From here , it is all legit. No pretenders. No”if a couple of things go right” aspirants. No more”maybe, just maybe” hopefuls.
Actual, honest-to-goodness contenders only.
The Clippers, by virtue of being mentioned after that introduction, are one contender.
Free of the shadow cast by Donald Sterling and imbued with the terrifying excitement and impossibly deep pockets of new owner Steve Ballmer, the Clips will seem to lock up a top-three seed from the West again. This moment, tough, they’ll hope to progress to the Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
The bulk of the responsibility falls upon the recognizable shoulders of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, two players who may readily lead the Clips to yet another No. 1 finish in offensive efficiency. Together with Doc Rivers’ leadership and (hopefully) another step from DeAndre Jordan, L.A. is in excellent position for another deep playoff series.
There are concerns.
The wing positions are feeble behind J.J. Redick. Matt Barnes is supposed to start in the 3, and at age 34 that there ought to be real worries that his 4.2 percent (yes, 4.2% ) shooting from long range during the preseason is less a blip and more a signal his offensive game has fallen off a cliff.
Spencer Hawes has been the team’s big offseason get, and as valuable as he is as a passer and floor-spacer, he will not scare anybody on protection.
If the crime remains elite and Rivers may handle his frontcourt rotation wisely, the Clippers might be marginally better than they were a year ago. That might be sufficient for them to achieve heights they’ve never attained.
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