Basketball fans are dancing in the streets in Los Angeles, but for once they’re draped in red and blue instead of purple and gold.

When the Los Angeles Clippers landed Chris Paul earlier this week, the trade shifted the balance of star talent in the favor of Los Angeles’ “other” basketball team. Behind Paul and last season’s breakout star Blake Griffin, the “Clip Show” has the potential to steal a few viewers from the Lakers. But will the entertainment be enough to march the Clippers into the playoffs? AFRO sports writers Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley discuss.

Green: They haven’t even played a game together yet, but Griffin and Paul could become the best one-two combo in the league. They both have flair, they both have skills and they both are at the top of their respected positions. With those two running the floor, the Clippers are going to be hard to keep out of the postseason. If Griffin only improves slightly from his rookie season, then he bolts to the top of the talent list at power forward. And Paul is arguably the best lead guard in the game. Those two alone should propel the long-suffering Clippers back into the playoff picture.

Riley: Paul and Griffin are excellent starting pieces, but in the loaded NBA Western Conference, you have to have depth, too. When you look at San Antonio, Oklahoma State, the “other” Los Angeles, Denver, Memphis, Portland, Houston and Dallas, you see depth across the board with all of those teams. Even New Orleans, Paul’s former team, could be considered deeper than the Clippers now. Playing with just a two-man tag team will be enough to win some games and put fans in the seats. But with both Griffin and Paul coming off serious knee injuries just a few seasons ago, one bad bend and the season could be over for the Clippers.

Green: Griffin and Paul only missed a combined two games last season, so I’m not worried about injuries from years ago. Both players are young and lively enough to play through injuries at this point in their careers, and although Los Angeles sacrificed a lot of depth in their trade with New Orleans, they did get Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups, two big time veterans with some scoring punch. Paul and Griffin won’t be alone on the scoreboard and let’s not act like any of last year’s playoff contenders didn’t lose something in this shortened offseason. Dallas suffered defections. The Lakers lost Lamar Odom and Portland’s best player, Brandon Roy, just retired. The west isn’t as deep as it used to be.

Riley: Despite a few losses from several of the west’s top squads, one thing that all of the aforementioned teams have is chemistry. A shortened 66-game season could actually hurt the Clippers as they try to build something on the fly and gel before the final stretch after the All Star break. If you think you can just put guys together with no real training camp or no true summer program, then you should ask the Philadelphia Eagles how that blueprint worked for them. The Clippers could easily make the 2013 playoffs, but expecting a team which came together less than seven days ago to make a run for the playoffs in a shortened season is a bit dicey.

Green: Never underestimate the presence of star power, my friend. Unlike the Eagles—and the NFL—the Clippers play in a league where one or two guys can easily carry a squad through the regular season. Think LeBron James with the Cavs, or Allen Iverson with the Sixers. Paul and Griffin are more than enough to carry a team through the regular season. When you factor in the veterans that the Clippers added, and which you keep overlooking, then the chances of the Clippers making the playoffs don’t seem too dicey at all.

Riley:
If I keep overlooking those veterans, then you clearly keep overlooking chemistry and the reality that other teams in the Western Conference have it and the Clippers don’t. The lower seeds in last year’s western playoff attendees could all be better this year through additions and chemistry, but don’t let reality get in your way. The Clippers will make the playoffs; it just won’t be this year.

 

Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley

AFRO Sports Desk