Los Angeles Clippers 2015-16 Preview
2014-15 Record: 56-26, No. 2 in Pacific Division, No. 2 in Western Conference. Eliminated by the Houston Rockets in the second round of the NBA playoffs in seven games.
Roster Additions: F Branden Dawson, F Josh Smith, F Lance Stephenson, F Paul Pierce, F Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, C Cole Aldrich, F Chuck Hayes, F Wesley Johnson, G Pablo Prigioni
Roster Subtractions: F Matt Barnes, C Spencer Hawes, F Glen Davis, G Dahntay Jones, F Hedo Turkoglu, F Ekpe Udoh, F Jordan Hamilton, G Lester Hudson
SBN Affiliate: Clips Nation
2014-15 Recap: Last year was a successful run for Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, as the team won 50 games for the third straight year. The trio of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan powered through a tough Pacific Division, and the team seemed to always stay 18 games over .500. On March 17th, the Clippers went completely bonkers and beat Charlotte at home to start a season-ending streak of 14 wins in 15 games. Due to the playoff seeding, the Clippers faced the San Antonio Spurs in the first round despite the Spurs only having one fewer win. Los Angeles trailed twice in the series, but rallied from a 3-2 series deficit to beat the Spurs in seven games. The Clippers roared to a 3-1 lead in the second round versus Houston, but threw the final three games away, falling in seven.
2015-16 Offseason: In a strange offseason for everyone, no one had a more peculiar one than the Clippers and coach Doc Rivers. The obvious deal is what may or may not have occurred that lured DeAndre Jordan back to the team from Dallas for 4-years and $87 million. The rest of the roster moves appear to be based in the world of video games. The team traded defensive pest Matt Barnes along with Spencer Hawes to Charlotte to acquire Lance Stephenson, who had a miserable first season with the Hornets after signing a lucrative free agent contract. The sideshow rolled on with the signing of Josh Smith, another player who has made headlines for his negative team interactions. Austin Rivers, the son of the coach, was retained for two more seasons despite a poor year, with vocal critics calling the move nepotism. Paul Pierce was brought in from the Washington Wizards to provide veteran leadership, leaving the team with a talented but troubled cast.
Projected Starting Lineup: Paul, J.J. Redick, Pierce, Griffin, Jordan
2015-16 Outlook: In any case, the core of the team remains intact. Chris Paul is one of the most talented point guards in the NBA, and more importantly was healthy for all of last season. He should be in the top five in the NBA in assists again, and provides a scoring punch when called upon. Redick is still a 3-point ace and an average defender, helping the team while not hurting it. Pierce cannot play as many minutes now at age 38 as he once could, but can contribute in short bursts, while the team is counting on Johnson and Stephenson to supplant his role when Pierce needs rest. Griffin has greatly improved his game and can dominate the scoring for long stretches. If he finally truly combines his stellar drive-and-dunk ability with his mid-range shot, he can be one of the top ten players in the league. Jordan is a defensive powerhouse that tends to get in foul trouble, and has limited potential from anywhere further than five feet from the basket. Still, he will continue to be a steady alley-oop target and can be counted on for a double-double every night. His free throw shooting is still legendarily awful, and teams may continue with the "Hack-a-Jordan" strategy the Clippers faced last year.
Final Prediction: The team has a lot more headaches than last year, and faces a conference that has not gotten any weaker. The core of the team will give the Clippers stability, but all of them have had injury issues in the past. Depth is a real question, and team chemistry will be a consistent problem with so many strong personalities fighting for playing time. They can fly as high as 60 games, or drop into the 7 or 8 seed with equal ease. 49-33, 2nd place in Pacific Division.
Yesterday's preview: San Antonio Spurs
Up next: Houston Rockets