Overlooked LA Clippers Are NBA’s Best in 2016

la-clippers-championship-2016Going into 2014 and ’15, many were waiting on the LA Clippers to take the next step. After all, they have the right mix of stars and role players to make a championship run. But here we are in 2016, and the Clippers still have yet to make the conference finals with a core of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick, and Jamal Crawford.

So it’s little surprise that after last season’s first-round loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, LA didn’t generate much championship talk heading into 2016.

But after a 13-2 start — the best record in the NBA — it’s worth wondering if the Clippers can finally turn the corner this season. And the thought that LA is the NBA’s top team comes from more than just their record. It comes from the fact that they are playing great on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.

Regarding offense, LA has five players averaging double digits, with Blake Griffin pacing the effort at 21.9 PPG. The team is playing very efficiently, with a 46.1% shooting percentage (seventh in NBA) and a 37.4% mark from the three-point line (fourth). They’re also leading the league in free throw attempts with nearly 30 a game.

Of course, the NBA is all about putting the ball in the hoop, and there are many talented scorers who can do so. This is where the Clippers are separating themselves from other high-scoring teams because they can also hold opponents to low scores.

deandre-jordanThey’re especially adept at preventing second-chance opportunities thanks to their strong defensive rebounding efforts. This squad is second in the league in defensive rebounds at 35 per game, anchored by Jordan (9.2 defensive rebounds) and Griffin (7.3).

The Clippers defense is also bolstered by how they’re sixth in the league in blocks (5.0) while leading the NBA in steals (10.6). Jordan leads the block party at 1.6 BPG, and Paul is leading the league with 2.93 SPG.

More important numbers for Doc Rivers’ team include limiting opponents to 93.8 PPG (first in NBA), holding opposing teams to 41.5% shooting, and maintaining the league’s top defensive rating at 96.7.

Can The Clippers Really Win the 2016 NBA Championship?

Based on numbers alone, this LA team looks like a legitimate championship contender. This is especially the case with their defensive rating because, while shots may drop and bounce out, a consistent defensive effort can never be ignored.

But while this has helped LA attain a 13-2 record so far, we’re not even one-fourth of the way through this season.

This is quite possibly the best that we’ve seen this unit play, but the NBA regular season has a way of separating the contenders from pretenders. This certainly isn’t to say that LA is a pretender since they boast a lot of talent and veteran leadership. However, as the Blake Griffin fiasco proved last season, anything can happen to derail a promising season.

Barring any major injuries or bizarre equipment manager run-ins, this team seems well-suited to give the Golden State Warriors a good battle. The Warriors are heavily favored to win the title after picking up Kevin Durant in free agency, while the San Antonio Spurs are expected to challenge for the Western Conference crown.

At this point, it looks like a 3-team race in the West, which is something that many didn’t foresee after a disappointing year for LA in 2015.

Another consideration is the Cleveland Cavaliers, who won the title last season and are favored to make it out of the East again. Even if the Clippers are able to get past the Warriors and/or Spurs in the West, they could face one more giant before winning.

Odds are, though, that LA isn’t thinking this far just yet. They still have to keep playing the same type of hard-nosed ball that they are right now and get a high playoff seed. If they can do this, then they have the type of players who can give San Antonio, Golden State, and Cleveland fits in the postseason.

2015 NBA Championship Odds to Win

stephen-curryIt took until the final day of the regular season to decide, but the NBA Playoffs are finally set. And this means that 2015 NBA Championships odds are now available too. Assuming you’re looking to place a bet on which team has the best chance to win it all, you can visit the GTBets.eu homepage and place your wager(s). Here’s a look at available odds (as of Apr. 17) for all 16 teams:

Golden State 9 to 5
Cleveland 11 to 5
San Antonio 4 to 1
Atlanta 17 to 2
Chicago 15 to 1
LA Clippers 18 to 1
Houston 22 to 1
Memphis 22 to 1
Dallas 50 to 1
Portland 60 to 1
Toronto 70 to 1
Washington 75 to 1
New Orleans 150 to 1
Boston 160 to 1
Milwaukee 160 to 1
Brooklyn 225 to 1

Quick Analysis

It’s no surprise that the Golden State Warriors carry the best odds of winning at our online sportsbook. After all, they won 67 games and finished 11 games ahead of every other team in the ridiculously brutal Western Conference. Plus, Golden State features Steph Curry, the 2015 MVP favorite who recently made more waves for making 77 straight three-pointers in practice.

lebron-james-bench-1One team that may or may not be a surprise – depending upon your viewpoint – is the Cleveland Cavaliers (11 to 5 odds). The Cavs became a preseason favorite to win the title when they added LeBron James and Kevin Love in the summer. However, they struggled throughout the first half of the season, sitting at 19-20 at one point. But LeBron helped rally the Cavs and they went 34-9 over the rest of the season and grabbed the East’s No. 2 seed.

It may be hard for some to take the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs at 4 to 1 odds. The Spurs were in a seesaw battle for the West’s No. 2 seed. Unfortunately, they lost their final game to New Orleans (who got into the playoffs due to this win), which dropped San Antonio all the way down to the No. 6 seed. That said, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan have a very difficult road ahead of them to win another title.

The Atlanta Hawks may be offering the best value right now at 17 to 2 odds. After all, they finished with the league’s second-best record at 60-22, and also earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference. And, sure, the Cavs are the hot pick to win the East right now. But don’t sleep on Atlanta with their home-court advantage and balanced team that’s led by point guard Jeff Teague.

joakim-noahThe Chicago Bulls carry the fifth-best odds of winning the championship at 15 to 1. It’s arguable if Chicago is the fifth-most talented team in the playoffs, at least when considering all of the injury problems that they’ve had so far. But they do have a chance to win the East if they can beat Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

The Toronto Raptors (70 to 1 odds) and Washington Wizards (75 to 1 odds) are two darkhorse teams that are looking to emerge from the Eastern Conference. However, their road to the title begins by facing each other in a series that may be too close to call right now.

Moving to the rest of the pack in the Western Conference, it’s a complete jumble. The Houston Rockets (22 to 1 odds) were able to grab the No. 2 seed on the last day of the regular season. But it seems that they’ll have to battle every step of the way, even in their first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks (50 to 1 odds).

The Memphis Grizzlies also have solid odds to win at 22 to 1, despite the fact that they open up the playoffs on the road against the Portland Trailblazers (60 to 1). Portland was able to gain first-round home-court advantage due to their Northwest Division title. However, they finished 51-31, which was actually only the sixth-best record in the West.

As you can see, there are certainly some very interesting matchups in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. And once the smoke clears from the opening round, we’ll be eight teams closer to deciding a champion this year.