Make no mistake about it, Blake Griffin is heading into his biggest season with the Los Angeles Clippers. The power forward is entering a contract year and must finally live up to expectations and deliver for the franchise.
Griffin missed 47 regular season games last year due to a quad injury and a broken hand - suffered following an unsavoury incident involving a staff member in Toronto.
Despite returning for the playoffs, it was clear he wasn't at 100% and suffered a recurrence of his quad issue in the first round against the Portland Trail Blazers, who duly eliminated the L.A. outfit to progress.
In the 27-year-old's absence, the Clippers enjoyed a winning record thanks largely to the leadership and performances of Chris Paul. They didn't miss Griffin too much which inevitably raised the question, do they really need him?
The right fit?
Griffin is an All-Star forward and though many would disagree, he has a lot more to his game than just dunking. He has often been criticised for not having a good low-post game and for being very predictable in his style.
The Oklahoma product has certainly developed this side of his game and has added a decent mid-range jump shot to his list of skills.
At 27, Blake should be hitting the peak of his career and the next campaign will prove whether he can make that leap from good to great and really become an elite big man in the league.
CP3 is the most important player in the team and the Clippers will only go as far as he takes them, but without Griffin, that won't be very far.
L.A. may have won the majority of their games without Blake in the lineup, but it's the encounters they lost that proved his importance. They struggled to secure wins against their fellow championship contenders without Griffin and that's where he makes the difference.
The five-time All-Star is the only other go-to player on the team that can create his own offence and take pressure off Paul, which is why he's a key component for the franchise.
But Blake will be a free agent next year and with the spike in the salary cap, he will certainly demand a larger salary, but is he worth the outlay for the Clippers?
The upcoming campaign will go a long way to answering that question as he will have to prove he deserves to be rewarded with a bigger contract.
According to reports, sources close to Griffin have been adamant that the player will re-sign in L.A. and head coach Doc Rivers has maintained that he has no interest in trading him.
All signs point towards the big man continuing in the City of Angels, where he has spent his seven-year NBA career thus far.
He was responsible for putting the Clippers on the map and making them a relevant franchise when they were viewed as nothing more than mediocre for so many years.
Players like CP3 wouldn't have thought twice about signing with the Clippers in the past and for that reason the organisation should reward Blake and it appears they'll be willing to do exactly that.
However, the dunking machine must prove his doubters wrong and take the next step in his career. In an interview on teammate J.J. Redick's Vertical podcast earlier this week, he revealed how he hasn't taken a summer break and is working even harder to be ready for a long and gruelling season, which he owes to the Clippers fans and team.
Last season was one to forget for Griffin, he is keen to make sure next year will be one to remember.