Monthly Archives: May 2009

The number 1 pick goes to – Blake Griffen could transform the Clippers from mediocre to magnificent

The Los Angeles Clippers had the fourth worst record in the NBA this season and only had a 17.7 percent chance of winning the first pick in the NBA draft lottery, held this week in Secaucus, NJ. But they defied the odds and won the first pick in the NBA draft.

Winning the draft lottery can make a team. After all, would the San Antonio Spurs have four title banners hanging from their rafters if they hadn’t won the 1997 Lottery and the rights to draft Tim Duncan? Would the Cleveland Cavaliers currently look like a boulder rolling down a mountain with eight straight double-figure playoff wins if the 2003 Lottery didn’t deliver LeBron James? Would Orlando have knocked off the defending champion Boston Celtics to reach the Eastern Conference finals if the 2004 Lottery hadn’t made Dwight Howard a resident of the Magic kingdom?

Then again, the first pick in the draft can sometimes be the wrong one. In the 1984 draft, Portland passed up Michael Jordan for Sam Bowie. In 2001, the Wizards selected high schooler Kwame Brown instead of Pau Gasol. In 2005, Milwaukee chose Andrew Bogut over Deron Williams (3), Chris Paul (4) and Andrew Bynum (10). The Clippers won the lottery in 1998 and made Michael Olowokandi the new face of their franchise, passing over Vince Carter (5), Dirk Nowitzki (9) and Paul Pierce (10). Olowokandi was considered one of the biggest flops in NBA history, and Sports Illustrated placed him third on the list of biggest NBA draft busts.
The day after this week’s draft the Clippers announced they were taking Blake Griffin, the jewel in this year’s draft class, from Oklahoma. They briefly entertained the idea of taking Spanish prodigy Ricky Rubio, but Griffin is the obvious choice.. He represents everything the team is currently missing in terms of energy, intensity, passion and character, and should be able to help brings the Clippers back to playoff contention almost immediately.
This was a vital shot in the arm to a franchise languishing at the bottom of the Western Conference and seen as perennial doormats in the NBA. The Clippers are seen as the poorer cousin to the dominant Lakers, and whilst their rivals have dominated the NBA both in the past and present, winning 15 NBA championships and parading the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaq and Kobe Bryant in front of their struggling neighbours.
The Clippers’ fortunes have been woeful. Living under the shadow of the dominant Lakers, they have only reached the playoffs four times in 33 years, and have only advanced past the first round once, in the 2005-06 season where they lost to the Phoenix Suns in the Conference semi-finals. That 2006 squad, led by All-Star Elton Brand, has left for brighter shores, not content with the constant underachieving tag that stigmatises the Clippers. Brand left to join the 76ers last offseason and Corey Maggette went to the Golden State Warriors.
Last year was meant to signal a new start for the Clippers. They won the 7th pick in the 2008 NBA draft, obtaining Eric Gordon, a player with a bright future in the NBA. All-Star Baron Davis signed from the Warriors on a $65 million deal, a move set to launch the Clippers into playoff contention. Former defensive player of the year Marcus Camby arrived from Denver and Zach Randolph arrived from the Knicks. However, injuries to key players and poor form, especially from Baron Davis, ravaged the Clippers season and the team slumped to a dismal 19-63 record.
Griffin’s arrival could change all of that. Easily the best player in this year’s draft class, the 6-foot-10, 250-pound power forward averaged 22.7 points and 14.4 rebounds in college this year.

Whether there is room for Griffin remains to be seen, as the Clippers possess a crowded frontcourt of Al Thornton, Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman, Zach Randolph and DeAndre Jordan. Trades may have to be made to offload some of these players, to give Griffin the minutes he needs in the Clippers team.

The young talent in this Clippers team gives them some hope for the future and a hope for a return to the playoffs in the near future. With young, talent players like Eric Gordon, Griffin and Al Thornton, combined with older heads like Baron Davis and Camby, the Clippers have a solid foundation in which to build a contending team. If Griffin gets a chance to shine, then expect the Clippers to contend for the playoffs next season and maybe even challenge Western conference powerhouses like the Lakers and the Spurs.

Let’s just hope Blake Griffin lives up to his potential and doesn’t become another Michael Olowokandi for the Clippers, and the 2009 Draft gives us another talent comparable to the likes of Lebron James and Tim Duncan.

Where will Amazing happen? How the Thunder can create a storm in the West next season

A year ago, the Seattle SuperSonics left 40 years of memories behind as they packed their bags to create a new home in Oklahoma. A franchise that saw great success in the 1990’s, with multiple Pacific Division titles and a trip to the NBA finals in 1996, where they lost to the Chicago Bulls and someone called Michael Jordan. This was a team including All-Stars such as Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp and holding an 11 year record of seasons above .500.

Ten years of mediocrity followed before the SuperSonics’ drafted Kevin Durant as the 2nd pick in the 2007 draft. The SuperSonics’ could have used the acquisition of Durant and become a force in the West, but decided to trade All-Star Ray Allen to Boston and Rashard Lewis to Orlando. So it was back to another season of failure to qualify for the playoffs. A new home in Oklahoma promised a fresh start, as the Oklahoma City Thunder.

This proved to be a false dawn. A 1-13 record saw P.J Carlesimo get the axe and OKC reduced to the NBA’s laughing stock. OKC could have broken entered the record books; The 76ers 9-73 record in the 1972-73 season, setting the record for team wretchedness in the NBA, was in reach.

Thankfully, the appointment of interim coach Scott Brooks changed OKC’s fortunes and the team finished with a 23-59 record. Not good enough for the playoffs, but higher than the NBA’s basement dwellers, the likes of the LA Clippers and the Sacramento Kings. But there is one shining light for OKC, Kevin Durant.

KD has blossomed into one of the NBA’s brightest prospects. The former Rookie of the Year was sixth in scoring in the NBA, averaging 25.3 ppg, just below the likes of Danny Granger, Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe. Surround Durant with up-and-coming talent like rookie Russell Westbrook, the 4th pick in the 2008 draft, and second year forward Jeff Green, then you have a franchise full of young talent that is primed to make a run. Think the Portland TrailBlazers: a young team built through the NBA draft, containing the likes of All-Star guard Brandon Roy, rookie Rudy Fernandez, forward LaMarcus Aldridge and centre Greg Oden. Portland finished 4th in the Western Conference, before losing to Houston in the first round of the Playoffs.

What OKC lacks though is a big man, someone who can block and grab rebounds. Nenad Kristic has done well, but he is not a player who will grant you access to the upper echelons of the NBA. February’s trade for Tyson Chandler from New Orleans would have solved this problem and gave OKC its much-needed big man. But Chandler’s constant injuries were a problem and the centre failed a medical.

This year’s NBA draft could change the fortunes for OKC. Two first-round picks in what has been known as the “Blake Griffin” sweepstakes could secure more young talent for OKC. The introduction of local boy Griffin, who plays college ball for Oklahoma, would give OKC a monster in the paint and a player with huge potential. This year’s free agents could bolster OKC’s front court, if the franchise has the ability to attract the big names. Utah’s Carlos Boozer would be a good addition to the franchise, whether he would make the trip to Oklahoma is another matter. Rasheed Wallace could be another alternative. Wallace is sure to leave Detroit in the summer, and his arrival would give OKC some veteran leadership and could guarantee Wallace one last big payday.

Whatever happens in the summer, the young talent that OKC possess will now have at least one season of NBA experience. This is a franchise where the only way is up.