2013 Los Angeles Clippers

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Los Angeles Clippers (Last Year: 56-26)

2012-13 Season Summary:
It was a record breaking season for the Los Angeles Clippers as they won a franchise best 56 games and earned their first ever Division title. Yes, it was the rare, RARE occurrence where the best basketball team in Hollywood was the Clippers and NOT the Lakers.

The direct reason for the Clippers success was once again Chris Paul, who has helped change the culture in Clipperland since arriving two offseasons ago. Paul and Blake Griffin form a dynamic one-two punch, but the free agent acquisitions of Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes were among two of the most underrated moves of last summer. Crawford was among the best sixth men in the league, and Barnes added some needed versatility off the bench on both ends of the floor.

DeAndre Jordan was a stabilizing force in the middle but has failed to take the next step in his game by becoming the true defensive presence in the middle. Behind Jordan and Griffin, the Clippers were very thin up front. Lamar Odom was practically a non-factor most of the season, and journeymen veterans Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins did little to provide any relief off the bench.

The depth in the backcourt and wing was much better even though Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill missed most of the season due to injury. Caron Butler and Willie Green actually started at the two and three even though Crawford and Barnes were more efficient. Eric Bledsoe showed flashes behind Paul which is why Bledsoe is going to be a hot target on the trade rumor mill this offseason.

That regular season success didn’t translate to the postseason though as the Clippers were bounced by the Grizzlies in the first round. As a result, Vinny del Negro was not retained as head coach, which is what led to the team dealing a first-round pick to bring in Doc Rivers to run the show.

2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:

C: DeAndre Jordan

PF: Blake Griffin

SF: Jared Dudley/Reggie Bullock

SG: J.J. Redick/Jamal Crawford/Willie Green

PG: Chris Paul

NBA Offseason Transactions:

The Clippers acquire SG-J.J. Redick and SG-Jared Dudley in a 3-team trade that sends PG-Eric Bledsoe and SF-Caron Butler to the Suns.

The Clippers re-sign PG-Chris Paul to a 5-year, $107 million deal.

NBA Free Agents:

SF-Matt Barnes (UFA)

F-Lamar Odom (UFA)

SG-Chauncey Billups (UFA)

C-Rony Turiaf (UFA)

C-Ryan Hollins (UFA)

SF-DaJuan Summers (UFA)

PG-Maalik Wayns (UFA)

2013-14 Team Salary: Approximately $70.7 million

NBA Offseason Team Needs:

1. Re-sign Paul: With Doc Rivers in the fold, Chris Paul’s return to the Los Angeles Clippers appears to be imminent. Teams like the Mavericks, Rockets, and Hawks might have a longshot chance of stealing Paul away from L.A., but the Clippers are without question the favorite to retain his rights. If he somehow walks in free agency, it will be a step back for the franchise though Eric Bledsoe appears ready and capable of a starting job.

2. Shop Bledsoe: With that being said, if Paul re-signs, then the Bledsoe becomes expendable. L.A. wouldn’t NEED to trade Bledsoe, but there are several teams willing to give up a starting caliber player to land Bledsoe in hopes that he becomes their point guard of the future. It would be hard for the Clippers to say no if they could land a starting shooting guard like Orlando’s Aaron Afflalo.

3. Small Forward: Matt Barnes earned a contract extension and hefty pay raise, so the Clippers should be ready to give him a multi-year deal and bump in salary. If Barnes is lured away by another team, L.A. needs to add another small forward since Grant Hill has already announced his retirement and Caron Butler is slowly regressing with his effectiveness as a scorer.

4. Frontcourt Depth: With Griffin and Jordan the only frontcourt players under contract for next season, the Clippers need to find bodies up front who are, ideally, upgrades from what the Turiaf/Hollins/Odom trio brought to the floor last year. Jordan’s name has already been dangled in a potential to deal to land Kevin Garnett and while that would add something to the starting lineup, the post reserve play still needs to be addressed.

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