Clips Reloaded: LA Clippers 2012-13 Season Preview

Team Name: Los Angeles Clippers
Last Year's Record: 40-26
Key Losses: Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans
Key Additions: Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, Matt Barnes

1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
As the title implies, the Clippers really reloaded this summer. Clearly in win-now mode, they opted for established veterans. Chauncey Billups was re-signed after his season-ending injury last season. Then, LA proceeded to bring in Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, and Matt Barnes from the free agent crop. If Lamar can regain his 2010-11 form, he brings versatility to the second unit and would serve as a starter-level backup for Griffin. Of the bunch, it appears Crawford will be relied upon the most for change. He will serve as the only member of the backcourt outside of CP3 that can consistently create offense for himself. Clips fans will have to hope his slide in productivity last season was due to the lockout.

2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
Veteran leadership. Last season, Billups brought an incredible amount of calm to a team loaded with suspect character guys. It's no wonder the team regressed without him. On the court, the Clippers' primary strength is employing the league's top point guard. Simply put, he is one of the few players that will make them competitive in every game. The team relies almost entirely on his creativity in late game situations, and more often than not he delivers.

3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
Perhaps the team's strength is also it's weakness. An over-reliance on Chris Paul to create offense makes this team predictable during crunch time. Sure, they will likely rack up wins in the regular season, but in the playoffs, coaches will find a way to slow it down. LA will need to find more ways to get easy buckets outside of the 1-4 pick-and-roll, or the hey-Chris-take-the-ball-and-carry-us-to-victory. Again, Crawford will be relied upon to spell CP3 from constant facilitator duty.

4. What are the goals for this team?
CP3 has one year remaining on his contract. He hasn't signed an extension and can still become a free agent next summer. Yes, I feel that this team could certainly go on a nice run and find themselves in the Finals (CP3 is THAT good). Although, in the short term they need to prove to Chris that they will contend annually. A trip to the conference finals would do just that.

5. Can they compete with the Lakers?
Without question. This intra-division rivalry should heat up even more this year. Even considering all of the Lakers big acquisitions, the Clippers are one of the few teams that can give them trouble at each position. Nash running loose? CP3 steps up. Kobe going off? He'll be defended by Caron Butler, Grant Hill, and Matt Barnes (oh and good luck checking Jamal Crawford, Kobe). Not another word needs to be said about what Blake did to Pau. The Clips have the edge in depth, so I view Dwight as the only player that could truly wreak havoc. Deandre Jordan would have to actually resemble a center, the lone highlight block/dunk act won't work forever.

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