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 one such contender.
Free of the shadow cast by Donald Sterling and imbued with all the terrifying excitement and impossibly deep pockets of fresh owner Steve Ballmer, the Clips will look to lock up a top-three seed from the West again. This moment, tough, they’ll hope to advance to the Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
The majority of the responsibility falls on the recognizable shoulders of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, two players who could easily lead the Clips to yet another No. 1 end in offensive efficiency. 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, though.
The wing positions are somewhat feeble behind J.J. Redick. Matt Barnes is supposed to begin at the 3, and at age 34 that there should be real worries that his 4.2 percentage (yes, 4.2% ) shooting from long range during the preseason is not as a blip and more a sign that 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 will not scare anybody on defense.
If the offense remains elite and Rivers may manage his frontcourt rotation wisely, the Clippers might be marginally better than they were a year ago. That might be sufficient for them to reach heights they’ve never attained.
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