Why the Clippers Will Win the 2017 NBA Title
The Los Angeles Clippers may have had a rocky regular season, but when all’s said and done, they will be crowned the 2016-17 NBA Champions. Here’s why:
Yes, I know; this is a very bold prediction. Not only have the Clippers never advanced past the second round of the postseason, but this most recent campaign was also their most problematic one yet during the Chris Paul era. Entering the year as a near lock for a top-three seed, LA bolted out of the gate to a 14-2 start, ready to show everyone that this was their season. Nevertheless, the Clips soon began to flounder, and six straight losses to end 2016 had the team sitting at 22-14, including an 8-12 record after those first 16 contests.
Now at season’s end, the Clippers are 51-31 and the number four seed in the Western Conference. This hasn’t been a terrible year by any means, but analysts still don’t treat Los Angeles as true title contenders. They look at Chris Paul and call him past his prime, his window of opportunity to win a ring having closed. They look at Doc Rivers and call him a one-hit-wonder in Boston, a coaching career carried on the backs of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. They look at Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and call them nothing but dunk machines with no offensive skillsets to work with. But guess what- they are all wrong. And guess what- when all these Clippers have rings next fall, those so-called “analysts” won’t be the ones doing much of the laughing any longer.
Let us travel back in time 31 years for our first piece of evidence as to why 2017 will be the season that the Clippers finally win their long-awaited NBA title. It’s 1986, and the previous two NBA Finals consisted of the same two franchises: the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Celtics won it all in 1984, while the Lakers avenged that defeat with a championship of their own in 1985. Meanwhile, ‘86 was supposed to be the rubber match, the series that settled the rivalry. However, little did they know that history was not on their side.
It was true back then and it is still true today: the National Basketball Association has never had the same two teams play in three consecutive NBA Finals. Even in 1986, when the Celtics and Lakers had everything lined up to meet again, things didn’t end up playing out how everyone expected. Boston was able to make it through the East behind an incredible 67-15 campaign, likely the greatest season in franchise history. However, the same can’t be said for LA. The 62-win Lakers were upset by Hakeem Olajuwon, Ralph Sampson, and the 51-win Houston Rockets in the Conference Finals. The rubber match in the NBA Finals was no more: it would be a Boston-Houston series, and the Lakers were sent home packing. In case you were wondering, the Celtics would end up winning in six.
Now, let’s fast forward back to 2017, a season that looks awfully similar to that ‘86 campaign. Yes, Cleveland is not technically a top seed, but everyone knows that they’re the team to beat in the East. Likewise, the Golden State Warriors are the clear favorite out west. The problem, however, is that the Cavs and Dubs have competed in each of the last two NBA Finals, with each squad pulling in one Larry O’Brien trophy apiece. History tells us that this should change, that one of these units isn’t going to make it to that final series this time around. Yes, these two franchises have defied history before, but let’s say they don’t. Let’s say one of these teams pulls an LA Lakers and robs us from the desired rubber match. Which one will it be?
The Cavaliers seem like the obvious answer when you look strictly at the numbers. I mean, they aren’t even the number one seed in their conference, so how can they possibly be the runaway favorite for a Finals berth? But when you have LeBron James suiting up in your colors, you’re always the runaway favorite. Cleveland easily has the most talented roster in the East, including the far-and-away best player. Additionally, the team always seems ready to play come postseason time, despite any struggles they may have experienced in the six months prior. This doesn’t seem to be the case for the Warriors. Last year, the team’s stars didn’t always step up when they needed them to, and Golden State was nearly eliminated at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder before ultimately falling to the Cavs (we’ll get to that later). While the Cleveland Cavaliers seem to play their best under the brightest of lights, the Warriors seem to shrink under the pressure, making them more susceptible to that postseason upset.
Therefore, if I were to put some money into this, my money would not be on a third straight Cleveland-Golden State matchup in the NBA Finals. We have seen a plethora of two consecutive Finals clashes, including the Pistons-Lakers, Bulls-Jazz, and Spurs-Heat. However, history has always prevented a third, and 2017 won’t be any different. Furthermore, if I were to bet even more money, I would then expect the Golden State Warriors to be the recipients of the stunning upset, opening the door for the Clippers to take charge. It’s just too easy for LeBron James in the Eastern Conference; once he gets through the middling Indiana Pacers and the playoff-choking Toronto Raptors, all he has to do is run over the 5’9” Isaiah Thomas and he’s set. But when the Cavaliers get there, a new surprise will await them, a team that nobody thought could ever get it done: the Los Angeles Clippers.
Nonetheless, 1986 is not the only season where the results of the playoffs shocked everyone across the country. We can look as recently as last year to find examples of how sports tend to play out against expectations, and that nobody will ever really know what’s going to happen next.
During the 2015-16 campaign, all anybody could talk about was the Golden State Warriors. Steph was averaging 30 a contest, Draymond transformed into one of the game’s best all-around players, and the Dubs broke the ‘95-96 Bulls’ record of regular season wins with an astounding 73. Everyone predicted that Golden State would steamroll through the postseason and cap off their outstanding year with a second-consecutive championship. However, things didn’t quite work out that way for the league’s newest superpower.
