This is pretty much the L.A. division, at least for now, as the Lakers and Clippers seemed destined to battle it out for supremacy while the rest of these teams lick their wounds.

Weird, right?
With this in mind, I’m just gonna preview the L.A. teams and ignore the rest of the division for now.

Call it a reputation ranking.
I mean, if if I could actually pick the Clippers to win this division without feeling like the victim of some kind of cosmic joke I probably would, but for now I’m going to attempt to stay here on earth. Still, it’s tempting. Nobody but those most severe Laker nuthuggers could possibly feel good about the off-season moves they’ve made, from saying adios to Phil Jackson to Trading Lamar Odom for nothing to well, refusing to do anything smart whatsoever.
Still, the Lakers are the king of this mountain until such time as someone knocks them off.
The Best Case: The sky is still the limit, even if it looks less likely these days. They still have cards to play and all the ammunition to land another superstar, should they decide it’s time to. Why their farting around while everyone else lining up for Dwight Howard is anyone’s guess, but I’m still holding out hope.
In there and now, this is still a great team, at least on paper. Yeah, they still need a point guard (any point guard!), but the trio of Kobe, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum could still be worth 50 wins by accident. The rest of the team features role-players that will need to play better than last year, particularly World Peace, the new savior and guardian of the second unit. Bless Mike Brown for thinking Ron fucking Artest can replace Lamar Odom in this spot. Me, I have doubts.
Still, I have a hard time believing the Lakers are done making movie. Well, I sure hope not.
The Worst Case: Oh god, I shudder to think.
If you thought last years’ playoff pratfall was bad, imagine what happens if Bynum goes down, the team stumbles out of the gate, and Kobe decides the new leadership doesn’t have a fucking clue what they are doing. Can you even fathom what they do then???
You know what? I don’t even want to talk about this anymore.
The Bottom Line: Aw man, who even knows? This team, as it’s constructed today, is simply not good enough to win a title. Period.
On the other hand, are they done dealing? Who knows?
Are they going to use the trade exception they got for Lamar to get a good (or at least decent) point guard? Beats me.
Are they going to finally take a deep breath and ship Pau and Bynum to Orlando for Dwight Howard? I have no idea.
Seriously, I’m done trying to even pretend as if I have any clue whats happening here. From here on out, my plan is to sit back and watch, and hold my breath.

On to less depressing subjects…

It never hurts to keep things in perspective, but man it’s getting pretty hard to do it with this bunch. Everything I imagined for this team a week ago cam to fruition in the opening pre-season game against the Lakers, when Chris Paul was dominating on both ends and D’ Andre Jordan was catching lobs and Chauncey Billups was burying wide-open jumpers.

Point is, this is gonna be a scary bunch.

Today, this is a loaded team featuring two superstars, a proven veteran with ice water in his veins and two solid role players in the starting five. Oh, and did I mention the solid, professional bench?

This team is proof positive that anything can happen in this world if you wait around long enough.

I mean, the Clippers are contenders.

The Best Case: Dare we dream?

I’m all for not getting ahead of myself, but this is a scary team right now. Not tomorrow, not next year, but right this moment. Given a little more time to establish some continuity, who knows how good they can be? Sure, they’ll need to ratchet up the defense if they really want to hit the big time, but I’d say having Jordan in the middle and Paul on the perimeter is a good start.

What we do know for certain is that this team can expect a minimum of forty wins and a top 4 spot in the Western conference as long as they stay reasonable healthy.

And yo know what’s really scary? The L.A, Clippers record for victories in a season is 47, and this team has a decent shot at breaking that in a 66 game season.

Can you believe it?

The Worst Case: At the risk of sounding like a broken record: Injuries.

Other than that, I’m not sure what would stop them from being a really good team. So long as Paul doesn’t re-injure his knee or Blake Griffin doesnt kill himself on an alley-oop attempt, this team should be good to go.

The Bottom Line: It’s a new day in Clipperland. Just how good they’ll be from day one is up for debate, but this team is headed for unprecedented success, both on the court and in the wallet. Either way, they’ll be among the most exciting teams to watch on a nightly basis, and the daily “which LA team is better” debate will rage on for the entire season, if not longer.

Yeah, they’ll have to worry about getting Griffin and Paul to sign-on for the long haul, but that’s a problem for another day. For now, it’s should be a most unforgettable Clipper season.

Sounds like fun.

-John Hathwell


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