Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Sekou’s team-crush aside, have you seen anything that convinces you the Clippers are a title threat? If so, what?
Steve Aschburner: Nope, haven’t seen it yet. But then, I haven’t seen much that would convince me of that with most teams yet. Too early. We’ll know more about the Clippers in 10 days, for instance, after their trip to San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Brooklyn and Atlanta. But what has been impressive has been L.A.’s bench, which carried them past the Hawks in the first game the Clippers failed to score 100 points. Jamal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe, Matt Barnes and Rony Turiaf all fit, and if Lamar Odom could approach his form of 2-3 seasons ago, look out. That depth will help the starters over the long haul. And if Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups can return and be effective in shorter minutes, well, then there’ll be some serious convincing going on.
Fran Blinebury: If the Thunder offense continues to look discombobulated, if the Lakers can’t flip the switch with D’Antoni, if one of the aging Spurs suddenly pulls something, why not the Clippers? Jamal Crawford has juiced the offense, DeAndre Jordan has raised his game and Chris Paul is still Chris Paul. But I still want more out of Blake Griffin at both ends to be sold.
Jeff Caplan: Yeah, I like this team. I don’t know that Blake Griffin is developing the type of dominant, low-post game so many of us envision, but they are a deep, deep team and will still get veteran leader Chauncey Billups back at some point. Six players are averaging in double figures and they’re shooting nearly 50 percent as a team while holding opponents to 43 percent. I do like the progression of DeAndre Jordan‘s game as well. Jordan and Griffin’s terrible free-throw shooting is scary and I still feel like they swoon in and out of games at times. But, with Chris Paul running the show, lots of young legs and good shooting and the West wide open, this group can contend.
Scott Howard-Cooper: I have seen Chris Paul early this season, I have seen Jamal Crawford early this season, I have seen someone appearing to be Eric Bledsoe go past in a blur early this season. So, yes, the Clippers have something. But I have not seen Grant Hill or Chauncey Billups, so it’s difficult to say for sure exactly what the Clips have, and the focus has also been inconsistent. It would not be a shock if they win the West, if that answers the question. I just don’t think they are at the very top of the list of contenders. And Sekou does not have a team crush. He has a city crush. He’s got the Los Angeles D-Fenders sweeping through the playoffs if it gets him to L.A. to cover the NBA D-League championship series.
John Schuhmann: They currently rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, which is where you need to be if you want to call yourself a contender. Most important is the defensive improvement, which really showed in last Wednesday’s win over the Spurs, just one of their three quality wins so far. But it’s early and we’ll see if they can sustain that over 82 games. The one thing I don’t like about the Clips is the lack of depth on the frontline, especially with how bad Lamar Odom has looked thus far. If they can’t count on him, they really have nothing behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Sekou Smith: The Memphis “Hang Time” Grizzlies are Exhibit A in my “team-crush” case. But the Clippers absolutely have the necessary combination of superstar talent (Chris Paul, Blake Griffin), quality depth (Jamal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe, Matt Barnes, etc.) and seasoned leadership (Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler and Paul) required for inclusion to the championship-caliber conversation. There are only a handful of teams every season that possess those things. The Clippers join the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers as the only teams in the Western Conference in that conversation. The Clippers have also shown in their bouts against the highest quality competition that they are prepared to battle with the best whenever the occasion calls for it, which is always a telling sign, even in the early stages of a season.