The Clippers have been on a tear lately, winning seven games in a row heading into Tuesday’s late loss to the Warriors. Since a four-game losing streak to start the month of February, the Clippers have gone 16-7. During that span, they’ve put up 106.6 points per game while allowing 98.8, which is a point differential of 7.8. With the Western Conference being stacked with great teams, are the Clippers the most overlooked contender in the league right now?
At 49-26, the Clippers are on pace to put up the third-best season in the history of their franchise. They currently sit in the fifth spot in the West (with the fourth-best record and home-court advantage over Portland in the first round), and they’re just a game and a half behind Houston and two behind Memphis. Realistically, the Clippers could move as high as the three seed in the playoffs.
Amid the tremendous seasons put up by Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry and James Harden, as well as the usual stuff that LeBron James does, Chris Paul has been completely overlooked in the MVP race. That’s not to say that I think Paul should win the MVP, but more that he doesn’t quite get the consideration that he should.
Check out Paul’s stats when compared to some of the other great point guards in the NBA:
|Name||Games Played||Minutes Per Game||FG %||3pt %||APG||PPG||TO|
You could argue that the season Paul is having is as good a season, if not better, than everyone on the list. Most of his numbers are around his career marks, but his shooting has improved in an interesting way. He’s attempting and making more three-pointers than ever before in his career. He has shattered his previous season high in threes with 120 to date. He’s also shooting 53 percent on shots between 10-16 feet away from the basket, which is fourth-best in the league, per Basketball-Reference.com.
To go a step further to illustrate the point, here’s where Paul ranks in some of the more advanced stats that are available (via Basketball-Reference.com):
|Player Efficiency Rating||7th|
|Effective Field Goal %||18th|
|Offensive Win Shares||1st|
|Value over Replacement Player||4th|
The Clippers are more than just Paul, though. Blake Griffin isn’t having his best season, as his scoring, free throw attempts and rebounds are down from last year, but a big part of that is the number of scoring options the Clips have. J.J. Redick, who missed a big portion of the 2013-2014 season, has been healthy and having the best season of his career. Jamal Crawford was doing his usual thing before getting hurt, putting up 16.4 points per game and playing nearly 27 minutes per game off the bench.
They rank 16th overall on defense, but when you have the top-ranked offense in the NBA, you can afford to give up a little bit of defense. Doc Rivers is a good X’s and O’s coach, and they have the ability to get a stop if they need it. DeAndre Jordan is averaging 14.8 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1.0 steals, and the big man has developed into a serious Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Redick may be essentially an orange traffic cone, but Matt Barnes is a solid defender, as are Griffin and Paul.
The game against the Warriors, as well as their next game against the Blazers on Wednesday, make for potential playoff previews for the Clippers. In a first-round series against the Blazers, I think the Clippers’ high-paced style is conducive to them winning the best-of-seven. Add in the fact that Jordan would be glued to LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland’s main offensive threat, and the chances of a second-round meeting (and a rematch) with the Warriors is pretty good.
The styles of the Warriors and Clippers are extremely similar, with both having the ability to score tons of points and shoot it from beyond the arc. This is really a dream matchup for basketball fans, and I’ll be crossing my fingers that we get to see it. Paul versus Curry, the three-point shooting of Klay Thompson and Redick, the defensive prowess of Jordan and Draymond Green. It doesn’t get much better than that, as far as playoff matchups go.
Rivers and his Clippers fizzled out in the second-round of the playoffs last season, but there’s reason to believe this year may be different. Another full year in Rivers’s system, a healthy Redick and the MVP-like performance from Paul could make it a different story for Los Angeles. The poor bench could be a problem, but if Crawford can come back healthy, he’ll at least provide the reserve unit with some scoring punch. Even if the Clippers fall short of the NBA Finals, at least they’ll be fun to watch.