Originally written on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 10/20/14
Last year we saw this young Clippers bunch thrive with Chris Paul under the helm as they made the playoffs and matched up with a lethal Grizzlies team. Many picked the experienced Grizzlies to move on against LA, but instead the Clippers took the series to seven games and went into Memphis and basically man-handled them. Banged up from the series before Los Angeles had virtually no shot to beat the Spurs in the next round, and were swept fairly easily, which ended by far the best season the Clippers had in recent memory. Led by the best point guard in the NBA in Chris Paul and accompanied by budding stars in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan the other Los Angeles team give legitimate hope for the future for their fans. Winning the series against the Grizzlies gave Head Coach Vinny Del Negro job security and allowed him to build on the roster and make changes to better the team. Now with new additions comes departures and a big one to leave was shooting guard Randy Foye as well as Mo Williams (both currently with Jazz). Also to leave were three point specialist Nick Young (Now with 76ers) and defensive big man Reggie Evans (Now with Brooklyn). Four key pieces leave, but the additions make up for the subtractions. Jamal Crawford: Crawford will assume Nick Young’s role as instant offense on the team, except Jamal is more experienced and significantly better. Crawford has no trouble creating his own shot, which makes coaches love him as he can play in any rotation with any players and have no trouble contributing. Crawford has seemingly unlimited range and last year was statically the best free throw shooter in the game. Adding free throws to this team is critical as Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are so bad at them that at times they are lucky to graze the rim. Crawford has averaged 15.3 ppg during his 12 year career and will surely help this Clipper team score when Chris Paul is not in the lineup or is struggling to get the offense flowing, in my opinion one of their biggest weaknesses last year. Lamar Odom: Listen, I know the man’s been a low lately in his career, but he can still play ball. Odom was obviously distraught by leaving the Lakers after the 2011 season and had easily his worst numbers over the last year in Dallas. Odom returns to Los Angeles, maybe with a chip on his shoulder, a dangerous thing for an athlete to have.. When at his best Odom is maybe the most versatile player in the NBA as his passing skills complemented with his scoring and rebounding ability are superior to many in the league. At 6’10” 230lbs Odom still has the physique to contribute in a big way and the Clippers may have themselves a potential sixth-man of the year award. They just have to hope these Khloe Kardashian divorce rumors are false right? Or would getting that family out of his world be better and force him to only focus on the game? Time will tell. The Rest: Another addition was long-time veteran Grant Hill who finds himself out of losing Phoenix and in a prime position to return to the playoffs. Now a bone bruise in his knee will keep him sidelined for a couple weeks the team says, but when he returns Grant Hill cannot only give this team production on the court, but more importantly assume a leadership role to help guide these young players and mature them to an extent where they expect greatness. Hill is 40 now and with the injury currently fans have to expect he won’t make it through the season without a few more instances on the mend. In attempt to replace defensive energizer bunny Reggie Evans, the Clippers signed Ronny Turiaf whose most productive years came in LA, but with the Lakers. Ronny hopes to make up for last year where he only played 17 games combined with Miami and Washington. Turiaf gives the Clippers physicality down low and a defensive presence off the bench. The last man I’ll address is not an acquisition, but a player that was dearly missed against the Spurs in the Western Conference Semi-Finals: Chauncey Billups. Billups gives the Clippers a true back-up point guard, as Eric Bledsoe has shown flashes at time, but at the end of the day is inexperienced. When healthy, Chauncey can still produce substantial value to the club and gives Chris Paul someone to bounce ideas off of because of the experience Billups has had in his successful career. Currently participating in full contact practices, Billups aims to return to the team shortly and will give them a much needed boost. Where’s This Leave Them? In my opinion the Clippers are better than they were last year, which is scary. This year you will see a new and improved DeAndre Jordan paired with the electric Blake Griffin. Griffin reportedly has been working on his poor free throw shooting and has eliminated the hitch he had previously when reaching his release, hopefully creating a much smoother jumper and improving it as well. The Clippers are loaded this year; they have an abundance of playmakers who are dedicated on the defensive end. Defense ended up being what made them successful last year highlighted in their historic comeback from 27 points down against the Grizzlies in Game 1 of their playoff series. I think Los Angeles is good enough to be as high as the two seed in the West and make a serious run at a title. This is the time where all those losing seasons getting erased and turn into times where Clipper fans expect to see a win every time they watch their team play. Maybe the curse is over? -Huberman
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