Lakers vs. Clippers: Who’s the best of LA?

Lakers vs ClippersImage via Flickr user: Mike Saechang

After playing in the shadows of the Los Angeles Lakers for years, the Los Angeles Clippers have suddenly emerged as playoff contenders when they traded for Chris Paul. With the arrival of CP3 to the City of Angels, many fans and analysts are projecting the Clippers as a better team than their cross-town rivals. And now the Clippers aren’t a team that people laugh at anymore. Now the Clippers are known as Lob City.
 
The Clippers had to give up a lot for Chris Paul: Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Minnesota’s unprotected first round pick. But they did make up for the losses by signing two veterans in Chauncey Billups, an NBA Finals MVP, and Caron Butler, a solid forward who has a career average of 16.6 ppg. The Clippers did pretty well in making up for the losses, but lost a really good scorer in Eric Gordon.

 The Lakers were also in pursuit of Chris Paul. The Lakers were prepared to give away two of their key big men in Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol, who were both instrumental in the Lakers last two championships. When the deal that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers got nixed by NBA commissioner, David Stern, the Lakers were left with an unhappy Lamar Odom who demanded a trade out of LA. The Lakers traded Lamar Odom to the team that swept them in last year’s playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks, for a 2012 first round pick and a $9 million trade exception. The Clippers would eventually get Chris Paul, and the Lakers would only signed a few free agents and let go of their sixth man of the year for nothing.

 Now who is the better team? There is no question that the Lakers are the better franchise. They have made it to the mountain top with 16 NBA championships. A number of great players have worn purple and gold. Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, and the man on the NBA Logo comes to mind. As a franchise, the Lakers are just simply better because of their tradition of winning.

The Clippers has always been the little brother and the receiving end of many people’s jokes since they moved to LA in 1984. As a Los Angeles team, the Clippers have only made it to the playoffs five times, and of those four times, they’ve had premature exits in the first round.

But now that the Chris Paul trade went down, people are finally taking the Clippers seriously and even going as far to say that they are better than the Lakers going into the season. Before we start breaking this down, let’s look at the starting line-up for the 2011-2012 season:

Los Angeles Lakers Starting Line-up
G – Derek Fisher
G – Kobe Bryant
F – Matt Barnes
F – Pau Gasol
C – Andrew Bynum

Los Angeles Clippers Starting Line-up
G – Chris Paul
G – Chauncey Billups
F – Caron Butler
F – Blake Griffin
C – DeAndre Jordan

On paper, the Los Angeles Clippers looks to be the better team, as the stats are more even out. Coming from the 2010-2011 season, Blake Griffin averaged 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds. Chris Paul averaged 15.9 points and 9.8 assists, and Chauncey Billups averaged 16.8 points while playing for the Knicks. Caron Butler only played 29 games, so his last season does not play a factor. He does average 16.6 points per game in his career, a very solid scoring average. DeAndre Jordan put in his share of work last season and averaged 7.1 points and 7.2 rebounds.
The Clippers stat sheet isn’t that much greater than the Lakers. Kobe Bryant averaged 25.3 points per game, while his sidekick, Pau Gasol, averaged a double-double with 18.8 points and 10.2 rebounds. Bynum had solid numbers with 11.3 points and 9.4 rebounds. Matt Barnes came off the bench last season, but new coach Mike Brown has decided to move Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest) to the bench and bring Barnes to the starting line-up. While he was on the bench, he averaged 6.7 points, but we can expect to see his numbers rise this season as it appears he’s going to be playing more minutes. Derek Fisher averaged 6.8 points.

So there you have it. The Lakers have two players with lower scoring averages than the Clippers lowest scorer. The Lakers have a better scorer in Kobe than the Clippers in Blake, and Chris Paul will provide the Clippers with a lot of ball movement as he is a pass first point guard. But we know that stats only tell half of the story and we still have yet to see how this new Clipper team will work together.

We know that this Lakers squad is capable of winning. Move World Peace back to his original starting position and you have a starting five that has proved to the world that they can win a championship. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher each have more championships than the entire Clipper’s starting line-up. The only player on the Clippers’ starting line-up that has won a ring is Chauncey Billups. Chris Paul has only made three playoff appearances and only went past the first round once. Blake Griffin has never seen playoff atmosphere, but to his credit, he just came out of his rookie year.

So, in terms of winning, the Lakers outweigh the Clippers indefinitely. The team of Kobe, Pau, Fisher, and Bynum has won two championships together and made it to the finals three times. The Clippers has a lot to prove if they want to be considered LA’s best basketball team.

How will the Clippers perform now that they have Chris Paul?

One thing we will see from this Clipper squad is excitement. With Chris Paul lobbing the ball to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, we will see Clippers fans revived and amped for the season. But will the Clippers win? Will they have the heart to win? We see many exciting teams that don’t do well in the playoffs and fall short of a championship. The Miami Heat with Lebron James and Dwayne Wade were fun to watch on the open floor, but they were humbled by the Dallas Mavericks who defeated them 4-2 to win the NBA championship. The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the most exciting teams in the NBA, but they never made it to the finals. So excitement does not mean that the Clippers will win a championship.

Will the Clippers be good? Definitely. You have a top two point guard in Chris Paul who is going to be feeding the ball to the Rookie of the Year in Blake Griffin and who has the potential to do great things in his career. And with Chris Paul as the facilitator, Blake Griffin will definitely have a lot more opportunities to score. You also have two veterans that knows how to play the game well and can get the Clippers through the playoffs in Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler. You have a defensive center in DeAndre Jordan who averaged 1.78 blocks per game. And you have Mo Williams coming off the bench and who can provide scoring when the starters need to rest.

The Clippers are set to be a playoff contender. But can they beat the Lakers?

The Lakers are coming out of a disappointing season after they were swept by the Mavericks in the second round of the playoffs. If anyone knows Kobe Bryant, they know that he hates losing and will feel that he needs to prove something to everyone by coming back and winning it all again. So there is motivation in this Lakers squad to win. And with people claiming that the Clippers are going to be the better team, you can bet that this will not sit well the Lakers and they will have even more things to prove. Simply put, the Lakers will enter the season motivated to win and motivated to prove to everyone that they are still the team to beat.

So which is the better team?

On the stat sheet, the Clippers edge the Lakers slightly. On winning, the Lakers definitely takes it. The Clippers may have Blake Griffin and Chris Paul with the possbilities of alley-oops, but this Lakers team has already proved to the world that they can win. And they have Kobe Bryant, arguably the best player this league has ever seen. It will be exciting to see how this revived Clipper squad will work together. This Clipper team definitely has the potential to be greater than the current Laker squad, but they still have yet to prove it to the world. This Lakers team has already proved that they can be the best.

Lakers vs. Clippers tickets and schedule below:
For a complete list of Los Angeles Lakers tickets and schedule, go to our Razorgator GO website.
For a complete list of Los Angeles Clippers tickets and schedule, go to our Razorgator GO website.

Images via Flickr users (in order of appearance): Keith Allison, Keith Allison, WDPG share, jvunag

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