First of all, it’s obvious that Danny Granger was under performing this season. Playing at the shadow of the emerging megastar Paul George and after he experienced a bunch of injuries, Granger was not the player he once used to be this season. The Indiana Pacers were no longer his team. The former All-Star played in 29 games this season and started in just a couple of them. He averaged 8.3 points per contest go to along with 3.6 rebounds and he shot a ugly rates, 35.9 percent from the floor and 33.0 percent from downtown. However, he has the potential to bounce back and uplift his performance.Granger seems to be a perfect fit in the Clips’ playoff puzzle. If he is acquired by the team, he will most probably be assigned with the starting small forward role. Granger has the size and the athletic skills to be a great perimeter threat, which can also drive to the basket. Of course, he is not as explosive as he once was, but after all, the Clippers don’t need him to be that type of a player.
Thankfully, the Clips have Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, who will continue to take the biggest chunk of the offensive load on their shoulders. So where Granger is needed is to spot up and hit some open shots, especially from beyond the arc. In general, Granger will be a big upgrade in the Clippers wing. That’s because Doc Rivers is currently using Matt Barnes at the starting small forward role. Although Barnes is a serviceable forward, he is not a big scoring threat, especially from downtown. His fellow small forward, Jarred Dudley, who was acquired during the past summer has been struggling to find consistency all season long. In fact, he was demoted to a reserve, after starting for the Clippers earlier in the season.
In conclusion, we can fairly say that Danny Granger is certainly a missing piece for the Los Angeles Clippers. He might not be the player who will take the team by the hand and lead it to the championship. However, after the addition of Glen Davis, the Los Angeles Clippers have the opportunity to add yet another piece in their puzzle. Granger is the best player available out there at the moment and the Clips shouldn’t let this opportunity slip off their hands. Granger will be an essential player come playoff time for Doc Rivers.
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After winning their first Pacific Division title the Los Angeles Clippers flamed out in the first round of the NBA playoffs to the Memphis Grizzlies. After a strong regular season the early playoff exit forced some needed changes. Head Coach Vinny Del Negro is out, replaced by one of the most respected coaches in the NBA, Doc Rivers. The Clippers also re-made an already solid bench, emphasizing character guys with the ability to play multiple positions and hit the three point shot. In a loaded Western Conference the Clippers should be in contention for the top overall record in the west. After consecutive strong regular seasons expectations have risen in Clipper-land, with a deep playoff run expected from the club’s burgeoning fan base.
Here are five things to watch as the Clippers head into the all-important 2013-2014 regular season:
After leading the Celtics to an NBA title and several team playoff runs Doc Rivers is now regarded as one of the elite coaches in the NBA. He’s a well respected game manager who players love to play for. His Celtics teams played hard and played tremendous defense. Basketball is a confidence game and elite NBA head coaches can have a dramatic impact on the fortunes of a franchise. Vinny Del Negro was widely regarded as a great guy but one of the worst in coaches in the league. His late game decisions and rotation choices often left Clippers fans shaking their heads. The presence of Rivers on the bench should pay dividends come playoff time. His reputation for coaching defense should improve an area where the Clippers had some struggles in the past few seasons. Most importantly the presence of Rivers signals to the Lakers and the rest of the Western Conference that the Clippers are locked and loaded and legitimate NBA title contenders.
The End of Lob City: The Clippers open court style and the incredible athletic ability of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan helped create “Lob City” at STAPLES Center the past couple of years. The Clippers made plenty of Sportscenter highlights but had difficulty adjusting to the half-court nature of playoff basketball. With Rivers the Clippers will now employ the half-court style Rivers employed in Boston, which stresses balancing the floor and player movement. It’s a proven style of play and the Clippers made some wise moves in the offseason to build a bench that will compliment the style. The Clippers may not be as exciting as in years past but the revised style of play should pay dividends come playoff time.
The Revised Bench: The Clippers had a strong bench last season, one of the elite groups in basketball. After starting strong they fizzled towards the end though, and went through bouts of inconsistency. Early signs are positive regarding the Clippers offseason additions. Jamal Crawford, who provided so much instant offense off the bench last season, has returned and should make a run for top sixth man in the NBA once again. Darren Collison had an up and down season last year in Dallas, but is a solid veteran point guard who should prove an excellent backup to Paul. Phoenix Suns import Jared Dudley is a character guy who can hit the tough three point shot while providing solid defense off the bench. If there are any questions regarding the Clippers depth it’s related to their interior backups. Lou Amundson, Ryan Hollins and Byron Mullens each have their own strengths, but may have their hands full with some of the deeper front courts in the Western Conference.
