Los Angeles Clippers (19-63 in 08/09)
Key Additions: Blake Griffin (Rookie), Rasual Butler, Craig Smith, Sebastian Telfair.
Key Losses: Zach Randolph
The 2008/2009 season was a long and frustrating one for the Los Angeles Clippers. A season that was thought to have so much promise for the perennially pathetic “other” L.A. team turned sour before it began as a result of the sudden defection of Elton Brand to the Philadelphia 76’s.
Though Brand’s unexpected abandonment of the Clippers created a poisonous atmosphere in the L.A. locker room, no one was more greatly affected than the player he had helped to recruit: Baron Davis. Davis, often out of shape and apathetic in even the best of circumstances seemed to sense the hopelessness and sulked through the entire season missing 15 games and putting up his worst numbers in nine seasons. With their point man AWOL the Clippers were the worst offensive team in the league in 2008/2009. Luckily for Davis and the Clippers help is on the way.
The Clippers should find new motivation in the form of number one draft pick Blake Griffin. Griffin, an Oklahoma University standout, proved himself to be a versatile and efficient scorer averaging 22.7 points per game on 65 percent shooting in his sophomore year. Griffin is also an exceptionally gifted rebounder averaging 14.4 per game in his final year in the NCAA. The Clipper rookie should also be a good locker room presence, a welcome change for a team that has had a history of bringing in low character players. Griffin has already displayed his humbleness by agreeing to come off the bench in his first campaign.
Whether Griffin will be a reserve player for very long will depend on rebounding, shot blocking and injury machines Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman, the latter of which played in only 31 games last season after missing 26 in 2007/2008. My intuition tells me that the Clippers as a whole will be missing far fewer games this year due to injury provided they get some wins early on. Whether Camby and Kaman stay healthy or not, head coach Mike Dunleavy should not wait long to provide Griffin serious minutes as he is clearly the future of the team.
Speaking of the future of the team sharp shooting two-guard Eric Gordon returns for his sophomore year after a solid rookie campaign. Gordon has all the makings of a Ben Gordon type scorer who should pair up nicely with Griffin in seasons to come. Meanwhile small-forward Al Thornton should continue to put up decent numbers as he enters into a contract year, however, he’ll be turning 26 in two months may not have much more room to grow. Pressing Thornton for minutes will be newly acquired Rasual Butler.
Overall, the addition of Blake Griffin, a sure-fire future all star, should infuse new energy into the Clippers franchise. With fewer games lost due to injuries and a better locker-room atmosphere the Clippers should see a marked improvement in their win total. This team may not be ready to compete for the playoffs quite yet.
2009/2010 Record: 34-48