The Los Angeles Clippers haven’t had expectations this high in years. Since Chris Paul joined the team they have made strides, becoming a title contender and increasing their win total by at least eight games in each of the last two seasons.
Despite having an average start to the season, the Clippers have shown glimpses of a team ready to push their way into being a top team in the NBA.
This is the first year in a long time in which the Clippers have much higher expectations than the Lakers. The way the Clippers are setup this season, they definitely look like they are ready to take the next step and not end their season with an early playoff exit. They added shooters in J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, and Doc Rivers, who will bring a change in mentality.
These additions don’t seem like much, but they may go a long way in making the Clippers the new top dog in the Western Conference. The Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs are tough every year, but I believe the Clips can make that jump to the top. Here are the four keys as to why I think the Clippers will represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals and why they can be better than the Spurs and Thunder.
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CP3 is having a strong start to the 2014 season. He’s definitely an early candidate for MVP and he’s strongly quarterbacking the Clippers hot offense. So far, he’s averaging an incredible 22.5 PPG, 12.8 APG, 4.2 RPG and 2.8 SPG. Paul has yet to dip below 10 assists in a game and is running the Clip’s offense to 110.5 PPG. Offensively, the Clippers are clicking on all cylinders.
In the first game of the season, the Clippers were ran off the court by the Los Angeles Lakers, a shocking defeat to say the least. They were outscored by the Lakers 41-24 in fourth quarter, with the Lakers bench playing most of those minutes. Chris Paul still collected 15 points and 11 assists for the game, connecting with the shooters on the wing and Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan down low. The season started off rocky, but the Clippers still managed to collect 103 points in the loss.
The Clippers next three games were all wins as Paul brought his game to a higher level. The Warriors were up next and CP3 had one of the best games of his career, matching Stephen Curry shot for shot and then some. Paul ended the game with 42 points (one below his career-high), 15 assists and six steals. This kind of performance after a bad loss shows the perseverance and readiness of Chris Paul to lead his team deep into the playoffs.
Next the Clippers faced the Rockets, another top team in the West. The defense lacked, but the offense was phenomenal as they posted 137 points. Paul had another amazing performance, collecting 23 points and 17 assists. He definitely looked to be in midseason form. He was able to find great angles to get his guys the ball where they could easily score, as it showed when the team eclipsed the 100-point mark in the third quarter. The next two games CP3 was able to find his teammates for some great looks, but their defense fell apart and the Clippers added two straight road losses to bring their record to 3-3.
Right now Paul’s usage percentage is the second-highest of his career at 26. He is key to the Clippers offense and will defend the best guard on defense. He’s third in the league in steals and will most likely lead the league by a large margin in assists per game. Every championship team needs a superstar. Chris Paul will lead the offense by distributing but will take over at the end of the game if you need him to. He’s a strong leader and an intense competitor, something every championship team needs. It is hard to win a championship with the point guard as your best player, but if you had to choose one to lead your team there, Chris Paul is your guy.