New Clipper Rasual Butler has stated that his team will make the playoffs this year, and that last year’s dismal record was primarily the result of injuries. It’s hard to argue with him when the ‘09 Clippers have four young guns in Eric Gordon, Al Thornton, DeAndre Jordan, and, the crown jewel, Blake Griffin.
These youngsters will form a great core for the future, provided the Clips can keep them all together. There has to be some doubt on that score considering the team seldom commits the money required to keep their talent, but this year, at least, the talent is certainly there. The Clips looked great on paper going into 2008 and they look even better in 2009.
Last season was a litany of injuries for the Clips. Baron Davis missed 18 games last season and never played like the B-Diddy we were expecting. Chris Kaman missed 51 games and Marcus Camby, living up to his ‘Glass Man’ nickname, missed 20 games. If these three players can round into form and stay healthy this season then the team’s prospects are much improved.
For all the hype about the addition of Blake Griffin, there should be an equal amount of excitement about the trade of Zach Randolph to Memphis. This is a case of addition by subtraction. Randolph was a black hole on offense – he took a ton of bad shots and pretty much refused to pass the ball under any circumstances. Losing Randoph’s selfish play is as vital as gaining Griffin and his fantastic work ethic. The team rids themselves of a decided negative while clearing the way for Griffin to start at power forward. This will be key for the team’s chemistry.
Now, on to the new franchise cornerstone. I watched some of the pre-draft workouts and was spellbound by Blake Griffin. Not only does he have a 40-inch plus vertical, but he can move and dribble like a guard. He was put through agility drills where he dribbled through a series of cones using one hand through the legs while holding a second ball in his other hand. Some point guards would have trouble matching the skill he displayed, and coaches have commented on how well he handles the ball for a 6′10 power forward.
A comparison for Griffin that has been thrown around is Shawn Kemp (pre-crack and lard), but I think Griffin’s potential is even higher. They could both rip a quarter off the top of the backboard, but Griffin also has a solid midrange jumper. It’s hard to predict how quickly players will adjust to the NBA because each player tends to learn at a different pace, but I think Griffin has the talent to be an immediate impact player, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him average 18 points and 10 rebounds this season. If he does, he’ll be the first #1 overall pick at power forward to do so since Derrick Coleman in 1990-91.
Much like last year, I think the Clippers entire upcoming season hinges on their ability to stay healthy. If they can keep Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, and Blake Griffin healthy, they will have one of the best three-man big rotations in the league. Couple that with a great point guard in Baron Davis and two solid wingmen in Al Thornton and Eric Gordon, and the Clips can compete for a playoff spot and prove Butler’s prediction correct. The team is also pursuing Ramon Sessions, a third-year combo guard, who, despite going undrafted, is the most sought-after free agent still on the market. He would solidify the backcourt rotation and provide great relief if Baron’s health falters.
The Clippers’ depth chart should look something like this:
PG- Baron Davis, Ramon Sessions (?), Sebastian Telfair, Mardy Collins
SG- Eric Gordon, Ricky Davis
SF- Al Thornton, Rasual Butler, Steve Novak (FA)
PF- Blake Griffin, Marcus Camby, Craig Smith
C- Chris Kaman, DeAndre Jordan
Baron Davis is always capable of a monster year that would put him in the top 30. You’ll have to decide how risk adverse you are when you go to draft him.
Eric Gordon should be considered in the 7th or 8th round in standard one-year leagues.
Blake Griffin will have an immediate impact and be worthy of a mid round selection.
Chris Kaman is always capable of big numbers, but failed to produce the team-high type games we were expecting last year. I would stay away until about round 8. If he goes earlier than that just say “oh well” and move on.
Marcus Camby is an interesting specimen since we never know how many games we’ll get from him, nor how many of those games he’ll be healthy for. I have no real guage on where to draft him, so we’ll have to revisit that problem as the season approaches and we have more draft results to measure from.
Al Thornton doesn’t do a lot more than score, but is worth a 10th or 11th rounder, since he still has potential to cash in on.
DeAndre Jordan becomes a must add if there are injuries on the front line – and there probably will be.
Brett Roberts is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Brett in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Nene.
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