Blake Griffin Return Boosts Clippers’ Title Chances
The Los Angeles Clippers looked like a team reborn last season. Fresh off of ridding themselves of scandalous owned Donald Sterling, the team rose up the ranks late in the 2014-15 NBA season and even ousted the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.
They ultimately caved in round two to the Houston Rockets, but were at one point up 3-0 and one good quarter away from reaching their first Western Conference Finals series in team history.
Return of Griffin
They could still push the envelope in this year’s playoffs, especially with superstar power forward Blake Griffin returning to action on Sunday afternoon.
Griffin has sat out the majority of the 2015-16 NBA season due to quad and hand issues and just wrapped up a team-induced four-game suspension for punching a team staff member.
Griffin’s injuries and team offense appear to be water under the bridge, and now his return could potentially vault a team that has stayed very much afloat without him.
The big question, of course, is just how much better is Los Angeles with their (arguable) best player back in the starting lineup?
As things stand, the Clippers have the fourth best record in a top-heavy Western Conference (47-28). That is where the Clippers will stick come playoff time, setting them up for a likely winnable first round matchup, and a situation that doesn’t include an immediate date with fellow title contenders like the Warriors, Spurs and Thunder.
Instead, Los Angeles should get an easier showdown with the Grizzlies or Blazers, both of which they’d have the edge over going into the series.
Round two would undoubtedly be more problematic, but there is history between L.A. and any of the teams they could go up against. There is also the notion that this Clippers team could be a 50-win team despite playing a huge chunk of the year without Griffin.
Clippers’ Title Odds
So, what does that say about a potential NBA Finals run? It certainly doesn’t work against them. The Clippers are not favored better than the Warriors, Spurs or even the Thunder, but stand in with the sixth best title odds (35/1), just behind the Toronto Raptors.
Blake Griffin returns to a team that has fared quite well with Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick leading the way, while Griffin’s return also pushes Jeff Green back into a more simplified depth role.
Depth could be the key question mark in the end, as the Clippers gave up on free agency busts Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith earlier this year, but still have Green, Wes Johnson and Paul Pierce to hang their hat on. If those three, combined with the return of Griffin, can deliver come playoff time, the Clippers could quickly turn into a much more interesting bet than they currently appear to be.
Golden State is chasing history and is still the defending champ, and in all likelihood, it’s probably either going to be them or Cleveland hoisting the NBA Finals trophy when it’s all said and done. However, the Clippers have very interesting odds even aside from Griffin’s impact being taken into consideration, and just how big of a boost he gives them could still potentially greatly shake up the NBA playoff landscape.
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