Blake Griffin Time? Due to his remarkable athletic ability Blake Griffin has become one of the most popular players in the NBA, a human highlight film that rivals past greats like Dominique Williams. With the Clippers as serious title contenders it may be time for Griffin to put it all together and become one of the most dependable post scorers in the league. The Clippers more conservative style may eliminate some of the open court opportunities that Griffin likes to cash in on. The key for Griffin is to prove his ability to capitalize in the half court game. If the Clippers star can elevate his game to superstar levels the Clippers just may have the classic “two superstars” needed to take home an NBA crown.
The Health of Chris Paul: The Clippers have the best pure point guard in the NBA. They also have a player who has suffered from knee problems and missed thirty-five games in his two seasons as a Clipper. The Clippers will go as far as Chris Paul can take them. The presence of Darren Collison will give the Clippers a solid player to spell their superstar and keep him fresh for a playoff run. Paul is already hinting to an interest in perhaps a shorter NBA career than many and his chronic knee issues may eventually force a truncated career. He’s in the prime of his career now and the upcoming couple of seasons may represent the zenith of his NBA career. It’s essential for the Clippers to breakthrough and make their deep run this season, with Paul leading the charge.
Prediction: The Clippers win the Pacific Division again and eventually lose to the Heat in the NBA finals.
The NBA regular season starts on October 29th, 2013 and millions of diehard fans are looking forward to this season. The biggest game of the Trail Blazers opening night is the Chicago Bulls travelling to South Beach to take on the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat. Most experts and fans feel as if both of these teams are going to be very good. Per the usual, teams like the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to make a run at the playoffs but some will want to know what team or teams are going to surprise in the 2013-14 season.
Portland Trail Blazers
In the last few years, the Portland Trail Blazers have struggled to put together a good team. Last year they had the rookie of the year, Damian Lillard and this year they are hoping to put some pieces around this amazing point guard. The major concern for the Trail Blazers is their youth. Young NBA teams can take some time to develop as they have not played a large number of games together. Once these young athletes get to know each other’s style of play the sky could be the limit for Portland. There is only one player on the team that is over the age of 30 and the season is gruelling.
As I mentioned in an previous article on Barry’s Tickets, a young NBA team has a distinct advantage in the second half of the season. The question is, can the Blazers win enough games in the first half of the season so that the second half means something? If the Trail Blazers can get to the All-Star game in contention for the playoffs, they should be able to make a decent run in the second half of the season. Having fresh legs will make a world of difference this season.
The NBA has become a point guard dominated league. In the 70s, 80s and 90s NBA teams wanted a center that could dominate the paint. Shaq was a force as he helped the Lakers win multiple titles. Many experts feel as if Kobe has never been the same player without Shaq in the middle. When Kobe has a great season, it is often when there is a presence at the center position for the Los Angeles Lakers. That said, many teams have accepted that a point guard is now much more important than a center. The big men get hurt easier, and they don’t have the ball in their hands nearly as much as they used to. I am truly shocked that more NBA teams do not draft a prolific point guard with their top pick. One team that went out and got the point guard in the 2013 NBA Draft is the Utah Jazz.
Trey Burke was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves but was traded to Utah. In my opinion, this was a great move for the Utah Jazz as a point guard can completely change a team; much quicker than a centre or a big man. After watching Trey Burke play for the Michigan Wolverines last year, I can say that he will make a huge difference for a team in the NBA. He leads his Michigan team to the Final Four, and he has a floor presence unlike most athletes his age. I do not feel as if Trey Burke will be a high scorer in the NBA but he will be able to get his team in the correct offence. I think Trey Burke will be a similar player to Chris Paul. There is no way that we can predict he will be as good as Chris Paul but even if he is half as good, he will drastically improve the Utah Jazz.
New Orleans Pelicans
Most people know of this team like the New Orleans Hornets, but they have changed their name to the Pelicans for this season. That might be a little bit of foreshadowing for the season that is coming. If you look at the roster, it is littered with college basketball stars. Names like Austin Rivers, Jeff Withey, Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday immediately catch the eye of anyone that enjoys the college game. As we all know, you cannot put an NBA team together with just college basketball superstars. While many college players will go on to have great NBA careers, there are some college stars that simply do not fit the mould of an average NBA player. Height, weight, wingspan and overall athletic ability are often much more important than college stats.
If the Pelicans can find a true point guard to run the show, this could be one of the most improved teams in the NBA. The Pelicans were downright dangerous in the last two years as they won 21 and 27 games respectively. With this being the case it is not going to take that much to improve. After shipping Chris Paul to the west coast, this team has struggled to find its identity. As mentioned with the previous two teams, a point guard is now essential in the NBA. I would say that a point guard is more important than a center or a power forward. When I was growing up the power forward and shooting guard positions were essential as these were the positions in which most points were generated. Points come from everywhere on the court in the current state of the NBA. With the hand checking rule changing the way defence is played it is no longer difficult for teams to score 100 points.
