2011-12 Preview: Pacific Division

Los Angeles Clippers (2010 record: 32-50)

The basketball gods must be smiling on “the other team in L.A.” Last season Blake Griffin ushered in a new era for the Clippers. He made the Clippers watchable. This season Chris Paul joins Blake Griffin in newly dubbed “Lob City” to form one of the most intimidating tandems in the NBA. He instantly makes the Clippers playoff contenders.

Often viewed as one of the worst managed teams in the NBA, the Clippers management is seemingly making all the right moves this off-season. First they picked up the talented slasher Caron Butler in free agency. Then they matched DeAndre Jordan’s offer by the Warriors and signed him for four years and $43 million. In addition they picked up the savvy veteran point guard Chauncey Billups after he was waived by the Knicks. Things are looking up for a franchise which has consistently been one of the bottom feeders of the NBA.

Key Players: All eyes will be on Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. There’s no reason that this duo shouldn’t make ESPN’s top 10 highlights every night. Jordan will also get his fair share of high-flying alley-oops. With the depature of Kaman, the sole duties of center will rest on DeAndre Jordan. He’s a talented player with an expansive wingspan, but he’ll need to continue to improve and show that he has what it takes to bump shoulders with the NBA’s best.

Ever the consummate professional, Billups is a welcome addition to any roster. He could share the backcourt with Paul or provide backup if Paul’s knees give out. Butler returns to L.A. for the second time and he’s not the same man he was when he left the Lakers seven years ago. After blowing up as a star in Washington he hobbled his way through two injury-filled years in Dallas. If he can stay healthy he could be a valuable piece for the Clips.

Season Outlook: Anything less than the playoffs will be viewed as an disappointment for the Clippers. With this line-up, they could very well challenge the Lakers for control of the Pacific division.

Next Page: Fading Monarchy

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