Does anyone out there know tax law? Can a fellow write off LA Clippers season tickets as a loss? If not, I’d like to put forth a mandate. Ah, to be a fan of the Paper Clips. There are a few of them out there you know, some of whom have gotten parts in feature films. Chalk it up as a strange but true phenomenon. This organization has dirtied everyone it comes in contact with. Has Billy Crystal gotten a lead role since he purchased floor seats? Call it a curse, call it bad karma, call it whatever you want, but the day this franchise left Buffalo in 1978 for the San Diego Zoo was the day it went in the tank. When Bird Averitt is among your all-time best, you know things haven’t gone as planned.
And now it’s on the broad shoulders and mended kneecap of one Blake Griffin, the top pick of the ’09 draft and the best power forward to enter the league since Chris Bosh. It took only a few exhibition games last season for him to lose the first year of his career to a gruesome knee injury, but that’s just par for the course in Clipper land. Nobody, except for Griffin himself, knows if he’s made a full recovery and if he’ll ever re-capture his frightening athletic ability. Regardless, he is good enough to post big numbers, even at less than what he was. In his ’10-11 exhibition debut he tallied nine points, seven rebounds and a couple of steals in 22 minutes and walked off the court without the use of a Little Rascal. New head coach Vinny Del Negro will likely keep his minutes in the 25-30 range in the early going, but in the not too distant future expect bigger minutes and nightly 17 and 12s with a block-and-a-half. He was a pretty pathetic free throw shooter in college, so that will probably not change, but as a late sixth/early seventh round choice I think he’ll serve his owners well.
There is some talent on this roster. This isn’t the ’86 Celtics, but there are some draftable dudes to be had. Case in point: Eric Gordon. I would love to land him in the same range as Griffin, if not a little sooner. After a solid rookie year in ’08-09, injuries limited him to 62 games and modest totals last season. Just 21 years old, I can see this pure shooter’s scoring jumping to about 20 a game, with a couple of threes and an outstanding free throw percentage. His backcourt mate, Baron Davis, has seen better days. From 2001-2008, the Baron put up epic fantasy numbers. Since arriving in El Lay in ’08, he has assumed the position and been a true Clipper. Listen, if he’s around in the eighth round I’m going to grab him, but no way do I expect more than 70 games to go with his strong points, assists, steals and threes, which will hopefully offset his vomit-inducing field goal percentage.
Was there a better fantasy center through the first six weeks of the ’09-10 NBA season than Chris Kaman? Didn’t it seem as if he registered a 25 and 10 with three blocks every night? His final numbers (18.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.2 bpg) were more than solid and he is still a focal point of the offense, but he is plagued by injuries and the return of Griffin will eat into those totals. Another big body who may have earned himself some daylight is DeAndre Jordan. Over the final 10 games of ’09-10, he averaged 10.1 boards and 0.9 blocks in a little over 25 minutes per game. He is not to be drafted unless Kaman or Griffin contract shingles or something, but he should be on your injury radar.
The small forward position will likely be manned by resident gypsy Ryan Gomes, now on his third team in the last five years. Every now and again, Gomes lights it up from deep, but his minutes have been far too inconsistent and his production too pedestrian to warrant consideration any earlier than the latter stages of drafts. He will be pushed for minutes by veteran long-range marksman Rasual Butler and rookie Al-Farouq Aminu, NBA preseason favorite for name most likely to be butchered by Charles Barkley. Another interesting addition is Randy Foye, who can back up at both the point and shooting guard positions. He would probably be first in line to start if Gordon or Davis goes down and would be a hot pickup if that occurred, but rookie point guard Eric Bledsoe and fellow newbie Jon Scheyer could also be in the mix.
PG: Baron Davis, Eric Bledsoe
SG: Eric Gordon, Randy Foye
SF: Ryan Gomes, Rasual Butler
PF: Blake Griffin, Craig Smith
C: Chris Kaman, DeAndre Jordan
Up Next: Cleveland Cavaliers