There’s a new sheriff in LA and their name is the Clippers

The addition of Chris Paul automatically makes the Clippers a contender

For a team that has four trips to the playoffs in their 41-year history, one playoff series victory since 1976, zero division titles and one winning season in the last 19 … contender, NBA Championship, and the LA Clippers haven’t been used much in the same sentence. This year could be different as the “other” team in LA is loaded.

With Chris Paul in the fold to run the show from the point, the Clippers have to be considered a playoff team with an outside shot at doing some damage in the playoffs. Generally considered the best pointguard in the NBA, the ex-Wake Forest Deamon Deacon will have plenty of help. Paul averaged 18.7 ppg and 9.8 apg for the Hornets and almost single-handedly gave the Lakers a run in last year’s NBA first round of the playoffs.

Paul, who is an expert at throwing the no-look lob, has two of the league’s most exciting high-flyers in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. This could be a breakout year for Jordan who averaged 7.1 ppg and 7.2 rpg in just 25 mpg last year. The Clippers thought enough of their three-year big man out of Texas A&M to match a a four-year $42.7 million offer sheet by the Golden State Warriors. The Clippers solidified their front court with Caron Butler, a lifetime 16.6 ppg scorer and a solid rebounder when called upon to clean the glass.

What a back court !!! Along with Paul, the Clippers are loaded with Mo Williams (14.0 ppg, 6.6 apg last year), newly signed Chauncey Billups (16.8 ppg, 5.4 apg), and highly regarded second-year man Eric Bledsoe out of Kentucky who will out 6-8 weeks with knee surgery. Throw in veteran role players Ryan Gomes and Randy Foye off the bench and you have a young talented team with plenty of depth. The Clippers are probably not done yet.

Look for LA to probably package Mo Williams or Blesoe with picks to pick up a solid back up big man with bulk or a big shooting guard that can also play some defense. This team is stacked.

A quick look at the NBA West confirms that when the smoke clears, the Clippers should be in the top eight. In the Pacific Division, Sacramento will be improved but still young and several years away. The Suns are a train wreck and Steve Nash is another year older. .500 would be put Alvin Gentry in Coach of the Year status. Golden State has talent but will be a work in progress under new coach Mark Jackson.

The Lakers as is old with plenty of holes. Kobe Bryant enters his 16th year and not likely to be able to play the minutes he has in the past. He may have to. Andrew Bynum is an oft-injured big man who has never lived up to his potential. Pao Gasol went invisible in the playoffs and knows that the next ring on his cell phone could mean he’s been dealt. Lamar Odom is inexplicably in Dallas in a salary dump. Derek Fisher is 58 going on 76. Matt Barnes steps into the starting lineup replacing an admittedly out of shape Metta World Peace errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Ron Artest. The Lakers are ripe to be picked and the Clippers have the youth, depth, and talent to do it.

In the Northwest Division, Oklahoma City is hands down the team to beat and should be considered one of the front-runners in the conference. Portland has the personnel and could make a charge if they are not saddled with the injuries that have plagued them the last three years. Utah and Denver will be life and death to play .500 ball. The Minnesota T-Wolves will win 12-15 games if they are lucky.

The defending World Champion Dallas Mavericks have brought some solid players in but lost several key components of last year’s team like Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea, and Butler. With Dirk and Jet, you always have a chance. The Spurs are a year older and it remains to be seen how the elder statesmen respond to this jam packed schedule. Memphis has a lot to build on off last year’s run. Houston and New Orleans are also rans at best.

The Clippers are for real, bet on it !!!