Los Angeles Clippers: 8-1

From here on in, it’s all legit. No pretenders. No more”if a few things go right” aspirants. No”maybe, only maybe” hopefuls. Actual contenders only. The Clippers, by virtue of being said after that introduction, are just one such competition. Free of the shadow cast by Donald Sterling and imbued with all the terrifying excitement and deep pockets of fresh owner Steve Ballmer, the Clips will look to lock up a top-three seed in the West again. This moment, tough, they’ll aspire to progress to the Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. The bulk of the responsibility falls on the recognizable shoulders of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, two players who may easily lead the Clips to yet another No. 1 finish in offensive performance. Together with Doc Rivers’ leadership and (hopefully) another step from DeAndre Jordan, L.A. is in excellent position for yet another deep playoff series. There are concerns, though. The wing positions are weak behind J.J. Redick. Matt Barnes is slated to start at the 3, and at age 34 there ought to be real worries that his 4.2 percent (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 was 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 crime remains elite and Rivers can handle 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 reached before. Read more: nba betting odds
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