The Lakers Will Win Another Championship Before the Clippers Ever Do
Last night, the Los Angeles Lakers selected Brandon Ingram with the #2 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. He joins a young and promising core of Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and D’Angelo Russell, as the Lakers officially begin their rebuilding era with the recent retirement of Kobe Bean Bryant.
I have an ongoing bet with a friend of mine who is a huge Los Angeles Clippers fan and believes that the Clippers will win an NBA title before the Lakers do. I disagreed, and the bet has been ongoing for the past four or five years.
I’ll be honest — there were a couple years where I was worried he might actually win the bet. For example, during the 2015 NBA Playoffs, the Clippers were one win away from reaching the Western Conference Finals for the first time in their franchise history. But ultimately, the Clippers succumbed to their usual fate, and choked up a 3–1 series lead to lose the series to a terrible Houston Rockets team.
In the past five years, the Lakers have been awful, posting up some of the worst regular season records in their storied franchise history. The Clippers, on the other hand, have been contenders for the title every year through the play of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan.
Some would argue that as long as this core is together, the Clippers have a shot at the title before the Lakers even come close. After all, the two teams are on the opposite sides of the winning and losing spectrum at the moment, and it doesn’t look like there will be any significant changes to this dynamic for a few more seasons. However, I feel very good about my chances against my Clippers friend.
I believe the Lakers will win a championship before the Clippers do.
Of course, my confidence can be obliterated if a blockbuster trade or signing brings LeBron James or Kevin Durant to the Clippers, but barring any such unlikely moves, I think the window of opportunity for the Clippers to win a championship has closed.
Chris Paul is now 31, and will only get slower as the years go by. Blake Griffin has proven to be a superstar who is injury-prone and, frankly, just can’t win in the playoffs. He’s also had his share of personal issues off the court, which contributed to him missing several games this past season. During this stretch, the Clippers played surprisingly well without Griffin, and thus, trade rumors began spreading questioning whether the Clippers could actually be better if they moved him for another piece.
Both players have early termination options on their contracts and can leave the Clippers as early as the 2017 off-season.
This leaves DeAndre Jordan, who made the all-NBA first team this year. Jordan is a great rebounder and defensive player, but he has no offensive game other than to dunk the basketball. He is nothing without Chris Paul, and will never be able to lead a team to a title.
But what about next season? All three players are still under contract and the Clippers are looking to improve their team this year.
Well, so are the Golden State Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs, and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Honestly, as long as the Warriors stay healthy, they will be the favorites in the Western Conference for the next few years. By the end of their reign, the Los Angeles Clippers will fall by the wayside, just like the Chris Webber-led Sacramento Kings and Rasheed Wallace-led Portland Trailblazers in the early 2000s, or the Steve Nash-led Phoenix Suns in the mid-2000s, these Clippers will be a very good squad that never makes the NBA Finals.
But if the Lakers are so much worse than the Clippers are right now, why do I believe the Lakers will win become NBA champions again before the Clippers do?
The answer is because of their youth and timing. By the time these young Lakers reach their full potential, the landscape of the NBA will have changed completely and the top teams in the NBA will have been replaced by the next wave of top teams (except the Spurs probably). Players such as Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James would be much older, and the opportunities to beat them would be more favorable as these players would also be battling Father Time.
The Lakers, on the other hand, have an opportunity to develop themselves into the next generation’s Warriors or Thunder — teams that have built themselves up through the draft. If the Lakers can groom two or three of their young players into all-star caliber players, the team will be in great shape to contend for years to come.
Why couldn’t the Clippers do the same thing?
Well, I suppose they can, but they would have to begin rebuilding now — they are already three lottery picks behind the Lakers, which is why I think the Lakers’ head start will give them the slight edge over the Clippers when the opportunity to win a championship becomes realistic again.
I’m really looking forward to when that day comes, not only because I’m a huge Lakers fan, but because it means my Clippers friend will have to join me at the parade sporting a Kobe Bryant jersey. There’s no one he hates more than the Black Mamba.