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.
What’s the prognosis for the Clips without a fully healthy Chris Paul?
Steve Aschburner: Prognosis for the second half? Maybe the Clippers can hang onto their Pacific Division crown to secure a top seed. But if Paul still were bothered by his knee come the playoffs, I think they’d be in trouble. Eric Bledsoe is solid, but Paul’s too important — distributing, defending, closing — to think the Clippers could play at or near their potential through even a first-round series. You know the saying about playoff defenses taking away your first and second options? L.A.’s foes would be able to focus on its second and third options without Paul as a full factor.
Fran Blinebury: About the same as the prognosis for the pole business without firemen and strippers.
Jeff Caplan: Prognosis Negative. The Clippers won’t go very far without a full strength CP3. Just like last season when they were swept out of in the West semis by the Spurs when Paul and Blake Griffin were banged up. The Clips are extraordinarily deep and talented, but without Paul to handle the ball, to exert control over the offense when the game slows down and execution is key, L.A. won’t go far.
Scott Howard-Cooper: The championship hopes are over. The aspirations for a Western Conference title are over. Yes, the Clippers are deep, and, yes, they would have Chauncey Billups (eventually) and Eric Bledsoe to take over at point guard. But Paul is one of the special talents in the league, a threat as a passer or shooter, a defender, a leader. There is still a long time before the question becomes real. But for the sake of conversation, the Clippers would not be able to overcome CP3 laboring in the playoffs.
John Schuhmann: If he’s playing and not 100 percent, then they’re still a pretty good team, because that, at least, keeps their great second unit intact. Their depth is most effective when their starters are playing and their defense is at its best when Eric Bledsoe is out there with Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf. But they’re obviously not nearly on the same level as the Spurs or Thunder if Paul’s not at his best. He’s the engine of their top-five offense.
Sekou Smith: Well, if they don’t have him at full strength for the remainder of the season, that’s a game changer. As deep as they are, Paul is the heart and soul of that team. Eric Bledsoe is a fantastic young talent and great things could be on his horizon in the coming years. But the Clippers need an experienced and steady hand at the controls down the stretch and into the playoffs. Take a look at Boston and see how quickly a team’s fortunes change when they don’t have their All-Star point guard in the mix. Better yet, just go back and look at the difference in the Bulls without Derrick Rose. The Clippers would be in a similar situation without Paul healthy for the duration of this season. With CP3 they have a chance to compete for a spot in the Western Conference finals and ultimately a championship. Without him … they’ll be fishing long before then.