LA Clippers: It’s Now Or Never For Chris Paul, Blake Griffin

November 21, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) and forward Blake Griffin (32) celebrate the 123-115 victory against the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

November 21, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) and forward Blake Griffin (32) celebrate the 123-115 victory against the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

As the franchise nears crossroads at the end of the season, it’s now or never for the LA Clippers

Sitting at a league best 14-2, are the LA Clippers surprising the NBA world with their early success? Or were the clues right under our noses the whole time?

Starting with the 2013-14 season, it seemed like the Clippers have always underachieved come playoff time. They would always win their standard 55 games in the regular season, get a top 4 seed in the west, and then crumble in a deflating performance when it matters most.

2015 was the infamous “blow a 3-1 lead to the Rockets” curse. 2016 was the freak injury and Blake suspension issue. There has always been something to blame for their inconsistencies in the postseason. This being the 5th and final year for their core guys to be together, its now or never for the LA Clippers.

DeAndre Jordan has a contract through 2019, but the other members of the Clippers fantastic four aren’t in the same boat. J.J. Redick – like both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin – becomes a free agent at the end of this year. He has really increased his value as a player with the growing ability to guard other athletic two guards across the league.

He is one of the most well conditioned players the league has to offer, and is always at the top of the list in three-point percentage and free throw percentage. His importance to this team can’t be overstated.

Nov 16, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick (4) reacts after a three point basket in the second half of the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center. Grizzlies won 111-107. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Redick’s Value

J.J. Redick’s importance to the LA Clippers offense is easily overlooked because a lot of what he does doesn’t show up in the stat sheet.

A key part in what the Clippers do offensively is spacing. With Redick continuously running the baseline over and underneath screens, the defender has to stick to his hip to not allow him any space to shoot. Drawing defenders all the way out passed the three point line allows space for CP3, Blake, and DeAndre to operate in the pick-and-roll.

Blake Griffin could become an unrestricted free agent this upcoming summer, if he declines his $21.4 million player option (which he will mostly likely do). With his injury last season, I feel like a lot of us forgot how valuable and multifaceted Blake’s game is.

Nov 5, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; LA Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (32) dunks the ball against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Blake’s Growth

There are times this season when LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers has Blake Griffin bring up the ball as a point forward, to be a pick-and-roll ball-handler.

His talent is very rare for someone who is 6-foot-10, 250 pounds. He’s always been an athletic freak of nature, but he now consistently hits midrange jumpers and the defense has to go out and contest.

This makes for easier blow by opportunities and playmaking situations. Blake is averaging 21-9-4 and as we get deeper into the season, look for those numbers to only go up.

The key player for the majority of the Clippers success also becomes a free agent this summer. Chris Paul is averaging 18-9-5 but his value goes beyond the stat sheet. A proven veteran leader that has control over his team and over the entire court at any moment is infinitely important.

Nov 18, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; LA Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) talks with Clippers head coach Doc Rivers during the second quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Paul’s Leadership

Having CP3 handle the ball in high pick-and-roll situations, with Blake or DeAndre being the roll men, is a nightmare for defenses. Watching Paul toy with defenders behind screens and basically running a triple option with Redick ready to catch and shoot from the wing is a work of art.

The possibilities on offense are endless, and there’s no man in the league I’d rather have making decisions as the captain of my offense than Chris Paul.

It’s still early, but the LA Clippers have one thing going for them that has been different in the past. They’re playing defense, at a very high level. They’re among the top 5 in the league in points allowed and and second in the NBA in Defensive Rating.

Jordan’s rim protection is a major reason for this. He has the ability to change shots in the paint and make people take and make tough shots. Paring that with Blake’s incredible athleticism down low makes it hard for any offense to make shots, or rebound missed shots.

The LA Clippers also lead the league in steals.

One position we haven’t mentioned is the small forward position. They’ve been starting Luc Mbah a Moute at the three, who is long and fully capable of being a tough defender on the wing. Redick has the ability to stay with any shooting guard on the wing, and chase them around ball screens.

Paul has always been an elite on ball defender, and has one of the highest defensive I.Q.’s in the league. 

After a huge comeback win at home against Chicago a few days ago, there is no question the Clippers can continue their regular season success. This needs to be the year the success continues deep into the postseason, and the players know that.

One of the tightest knit groups in the NBA has one final go at a championship run together. Win or lose, this could be an end of an era for the LA Clippers.

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