It's been a season of firsts for the Los Angeles Clippers, who seemingly re-write their organization's record books every time they take the court. From their first 50-win season, to first Pacific Division title, the 2012-2013 Clippers have already gone where no club in the organization's history has gone before.
For more on the story, visit Clips Nation
But as they get set to open the 2013 playoffs, can this team do something that was seemingly unthinkable as recently as a year ago, and make a run at a Western Conference championship and NBA Finals berth?
It all starts with point guard Chris Paul, and if we're talking about these new-look Los Angeles Clippers, their rebirth started when Paul was traded to this organization prior to the 2011-2012 season. Before his arrival, the Clippers were young and exciting, but ultimately an irrelevant team, and one that hadn't make the playoffs since 2006. But since Paul got to town prior to the 2012 season, the Clippers have quickly evolved into one of the West's best ball-clubs.
It started last season, when Paul led the Clippers to a 40-26 record in the lockout-shortened regular season, and a first round playoff victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. While Los Angeles ultimately got swept out of the postseason in the second round by San Antonio, the Round 1 win was still a momentous occasion for the Clippers. It marked their first playoff series win since 2006, and only the second time the franchise had advanced past the opening round of the playoffs since the team moved to California prior to the 1978-79 season.
But while all those years of losing were painful, they also allowed the Clippers to build their team from the ground-up. In the process, it gave the team's front office all the necessary pieces to not only acquire Paul, but win once they got him.
That process started in 2008, when Los Angeles used a pair of draft picks to select guard Eric Gordon and center DeAndre Jordan. Gordon ended up as the center-piece in the deal to bring Paul from New Orleans, while Jordan emerged into one of the better young centers in the league during the 2013 season. Jordan averaged just under nine points to go along with 7.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game this past year.
However, it wasn't until 2009 when the Clippers hit the lottery (both literally and figuratively), and got a young star to build the team around. It came in the form of that year's No. 1 draft pick Blake Griffin, who has quickly emerged into a three-time All-Star, despite missing his entire first season with a knee injury. Griffin led the Clippers with in both points and rebounds during the 2013 season.
And with all those building blocks in place, it has only allowed the Clippers to further bolster their roster as well. Veteran forward Caron Butler was added last off-season and following the trade for Paul, former NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups came to Los Angeles after being amnestied by the Knicks.
However, it wasn't until after the 2012 playoff loss that Los Angeles added the final pieces to become a legitimate contender.
It started when the Clippers acquired veteran forward Lamar Odom in a four-team trade, and continued when they signed free agent guard Jamal Crawford (who averaged just under 17 points a game this season) just a few days later. Los Angeles added veterans Matt Barnes and Grant Hill later in the summer, rounding out a deep bench that also features third-year guard Eric Bledsoe.
Add all the moves together and it was enough to get the Clippers that first Pacific Division title and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
And with the playoffs set to begin, we will soon find out if all those moves were enough to take the Clippers further than they've ever been before: To the Western Conference Finals and potentially beyond.