From here on in, it’s all legit. No pretenders. No”if a couple of things go right” aspirants. No”maybe, only perhaps” hopefuls.
Actual, honest-to-goodness contenders only.
The Clippers, by virtue of being said after that introduction, are just one competition.
Free of the shadow cast by Donald Sterling and imbued with the frightening enthusiasm and deep pockets of fresh owner Steve Ballmer, the Clips will look to lock a top-three seed from the West again. This moment, tough, they’ll aspire to progress to the Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
The majority of the responsibility falls upon the recognizable shoulders of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, two players who may readily lead the Clips to another No. 1 finish in offensive performance. Together with Doc Rivers’ leadership and (hopefully) another measure from DeAndre Jordan, L.A. is in excellent position for yet another deep playoff series.
There are concerns, though.
The wing positions are feeble behind J.J. Redick. Matt Barnes is slated to begin in the 3, and at age 34 there should be real concerns that his 4.2 percentage (yes, 4.2% ) shooting from long range during the preseason is less a blip and more a sign his offensive game has dropped off a cliff.
Spencer Hawes has been the group’s big offseason get, and as valuable as he is as a passer and floor-spacer, he won’t frighten anybody on defense.
If the crime remains elite and Rivers can handle his frontcourt rotation wisely, the Clippers could be slightly better than they were a year ago. That might be sufficient for them to reach heights they’ve never attained.
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