Don’t Underestimate the Los Angeles Clippers


The Los Angeles Clippers are not a team to overlook. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

As I’ve been writing the Los Angeles Clippers Vs every team in the league breakdown posts, there have been constant trends in the comments.

The most popular: Blake Griffin is overrated and the Clippers will not beat the Los Angeles Lakers, the Oklahoma City Thunder or the San Antonio Spurs in the 2013 NBA playoffs.

I understand most or all of the comments are coming from fans of the teams I’m saying the Clippers can beat, but I definitely sense some envy of Los Angeles’ roster and can pin-point the underestimations of the Clips.

We’ll start with Griffin.

In a way he is overrated. When ESPN put him as No. 10 in their Top 500 NBA player ranking list before the 2011-12 season, I cringed. He had only played one season and was rough around the edges. If he wasn’t athletic and couldn’t jump out of the gym, he wouldn’t have been ranked that high because he lacks fundamentals, defensive awareness and a jumper.

Fast forward a season and I think he is becoming the player ESPN thought he was a year earlier. His jumper improved, his help defense improved, he ran the floor better — with the help of Chris Paul — and positioned himself better in the low-post on both sides of the ball.

ESPN has now knocked him down to No. 14 behind players such as Rajon Rondo, Dirk Nowitzki and Andrew Bynum — who all have just as tall highs as Griffin and the same kind of basement with their lows.

Must I remind readers, Griffin has only played two full seasons in the NBA. He has plenty of room to grow and has the right people around him to do so. One of the youngest rosters in the NBA (when Griffin first started) has become a nice mix of youthful talent with cagy veterans who still know how to play the game.

Blake Griffin has been putting up numbers and helping the Clippers win games. Some call him overrated, I say he’s just getting started. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Plus, the man scored 20.7 points and grabbed 10.9 rebounds in his second year. How is that overrated? What do you expect of the man 30 and 30?

Griffin is a game changer who has to be accounted for every minute he is on the court. His numbers are great, has a PER of 23.50 and helped bring a winning culture to the Clippers. I don’t think overrated and Griffin should be used in the same sentence.

Now to the team.

People seem to think a team has to be young to win a ring. Numerous comments and Twitter  heads think adding veterans such as Lamar Odom, Grant Hill and Jamal Crawford  is worse for the team than Mo Williams and Randy Foye. I even got something about Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups being too old to play in the league anymore.

I can’t think of one NBA Championship team in the last 20 years that was comprised of a nucleus of all young players.

The Miami Heat won last year because of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh (experienced veterans) and a collection of role players of older guys: Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem. Mario Chalmers is the only exception. Actually, Chalmers is the only young guy who did anything in the NBA Finals.

Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion were past their prime when the won in 2011.

The Los Angeles Lakers were anchored by elder veterans except for Andrew Bynum in their consecutive championships: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher and Metta World Peace.

It is a well proven fact a team has to have experienced players to win in this league.

Things didn’t go right for Lamar Odom in Dallas, but he’s back in Los Angeles and has the pieces around him to duplicate his winning past. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

If Odom’s production of last year, when he was in a bad situation, is thrown out — he is still one of the most versatile players in the NBA and will be a huge boost off of the bench. Odom, Hill and Crawford have played a combined 42 seasons and have only averaged under 10 points per game in three of those. Crawford averaged 4.6 and 9.3 in his first two seasons in the league with the Chicago Bulls and Odom averaged 6.6 in last years debacle.

To think these guys don’t help the team more than Williams and Foye in the post season is ridiculous.

Also, sense when does everyone on a team have to be the best player in the NBA? Oh, probably when super teams began popping up everywhere.

Billups and Butler don’t have to be the players they once were. The shooting percentages of both players have slipped, oh well, give the ball to Paul, Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Crawford, Odom, Hill or Matt Barnes to make shots.

Both of the veterans have slowed down a little bit. Okay, put in the solid interior defenders to keep quick guards and small forwards away from the bucket. Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf are not on the roster for offense, they’re on the court to stop others from scoring and grab the rebound.

Billups makes the extra pass, makes defenders stay on him instead of helping in the lane, leads the offense when Paul isn’t on the floor and is still an aggressive defender. Butler can still back down opponents, plays solid defense on most NBA small forward and rebounds well. The Clippers need them to do those jobs, not the job of someone else.

Basketball is a team sport where everyone doesn’t have to be the greatest. Griffin is great at what he does. Paul is great at what he does. Everyone else is asked to fill in a role to make the Clippers a team instead of an individual effort.

Guess what, they have the right collection of guys to get the job done.

In all honesty, I hope people continue to think the Clippers depth won’t hurt the Lakers and the Thunder. I hope people still think LA’s athletic front court can’t stop Tim Duncan and the Spurs’ other big men or come from the blind side and swat Tony Parker’s layup into the fourth row of seats. I hope you think the Clippers’ roster is too old.

I’m definitely the guy who will have the huge smile telling you “I told you so” when the Clippers soar to new heights and stomp on your expectations.