This is where the breakdown gets serious, the Los Angeles Clippers against the best team in the Western Conference in the 2011-12 season — the Oklahoma City Thunder.
If ESPN or NBA TV has been on a near TV set, you’ve heard the Los Angeles Lakers and the Thunder are the two favorites to represent the west in the upcoming NBA Finals. However, Clipper fans will tell you, the red, blue and white have a chance as well.
To make their chance become reality, the Clippers would eventually have to play one of the two favorites in Las Vegas. Between the two, I think the Clippers have a better chance against the Thunder than the Lakers.
I’m not going to blatantly say the Clips or Kevin Durant and company would win because both have the opportunity to leave a game against the other victorious. Although, if I was a betting man, I’d put money on the Clippers.
The Thunder and the Clippers’ roster are three deep when it comes to productive low post players. The Thunder have Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison, while the Clips have Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Lamar Odom.
With these three players listed in front of you, which side are you going to take? I hope you said Clippers.
Perkins is a bum. The only reason he is in the league is because of his size. He is a big guy who isn’t afraid to step in front of LeBron James or get dunked on by Griffin, but he is relatively useless since he can’t score unless he is close enough to dunk and in 9-NBA seasons has only grabbed 6.2 rebounds a game. A 6-foot, 10-inch man who weighs 270 pounds should be able to body up people and grab more rebounds.
The problem is, he is too slow and doesn’t know how to position himself.
Jordan, at 6-foot, 11-inches, grabbed 8.3 rebounds per game last season. He knows how to get in front of someone and is athletic enough to quickly move a few steps if the ball doesn’t land in his lap — Perkins is not.
Ibaka is the best of the three for the Thunder. He can step out and hit a mid-range jumper, crashes the boards and is arguably the best shot blocker in the league with 3.7 per game last season. At the same time, people have said he is overrated as a shot blocker because he only swats shots into the bleachers if either him or the offensive player are cutting to the basket. He very rarely makes a good one-on-one move to block a shot.
The Thunder’s power forward is a legitimate threat, but compared to Griffin, he’s old news or news unworthy of B3 in today’s sports page.
Griffin is a better low-post scorer, a better rebounder — 10.9 to 7.5 last season — and is just an overall better basketball player. Both of them are extremely athletic, but Griffin has more of a presence on the court and a better NBA IQ. Ibaka is simply a great help defender, while Griffin is a top 20 player in the league.
Collison would all but be forgotten if it wasn’t for his performances in last year’s NBA Finals. Collison stepped up with crucial rebounds and big buckets when the Thunder needed someone other than Durant and Russell Westbrook to take charge.
However, I would rather have Odom come off the bench than any other power forward in the NBA. Honestly, I’d probably start him over at least 15 starting fours in the league, right now. Collison is a great player for 15-to-20 minutes a game but Odom can be a presence for an entire game.
The only position the Thunder win hands down is the small forward spot. Anyone who would put the Clips’ Caron Butler over Kevin Durant is a LA homer and not a true fan or student of the game. Durant is arguably the second best player in the game behind James and should be on everyone’s top 5.
Westbrook is a stud, but he chucks up a lot of bad shots and doesn’t look for one of the best shooters in the league, Durant, half as much as he should. Westbrook’s offensive game does his team an injustice from time to time as he pushes for the bad play instead of making the smart pass.
This will never be said of Chris Paul as he is the best decision maker in the NBA. Lob City would not be possible if it wasn’t for Paul’s court vision and his ability to thread the needle with his passes. Paul makes everyone in a Clippers’ jersey better while Westbrook only makes himself look good or bad.
Chauncey Billups is a better player than Thabo Sefolosha. The Clippers’ shooting guard is definitely a better shooter and is still a solid defender although he has slowed down. Sefolosha is an elite NBA perimeter defender, but his lack of an offensive game does not make him as effective as Billups.
In past seasons, James Harden would be an X-factor for a Thunder victory over LA. This season, the Clippers wised up by letting Mo Williams go and signed Jamal Crawford. Crawford is a great scorer, whether he jacks up too many shots or not. As hot as Williams got at the end of last season, Crawford could be all season long.
Not only is Crawford a great shooter, but he takes the ball to the basket which would free up the big men for easy put backs or baskets after they accept a pass.
I’m not saying Harden is any less of a player than Crawford, he is actually probably better because he does more in terms of handles, passing, rebounding and the intangibles. However, as a scorer, they are neck and neck to no longer make Harden as dangerous as he once was.
The NBA is all about match-ups. Any team can beat any team if they see a potentially beneficial match up on the court. The Clippers Vs the Thunder pose a lot of favorable position plays whether it’s Griffin-Ibaka, Jordan-Perkins, Paul-Westbrook or Billups-Sefolosha.
If the cards are dealt right and the Clippers play the Thunder at full-health, I definitely think Paul, Griffin and company can take OKC in a single game or in a seven-game playoff series.
Brandon LaChance can be reached at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @LaChance_Writer.