. There is only so much more he can do in this super-competitive Western Conference.
Griffin is still young and can still grow a whole lot. For the Clippers to take advantage of their championship window and their new coach, he is going to have to become a much bigger presence for this team.