Can the Clippers remain a competitive playoff contender without Chris Paul?

Photo courtesy of @TomerAzarly Twitter

Let’s face it. Most current fans of the Los Angeles Clippers don’t really know what it’s like to root for a Clippers team without Chris Paul leading the way. Sure Blake Griffin was in L.A. before the point guard ever arrived via trade, but it was the duo that took the franchise from the metaphorical basement of the NBA to a team consistently winning 50-plus games in the regular season. 

Paul was no doubt a game changer, on the floor and for the franchise as a whole, but the recent move that sent him to the Houston Rockets did get some pieces back the team can ultimately build around. Not all was lost with CP3 heading to a different city; rather, the team has a chance to build around Griffin and a roster that should cause problems for its opponents if managed the right way. 

Let’s take a look at a couple things this new-look Clippers team will have. 

Adaptability and Grit

The Clippers — with Paul — were notorious for not being able to adapt when things weren’t going their way. 

Even Marreese Speights, who joined the team for a one-year stint, mentioned last season the Clippers “need to start really just (leaving) the refs alone,” suggesting the team had built a reputation around the league that they could easily be thrown off their game plan. 

That’s all the past now, though, presumably as the Clippers head into this season with a slew of additions that have a chance to at least be better at this one aspect of the game than the previous version of the team was.

With guys like Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari and Sam Dekker having integral roles on this new team, the motif will be much more towards adaptability overall, and grit on defense. Paul, of course, is one of the best on ball defenders in the league, but this goes beyond play and production.

This is about identity, and we know the team will be searching for one.

Just as an example – Beverley and Williams have both successfully adapted to plenty of new teams, even new countries. They’re once again in a position to do that again, and usually history serves as a great indicator to how someone will perform.

The Rockets last year ended up being eight points per 100 possessions better with Beverley on the floor; of the five most-efficient lineups the Rockets utilized, Beverley was in four of them. The Clippers get to replace Jamal Crawford’s production off the bench with Williams, who shot 38.5 percent from beyond the arc last season. 

The team has DeAndre Jordan protecting the paint, long bigs in Griffin and Gallinari, and Beverley on the opposition’s ball handler; these Clippers just might be able to make some noise if they focus on first becoming a strong defensive unit. 

Finally, a Small Forward

Of course this would have been much more ideal while Paul was still on the team, but the small forward spot that’s been an absolute nightmare for the Clippers in recent memory finally seems to be filled. 

With Gallinari and Dekker, the Clippers essentially replace a position that hardly saw any production on the offensive end with the likes of Luc Mbah a Moute, Matt Barnes and Paul Pierce

Gallinari, the starter, helps to space the floor that has more than enough congestion in the paint with Jordan and Griffin. Off the bench, Dekker provides versatility, athleticism and an unpolished skillset a veteran coaching staff can properly mold. 

Maybe for the better, but this team has very little expectations surrounding it.

With Paul in Houston, and Paul George in Oklahoma City, the Clippers are once again after thoughts in most hoops conversations. And it just might be that underdog mentality, that change in perception that will push the team to new heights. 

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Rohit Ghosh

LA Clippers beat writer
Rohit is an L.A.-based sports journalist who contributes to SB Nation's Silver Screen and Roll, AccuScore, and the Taxi Squad Show based out of Utah. He also runs his own sports blog, Metta Chronicles. Follow him on Twitter @RohitGhosh where he discusses AccuScore projection data, a variety of sports-related topics, and even some Jazz music.


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