A point guard is needed to distribute the ball and get the offence going. With the Pelicans being a young team one would think they are going to try to get up and down the court. This makes it even more important to have a solid point guard that does not turn the ball over. Finding that great point guard can be difficult which is why some teams cannot seem to turn the corner and make the playoffs. Some in New Orleans have wondered if it is going to end up being the curse of Chris Paul. There is little argument to be made that Chris Paul gave New Orleans their best years of basketball. They have yet to come close to that quality of basketball since they let him go to the Los Angeles Clippers. Speaking of the Clippers.
Los Angeles Clippers
It is hard to say that the Clippers are going to be a surprise team as they are already one of the best teams in the west. I think this is the season they can make some huge strides towards getting to the NBA Finals. Now that Blake Griffin and Chris Paul have played with each other for a few seasons they should be able to get off to a quick start. If the Clippers can get off to a start that is above .600 in the first 25 or 30 games, they have a chance to win the Western Conference.
Most experts are predicting the Oklahoma City Thunder to win the west, but there is an opening for the Clippers. What is unique about 2013 is the fact that coming into the season it is accepted that the Clippers are the best team in Los Angeles. It has been a very long time since this was even considered by the fans and the experts. Anyone that has watched NBA basketball for the last four decades knows that Los Angeles is dominated by the Lakers. If Kobe Bryant is not 100% healthy this year the Lakes are going to struggle to make the playoffs. There are even rumours that they might go out and get Carmelo Anthony. If this happens, we know there is truly trouble in paradise.
What to Expect in 2013-14
This is going to be a fascinating year for professional basketball. LeBron James and the Miami Heat are getting older so they are vulnerable. Dwayne Wade has had all kinds of injury problems. It would not be surprising to see him sit out several games this year just because of health issues. If the Heat runs into any injury problems that leaves the door open for some younger teams to grab the best record in the NBA. I think it is safe to say that the 1990s Bulls team has nothing to worry about when it comes to the all-time best record of 72-10. The only way a team will come close to that type of record is a team that has enough young players to make it through the entire season without injuries.
I don’t think we will see the Heat make it to the All-Star break without injuries. Keep an eye on some of the younger teams as they may surprise you in the upcoming season. As mentioned in this article, point guards are going to rule the league this year so take noticed of the teams that have a true leader at the point guard position.
It would have been a blockbuster deal that could have put the Los Angeles Clippers in an immediate Championship position. Kevin Garnett’s movement from the Boston Celtics to the Los Angeles Clippers would have shaken up the entire league and would have changed the balances between the best teams. The thing is that this deal never happened.
KG expressed his loyalty to the Celtics numerous times. He stated that he lives green and that he will die green. There could have been no way the Clippers made this huge acquisition, or was there a chance?
According to many reports, Clippers’ superstar Chris Paul made a strong push for this trade to happen. He spoke to Garnett prior to the trade deadline and urged him to join forces with him and Blake Griffin at Los Angeles. His addition to the team would mean that the Clippers would have one of the best combinations of point-guard and frontcourt in the league. KG’s great mid and long range shot would set Griffin free and open lanes for his game close to the basket and the penetrations of several of his teammates. The Big Ticket has a great presence as a mental leader and would help lifting the entire team during crunch time and at crucial games against difficult opponents duringthe Playoffs. However, Garnett chose to remain with the Celtics and his loyalty means a lot to his team and all the fans at Boston, who saw their team been hit with serious injuries and player losses. Of course the no-trade clause that Garnett has on his contract played a huge role during this trade talk. He justified long before the trade deadline that the only case he would even think departing from Boston would be if Paul Pierce also left the team. Danny Ainge never made it happen.
The fact is that many of the teams that sit on the top seedsboth in the West and in the East were afraid of this deal to happen. Having three superstars in a roster with so many great role players and one of the best second units in the league would have made the Clippers really tough to take down. We might never really know how hard did the Celtics management team pushed for this trade and if Garnett was about to use his no-trade clause. However, if Ainge was really determined to start the rebuilding processin Boston, he would have sent also Paul Pierce to another team – Brooklyn was one of the possible destinations- and together with the exchanges for KG, the Celtics would have started forming a brand new team with potential.
Both teams now will have to look forward and continue fighting for a good run with their current roster. The Celtics are happy to have Garnett on their roster and the Clippers can be confident that with their current formation they are able to make this season the best of their franchise history.
Chris Michaels I live in Los Angeles, CA and work as an Chief Wisdom Officer
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