The LA Clippers are far from the laughing stock they once were. This organization has reached the playoffs in each of the past five seasons and has won over 50 games four consecutive years. Yet, compared to the most successful franchises in all of sports, or even the greatest teams in NBA history for that matter, the Clips are way out of their element. Failing to win a championship (ever) tends to do that.
In spite of the recent success, however, the Clippers haven’t exactly lived up to their reasonably lofty expectations. While the club has a title-winning head coach calling the shots and a roster full of All-Stars, when we think of Los Angeles’ other team, we tend to focus on its crazy owner and the fact that point guard Chris Paul has never reached the conference finals. As far as we’re concerned, with this organization, the less than flattering parts usually outweigh all the positives.
Still, every new season, we remain hopeful that the LA Clippers will finally break free from whatever’s held them back all these years. Of course, that hasn’t happened yet. They continue to fall short of their potential. However, while it’s still early in the 2016–17 season, we find ourselves excited about this particular group. Believe or not, for reasons that will become perfectly clear, the Clippers look like the best team in the National Basketball Association.
It’d be easy to justify the Clippers’ place atop the NBA elite simply by looking at their record. At 10-2, they are in first place in the Western Conference and have the best mark in the game. But for us, while the record is a great place to start, it doesn’t tell the entire story. If you look closely at the numbers, you’ll see what we see: The Clips are getting it done on both ends of the floor.
From an offensive perspective, the first thing that stands out is the team’s balance. LA has five players averaging in double figures, with Blake Griffin leading the way at 20.6 points per game. The team has the seventh-best field goal percentage (46.1%) in the league, holds the fourth-highest mark (37.4%) from beyond the arc, and is averaging more free-throw attempts than any other team in the game, getting to the line 29.3 times per game. The results, as you can expect, have been outstanding.
Through the first 12 games of the season, the Clippers are averaging 108.7 points per game (4th of 30) and have the fourth-best offensive rating (112.1). Of course, it’s one thing to be able to consistently put the ball in the basket (the Clips are clearly pretty good at); it’s another thing to be able to stop your opponent from doing the same. As it turns out, that’s where this group truly shines.
There are plenty of ways to limit an opponent’s scoring. Much of the Clippers’ success stems from their ability to limit second-chance opportunities and force the opposition into mistakes.
This group is second in the game in defensive rebounds (35.3 per game), sixth in the NBA in blocks (5.3 per game), and leads the league in steals, averaging 10.6 per contest. CP3 may be the top pickpocket of the bunch and DeAndre Jordan may be the one dominating the glass and contesting shots, but make no mistake, these Clippers are getting the job done as a team.
Doc Rivers’s group is holding their opponents to 93.8 points a night (first of 30), keeping them off the free throw line, and limiting them to just 41.5% shooting from the field. In doing so, the Clippers currently find themselves with the best defensive rating in the NBA at 96.7. As long as LA maintains this sort of focus on the defensive end of the floor, it will never be out of a game.
The 2016–17 NBA season is far from over. There are many games left on the schedule; therefore, plenty of opportunities for heroes to emerge from the shadows and help their teams reach new and unexpected heights. But, considering how the LA Clippers have been performing on both ends of the floor, it’s impossible not to be impressed.
At present, the championship trophy resides in Cleveland. Yet, make no mistake, these Clippers are the real deal and should not be taken lightly. The NBA’s best resides in the West — just maybe not the team you were expecting.