If I haven’t written it before, I’ve sure said it — the Los Angeles Clippers have an opportunity to be the best team in the Pacific Division. Yes, they could finish better than the newly superstar equipped Los Angeles Lakers.
However, this labeling doesn’t mean the Clippers won’t have to work for it because there are plenty of teams who could steal a win or two. No NBA team could be defined by this more than the Golden State Warriors. Star Monta Ellis may have been traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, but the Warriors brought in a top five center and created a more than one-dimensional team.
The days of running the court and shooting a quick jumper for an entire game may be over for Golden State. I’m not saying they won’t run and gun for portions of a game, but for the entirety, I don’t think so.
Don’t get me wrong, Los Angeles is a better team with better players. But, the Warriors, when healthy will bring some difficult match ups for the red, white and blue.
PG: Clippers’ Chris Paul vs. Warriors’ Stephen Curry
The Clippers have arguably the best point guard in the league, this isn’t the debate. What the debate is, is how Paul matches up with Curry or better yet, Curry matches up with Paul.
Curry is fast — real fast. Paul is not slow, but he isn’t Curry fast. If the game becomes a foot race, which Clipper fans should hope against, Curry could be a problem for Paul to keep up with.
Since Ellis is gone, Curry will have the ball a majority of the time for the Warriors. This means, the offense could move even faster at times but could also have more of a scripted game plan than the 2011-12 normal routine of the team gun slinging.
Curry is a smart ball player who knows when to make the pass. He too can be a chucker but with a more balanced Warriors’ attack, I think he’ll learn to take his opportunities and give others the rock when his looks are not there.
When it comes to shooting, the edge goes to Curry because he is a better long-range shooter. Both are great are creating their own shot and Paul has an edge on his ability to get to the hoop.
With that said, Paul wins on scoring inside. Paul’s insane handles allows him to carve up any interior defense for his own shot or to create a shot for one of the Clippers’ big guys. This of course adds to Paul’s passing/assist resume which is far superior to Curry, even though Curry’s career at this point has been alongside Ellis, who always needed the ball in his hand.
WINNER: Because of his better passing game, which should be the No. 1 priority of a point guard, not shooting, I give the win to Paul. Paul will have to lace his shoes and be ready for a foot race when Curry is his opponent.
SG: Clippers’ Chauncey Billups vs Warriors’ Klay Thompson
I love me some Billups, but let’s face it, he has the body of a point guard and has been a one for most of his career. He’s spent time as a shooting guard but he’s a point guard in nature and at heart. This means, he is often going to be over matched because he is not as tall as the average NBA shooting guard.
Thompson is a perfect example of this.
The Warriors’ shooting guard is 6-foot 7-inches, while Billups stands at 6-foot 3-inches. With a 4-inch difference, Thompson can shoot over Billups and is too tall for Billups to post-up in the low post, which he likes to do.
Billups is a physical player and will not be an easy guy for Thompson to dominate, but he does possess the skills and physical attributes to do so. If his shot is off, I don’t see him being tough enough to take Billups inside.
Last season, Billups averaged 15 points per game, but he only played in 20 games before sitting out the rest of the season because of injury. Thompson averaged 12.5 points for the 66 games — the entire lockout shortened season — he played in, but upped his scoring production when Ellis was traded, averaging 16.4 in March and 18.6 in April.
WINNER: Like I said, I love Billups’ game, but Thompson is a better pure shooter and is more of a two-guard than the Clippers’ option. He is taller, more athletic and has the green light to shoot the rock every chance he gets.
SF: Clippers’ Caron Butler vs Warriors’ Harrison Barnes
There is a small possibility Richard Jefferson could start ahead of Barnes, but I highly doubt it. Barnes is too athletic and has too big of an NBA IQ to be sitting behind a player who seems washed up.
Comparing Barnes and Butler is the age-old debate of age vs youth. Butler is a 10-year NBA vet and Barnes is a rookie.
Barnes’ resume isn’t very long — only played two seasons at the University of North Carolina — but everyone knows he is athletic and was considered to be a No. 1 draft pick at one time. Butler is known as “Tough Juice” because of his disregard for his body and his physical, aggressive nature of play.
Unfortunately for Butler, Barnes doesn’t have to worry about his body because he has a finesse game based on his high level of basketball skills.
WINNER: I’ve never been one to pick a rookie over a proven player. I think in a few years, maybe even one, Barnes could be a better player. However, Butler is a major contributor on both sides of the ball and I’ve yet to see anything from Barnes.
PF: Clippers’ Blake Griffin vs Warriors’ David Lee
Sorry if this has been a little long, I’ll make the next two short because they don’t need many words to get to the point.
Lee is a broke man’s Griffin. They both grab rebounds, they both take the ball to the rim and they both can throw it down — obviously.
However, Griffin shoots a higher field goal percentage, plays more defense and is a way bigger element to his team’s success. Griffin is the game changer Lee wishes he could be.
WINNER: They’re both good players, but Griffin is on another level Lee will probably never see. Just think, Griffin is only in year three.
C: Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan vs Andrew Bogut
Bogut is the man I was talking about in the introduction. He is a traditional center and will not be able to run and gun with the Warriors. If my theory holds true, the Warriors will have to slow down and feed the big guy in some way, shape and form.
If they do, opponents are in trouble.
Bogut is an elite low-post scorer and defender and can carry a team to victory. Jordan, on the other hand, is a pup who hasn’t grown to the next level. Clipper fans are patiently waiting for his break out season, but if it doesn’t come soon, they’ll be calling the pound.
Winner: Bogut is by far Jordan’s superior at this point in their careers.
Conclusion:The Clippers are the better team because they’re more rounded with players who excel in different areas than the others. When all the pieces are put together the Clippers will be one impressive basketball machine.
If the machine doesn’t happen, the individual talents of the Warriors could beat the Clippers.