From here , it is all legit. No pretenders. No more”if a couple of things go right” aspirants. No more”maybe, just perhaps” hopefuls.
Actual contenders only.
The Clippers, by virtue of being said after that debut, are just one competition.
Free of the shadow cast by Donald Sterling and imbued with the frightening enthusiasm and impossibly deep pockets of fresh owner Steve Ballmer, the Clips will seem to lock up a top-three seed from the West again. This moment, tough, they will aspire to advance to the Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
The bulk of the responsibility falls on the familiar shoulders of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, two players who could readily lead the Clips to yet another No. 1 finish in offensive efficiency. With Doc Rivers’ direction and (hopefully) another step from DeAndre Jordan, L.A. is in excellent position for yet another deep playoff run.
There are concerns.
The wing positions are somewhat weak behind J.J. Redick. Matt Barnes is supposed to start at the 3, and at age 34 there should be real worries that his 4.2 percent (yes, 4.2 percent) shooting from long range during the preseason is less a blip and more a sign that his offensive game has fallen off a cliff.
Spencer Hawes was the team’s big offseason get, and as valuable as he is as a passer and floor-spacer, he will not frighten anybody on defense.
If the crime remains elite and Rivers may handle his frontcourt rotation wisely, the Clippers might be slightly better than they were a year ago. That may be enough for them to reach heights they’ve never attained.
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