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Pop Quiz: Are the Clippers contenders now?

Posted on: December 14, 2011 9:15 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 1:39 pm
 
Posted by Royce Young

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... Wait, we're almost to winter. What happened? Who cares, there's a season! The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a couple weeks. To get you ready for the season, we've put together some pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question...

Can the Clippers contend for the title this season?

We're all already having daydreams of Chris Paul lobs to Blake Griffin for 1080 dunks. And while that's hard to put out of the brain right now, the real thing we should be wondering about is if the Clippers -- yes, the Los Angeles Clippers -- have just emerged as a legitimate championship contender.

Notice I didn't say playoff contender. Because that should be a given at this point. CP3 dragged a Hornets team playing Marco Belinelli and Aaron Gray major minutes into a six-game playoff series with the Lakers. So add him to Griffin, and you've got a real-deal playoff team. The first one the Clippers will have had since 2005-06.

CP3 traded to the Clippers

But again, that's not really the question I'm asking. I'm asking if the Clippers are in the same class as the Thunder, Mavericks, Spurs, Grizzlies and (gasp!), the Lakers.

The answer: No, not yet. Close, but not there. Very close, in fact. If you start two All-Stars, you're in the conversation, at least. It comes down to this: Just look at the starting five. Paul, Randy Foye, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan. One of these is not like the other.

Had the Clippers somehow been able to convince the league to take Eric Bledsoe instead of Eric Gordon and you're talking about a team with enough firepower to topple anyone. But with a major hole at the 2-guard, the Clippers are still one of those teams hunting pieces. They need more frontcourt depth still. Jordan is a blossoming defensive presence and will benefit more than anyone from CP3's point guarding, but behind him is... well... nobody at the moment. Craig Smith could still be re-signed and there's Brian Cook and rookie Trey Thompkins. That's not much.

They still need some depth behind Butler, who is coming off a massive knee injury. Al-Farouq Aminu had the length and potential to be a nice defensive stopper, but now it's just Ryan Gomes, a decent veteran role player, and Travis Leslie, an unproven rookie.

This isn't like the Knicks last season who got Carmelo Anthony but still weren't in a good position to win big. They needed a lot. The Clippers need a little. Unlike last season's Knicks, this Clips team makes a lot more sense. An All-Star point guard feeding to an All-Star big man with a good wingman to help spread the floor with a rim protector and rebounder handling business on the inside. The make-up of the roster, sans some depth and a piece or two, just fits.
 
You can be sure general manager Neil Olshey is working the phones right now seeing what he can get for Mo Williams though. And they also have a $2.5 million "under the cap" exception. Possibly the Clips could use dangle both of those assets to strengthen their bench and add some depth. But it's not going to solve the hole at 2-guard.

It'll be interesting to see how Vinny Del Negro uses Chauncey Billups, though, and that alone could make a major difference in where the Clips land. It's hard to imagine Billups sliding into a 2-guard position, but if anyone on point guard roll-sheet could potentially do that, it's him. Have Bledsoe play behind CP3, Billups split time with Randy Foye at the 2 and then wait until next summer to really upgrade the position.

Because that's truly where the Clippers are. They just moved from a world where with Gordon, Griffin and Jordan they were a "wait until later" team. They aren't "wait until now" quite yet, but they're in the boat of just needing another piece or two. Which is a far cry from where the long, painful history of the Clippers has been.

Are they going to challenge in the West? Not yet. But the summer of 2012 could turn this team into a monster. The Clippers are finally entirely relevant and if things are managed well -- again, this is the Clippers here -- this team could stay that way for a number of years. Griffin is just 22. Paul is 26. Jordan is 23.

It's a good day in Clipperland. The fact we're even asking this question should really say it all. I mean, this is the Clippers, remember? No more jokes, no more laughing -- these guys are for real now. They shouldn't start reserving a spot in the Staples Center ceiling for a banner of their own quite yet, but for once, they can at least start dreaming about one.


Comments
tarzan67
Since: Dec 22, 2011
Posted on: December 22, 2011 1:28 am
This comment has been removed.

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yingrootok
Since: Dec 15, 2011
Posted on: December 15, 2011 11:58 am
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Since: Sep 15, 2006
Posted on: December 15, 2011 8:01 am
 

Pop Quiz: Are the Clippers contenders now?

The Clippers will be fun to watch but they will not compete for the title, infact I highly doubt they'll get past the first round. The Lakers, Mavericks, Thunder and Spurs are still better then they are and chemistry is gonna take a while for these guys to obtain.


 P.s. I bet we'll see even more Dunks from Griffin this year though, they should be real good on the break. 



Since: Oct 16, 2011
Posted on: December 15, 2011 4:58 am
 

Pop Quiz: Are the Clippers contenders now?

NO!



Since: Jul 11, 2011
Posted on: December 15, 2011 12:55 am
 

Pop Quiz: Are the Clippers contenders now?

create chemistry in a shortened season this year then convince paul to stay on longer by adding the missing pieces next year and possibly contending for a division title for starters, then again they have the youth and stamina to make a run this year compared to other teams with veterans for starters but this team is built to really make a push after deadline or next year



Since: Nov 12, 2006
Posted on: December 14, 2011 11:46 pm
 

Pop Quiz: Are the Clippers contenders now?

Good God no, they're not a contender.  They've got two stars and a bunch of broken down vets like Billups and Butler and erratic, overpaid guys like Mo Williams and DeAndre Jordan.  They're third most talented player is probably their backup point guard.  Their power forward is probably their best 18 foot shooter.  No, they're not contending for anything.



Since: May 20, 2008
Posted on: December 14, 2011 11:44 pm
 

Pop Quiz: Are the Clippers contenders now?

Clippers don't make the playoffs in the west.  Take it to the bacnk.  #1, they are the clippers  #2 Without Gordan and Kaman, where does the Clippers offense come from? #3 Paul needs to stay healthy and get back to playing like he did 2-3 years ago, no guarantee #4 Its the Clippers #5 no depth at all #6 its the clippers



Since: Aug 11, 2008
Posted on: December 14, 2011 11:33 pm
 

Pop Quiz: Are the Clippers contenders now?

As long as it's not the Lakers or the Heat!!!



Since: Jan 17, 2010
Posted on: December 14, 2011 11:22 pm
 

Pop Quiz: Are the Clippers contenders now?

I think the Clippers are clearly better than the Lakers and it ain't even close. Kobe with a gazillion miles on him, nut case Artest, injury prone overrated Bynum. The Lakers are over and done.



Since: Apr 1, 2007
Posted on: December 14, 2011 10:22 pm
 

Pop Quiz: Are the Clippers contenders now?

"Oh well, there goes my depth." Vinnie Del Negro
"Gotta call my agent to see how long before I can get out of New Orleans." Erik Gordon
"There's a lot of good restaurants there so you can finally put on some weight." Al-Farouq Aminu's mom
"Wonder if I can hunt deer in the bayou." Chris Kaman
"Oh no!!!" Minnesota's unconditional first round pick in 2012


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com