The Warriors got by the Rockets and Trail Blazers rather handily to begin the playoffs, even without Stephen Curry for six of those ten initial contests. But then, the Oklahoma City Thunder came to town. OKC pounded the Dubs, taking a commanding 3-1 series lead and putting Golden State’s historic 73-9 season at stake. The Warriors would end up pulling off the comeback, though, booking their trip to the Finals. However, what went down during the Western Conference playoffs still made many re-evaluate how the NBA works. While Golden State took the Association by storm from day one, it was the San Antonio Spurs who were right behind them the entire time. It was the San Antonio Spurs who were easily the second best team in the NBA all season. Thus, most thought that it would be the San Antonio Spurs who would stand as the Warriors’ biggest challenge in the postseason, not the Thunder. So, even though Golden State did end up prevailing, the fact that Oklahoma City managed to get a single game away from the NBA Finals made a lot of fans really sit and think.
‘It was supposed to be Warriors vs. Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. That’s what everyone was waiting for. Where the hell did OKC come from?’
However, that’s not all. Golden State would then take a 3-1 lead of their own over the Cleveland Cavaliers, prompting everyone to declare once again that the Warriors had their second title in the bag, and that nobody else stood a chance. But then, LeBron James had the best three-game stretch in NBA Finals history, stealing away the trophy from the Dubs and shocking the world once again.
The 2016 playoffs just serve to demonstrate that even the clearest of expectations can always be disproven. Basketball isn’t meant to satisfy the predictions; it’s meant to prove them wrong. Therefore, the notion that the now Kevin Durant-led Golden State Warriors are unbeatable is something that everyone just needs to erase from their minds. Because in the NBA, anyone is beatable. This may not be baseball where Wild-Card rosters make a run to the World Series on a yearly basis, but basketball has its share of surprises as well.
Who expected the Thunder to defeat the Spurs in the playoffs and then get 48 minutes away from beating the Warriors? Absolutely nobody. Who truly thought that the Cavs could come back from 3-1 down to win their first championship in franchise history? Not many. And lastly, who thinks the Clippers can win the 2017 title? Pretty much only me, which is exactly why it will happen.
My final piece of support as to why the Los Angeles Clippers will hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy come June is that they simply have a great overall roster. Although their 51-31 overall record isn’t dropping anybody’s jaw, there’s a reason that this team started 14-2. Their lineup, from top to bottom, is incredibly talented and well-rounded. Chris Paul is the veteran playmaker, the guy who not only leads the unit on the court but off the court as well. Blake Griffin is the all-around star, a power forward who can shoot, pass, rebound, and dunk with authority. DeAndre Jordan is the defensive anchor, the man who does the dirty work. He protects the rim at all times and makes sure to secure every single loose rebound. JJ Redick is the three-point marksmen, the Duke graduate who spreads the floor with his elite shooting ability. And Jamal Crawford is the spark plug off the bench, one of the best one-on-one players that the game has to offer and the scorer that gets it done when the starters need their rest.
From CP3 to J-Crossover, the Clippers’ roster is impressive. They have every component of a championship-level team, from the veteran leader to the heart of the defense to a deep and talented bench. But the question still lingers- then why haven’t they won anything before? Fans are quick to classify Chris Paul and company as just a bunch of chokers who can’t win when it counts, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Clippers’ last two years have been hindered by injuries, and before 2014 wouldn’t include prime Blake or prime DJ. Thus, 2017 is their year, the Los Angeles Clippers’ greatest chance to show that they can and will go all the way when given the opportunity.
Look, I don’t want anybody responding to this article by saying how there’s no real evidence for the Clippers and that these last 1800-or-so words have made absolutely no sense, so I’m just going to be honest here: there is no reason as to why anybody should think the LA Clippers will win the 2017 NBA title. Golden State has been the best team in the league by far this season, with the Spurs and Rockets following closely behind. The Clips probably fall closer to 10th. Anyone in their right mind should predict a Warriors-Cavs NBA Finals. However, I didn’t want to be like everyone else, and for some reason I just have that gut feeling that the Clippers will somehow find a way.
But why the Clippers? If I think that the Warriors will be eliminated prior to the Finals, why did I choose the Los Angeles Clippers to be the unit that replaces them? Well, the answer to that question is quite simple. The Clips have long been dubbed the constant disappointment, the team that always underperforms. Chris Paul has already been labeled as just another great point guard without a ring, joining the likes of John Stockton and Steve Nash. Everyone thinks that the Clippers’ window for a championship has already closed, and that this is just another roster ready to be torn apart. But I disagree. As I explained above, I truly believe that the Clippers have an arrangement of players that can really contend for a title, and that their well-balanced attack is prime for glory. So instead of asking why Clippers?, how about why not? Why can’t 2017 be the Clippers’ year? Why can’t this be the season that CP3 finally gets the monkey off his back and puts the finishing touch on his already-illustrious resumé?
I didn’t just come up with this idea, either. I’ve been talking about the Clippers winning it all ever since the 2016-2017 campaign began, into mid-season, and now. Thus, when my prediction finally becomes successful in just a few months, that constant dedication will just make it that much sweeter. So yeah, my projection may have very little persuasive reasoning behind it. And yes, sticking with the Warriors or Cavaliers would have been a much safer bet. But again, I just have that gut feeling about the Clippers, and sports predictions are all about having that small hunch. This article was just used as a gateway to display that the Clippers winning it all could actually be a conceivable possibility, and also to use as reference if this one-in-a-million prophecy somehow proves correct.
So I really don’t care that I may not know more than the average basketball fan (or even Skip Bayless). And I honestly don’t care what anyone else has to say: the Clippers will win the 2017 NBA title. You heard it here first.