Baron Davis going to the Clippers certainly makes them a much better team. The Davis-Brand inside outside combo will be one of the best in the leage, but overall, I don’t know how much better this Clips will really be next year. They’ll certainly be a lot more exciting and will improve from last year’s 23 wins, but are they a playoff team? Given the strength of the Western Conference next year I’m really not sure.
The new look Clips certainly won’t be approaching the top tier of the conferece, the Lakers, Spurs, Hornets group. They probably can’t really challegene the next group of teams, consisting of the Jazz, Rockets and probably, based on last year’s trends, the Trail Blazers. They may be able to get into the third tier, with the Mavericks, Suns, and Nuggets and possibly, depending on who replaces Davis in Golden State, the Warriors. To get into that group they’ll also be fighting with the Kings, leaving 12 teams fighting hard for the 8 playoff spots out West.
The Davis-Brand Clips just don’t seem to be that well constructed. Davis is an elite point guard, but he’s a career 32 percent three point shooter who won’t do much to stretch the floor. Brand and center Chris Kaman are both traditional, back to the basket type players, but neither is a great high-post player. Projected small forward Al Thorton is an exciting player in transition, but he doesn’t have a consistent outside shot either. Cuttino Mobley is the only Clipper who is a decent outside shooter, but even he has declined in terms of percentage since got to LA 3 years ago. Also, the bench will be painfully thin, consisting of a declining Tim Thomas, Shaun Livingston’s reconstructed knee and rookies Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan. That is a pretty incoherent group. They seem like a slow it down, post-up team with Brand and Kaman, but their perimeter players are best in transition and aren’t shooters. Yet they can’t run with Brand and Kaman in the lineup.
Maybe in a couple of years the Clips will be better. If Gordon and Jordan develop up to their potential (a big question with the Clips) they’ll pair effectively with Davis and Thorton to create a team that is a terror on the break. On the other hand, if they add a couple of good outside shooters they could be a devastating half-court team. But right now, they seem like a team without a philosophy who won’t be able to keep up with the Lakers or bang with the Spurs. As currently constituted, I think they’ll be lucky to compete for the 7th or 8th playoff spot. That’s not how I’d spend my $100 mil, but if Donald Sterling wants to, so be it.