The Los Angeles Clippers had a decent campaign last year. They reached the second-round of the playoffs after miraculously defeating the Spurs in the first-round. However, the team once again failed to reach the Western Conference Finals after blowing a 3-1 lead in the series against the Houston Rockets. The three straight loses that the Clippers suffered displayed a couple of very serious problems that the team had – lack of veteran leadership and almost no bench depth. Fortunately, the Clippers were able to solve them, at least on paper; by making some good offseason signings, the new roster may be looking like a plausible candidate for lifting the Larry O’Brien trophy next June.
But things could have been a lot different if one person did not make up his mind at the last moment. DeAndre Jordan unexpectedly backed out of a verbal agreement with the Mavericks. The Clippers had stated in the media that they have one primary target for the 2015 summer and it was re-signing the big man. However, before the start of offseason Jordan said that he intended to join the Dallas Mavericks. If that had actually happened, the Los Angeles based franchise would have been in some very serious trouble – they were going to lose one of their most valued player and more importantly, they did not have any idea as to who replaced him. Fortunately for the Clippers, when the time came for contracts to be signed, DeAndre made a 180-degree turn and chose to remain in Los Angeles.
As a result, the Clippers maintained their status of being title contenders, especially after adding the likes of Lance Stephenson, Paul Pierce and Josh Smith. Even though these acquisitions may look risky, the Clippers did not have any other choice. Financial flexibility had been very limited that even being able to get so many elite players is an accomplishment in itself. Additionally, the Clippers added Wesley Johnson, a very versatile and quality player, and only getting paid the minimum salary.
The Clippers success will depend on how much gas Paul Pierce has left in the tank, whether Lance Stephenson can adjust to Doc Rivers’ system and if Josh Smith can be as effective as he was for the Rockets. It is impossible to tell what will happen before the season starts, but if there is somebody who can incorporate these players in a team and make them play efficiently, it would be Doc Rivers. He is one of the best coaches in the entire NBA and thanks to that the Clippers are among the elite teams in the league. Furthermore, it will be very interesting to actually see how Doc is going to incorporate Jamal Crawford in the rotation, as he and Stephenson are quite similar players – they both like to have the ball in their hands, both can play the role of a playmaker and both can make marvels on the fast break. However, Stephenson is definitely more well-rounded player on paper – he can defend better, he can rebound better and as whole, he is just a more complete basketball player.