Blogtable: A surprising champion

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe 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.


BLOGTABLE: Memories | One to watch | A surprise champ


A darkhorse? Maybe not, but the Clippers could still be a surprise in June. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

A darkhorse? Maybe not, but the Clippers could still be a surprise in June. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

> Your definition, your choice, your reasoning: Your darkhorse pick to win the NBA title.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comDo the Clippers qualify as a dark horse? I’d argue yes and pick them, because that insta-champion business – last witnessed in Boston in June 2008 – is no simple thing. Doc Rivers might wind up as the link from the last one to the next one if his ability to manage both his roster and the unique challenges of the postseason mesh just so. The Clippers clearly have the talent, both to survive the West and to topple the three-peat-aiming Miami Heat.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: In the past, the Clippers were just Lob City and a bunch of nightly highlight reel dunks.  In his first season as coach, Doc Rivers has given them a sense of purpose and direction.  He’s demanded and gotten more out of Blake Griffin.  He’s gotten DeAndre Jordan to play with confidence and consistency.  Of course, he’s got the best point in the game in Chris Paul running the show.  A healthy J.J. Redick gives them the outside shooting to keep defenses honest and Matt Barnes defends on the wing.  They are deeper than ever with Jamal Crawford again making a run at Sixth Man of the Year and get help from Darren Collison, Jared Dudley, Glen Davis and Danny Granger.  Rivers knows what it takes to run the playoff gauntlet and his ability to inject a new sense of personal responsibility and commitment to the task has these Clippers looking and playing vastly different than the past few years.  They are a dark horse, but one that you wouldn’t mind saddling up for a ride.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Houston. The Rockets are remarkably young, but also remarkably talented. They’ve got the perimeter (James Harden) and the middle (Dwight Howard) covered by All-Stars, plus shooters all around. Omer Asik behind Howard provides 48 minutes of crucial rim protection. They can be their own worst enemy, especially defensively, but put it all together and they can give any opponent nightmares.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I don’t put the Clippers in the darkhorse category, but a lot of other people seem to, so that’s the pick. The Clips certainly aren’t sneaking up on anyone — Blake Griffin, CP3, Lob City, Doc Rivers — but I’ve gotten the question a few times the last couple weeks: Is it possible someone other than the Spurs or Thunder would win the West? Sure it is. The team that was a realistic pick from the start of the season.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I’ve wavered back and forth on whether to deem the Thunder a darkhorse or not. But my final answer is the Clippers. Their defense hasn’t really held up against good teams, but their offense is near unstoppable, especially if J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford are healthy.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Can we really call a team with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford and Doc Rivers as coach really be considered a “dark horse?” I hope so, because the Los Angeles Clippers are my pick. They have all of the ingredients — star power, depth, balance, experience, etc. — needed to make their way to the championship round and win it all. We’ll find out of they are tough enough to endure the grind of making it that far. But there is no doubt in my mind that all of the pieces are in place. Blake’s work this season while CP3 was out and the overall improvement to DeAndre Jordan’s game are the two wild cards for the Clippers. They had to come back with those guys having improved their respective games for me to believe in them. And they did exactly what they had to do.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball Blog: My definition of a darkhorse is a team nobody is picking. My choice, well, that’s more complicated. I would have mentioned Golden State, but to me the Andrew Bogut injury might take them out of the running. I’ll throw a team out there: Houston. The Rockets strike me as a team that haven’t hit their stride just yet. They have it all: scoring, a strong interior presence, a tough perimeter defender, depth. Every year, there’s a team that gets hot and goes on a run in the postseason. Perhaps this spring we’ll see the Rockets’ red glare.

Simon Legg, NBA Australia: I’ve been saying a lot lately that I think only five teams can win the title (two from the East and three from the West) so my selection probably won’t sound like a dark horse. Anyway, I’m going with the Clippers as the only team outside of the Spurs and Thunder who can win the West and then, challenge for a title. We all know about their credentials offensively and they have two top-10 players, but the aspect of their game that has impressed me the most this season has been their defence, the achilles heel of this team under Vinny Del Negro. Now, with Doc Rivers in charge, they have transformed into a top-10 defensive unit and thus, can challenge for a title.

Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: I think the Nets really have a chance to hug the Larry O’Brien trophy in June. They were out of contention after a 10-21 start, but Jason Kidd somehow transformed a bunch of great players into a team around January and now they have the momentum, the depth, the experience and the talent to upset both Indiana and Miami and made it to the Finals. They need to be healthy, but they have a chance.

Adriano Albuquerque, NBA Brasil: I guess the Clippers qualify as a dark horse contender. The major favorites have to be Miami, San Antonio and OKC, though not necessarily in that order, right? Indiana, the Clippers and Houston are the dark horses. I pick LA’s representative. Their defense still isn’t all that great, but it’s much better than it was when the season started. They have a coach who has won a ring – one of only four championship-winning coaches still in the tournament – they added key veterans with Finals experience via free agency late in the season, and I feel that Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have matured enough to absorb the punishment they will take from teams still questioning their toughness, especially Golden State, their opponents in the first round. Plus, it’s time for Chris Paul to take the wheels and lead a team past the second round, even if he has to beat Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to do it.

38 Comments

  1. Devo says:

    haha all of you that are talking brooklyn will get a slap in your face the raptors will beat them in 6 games. i can bet on it. my darkhorse is the TORONTO!!!

  2. portland fan says:

    Portland is my dark horse. They’ve already stolen homecourt from the rockets… plus, Portland is as tough as any team when they’re at home. And whoever said they dont have a bench and not enough defense…. that’s just funny. They have a decent defense, but a great offense, which is the best defense sometimes…

    Other than that, I think the wizards have a cchance to make alot of noise in the playoffs. As they have shown!!

    To the writer who said there are only four coaches with a championship ring… uhmmm… check again dude. There is at least 5 I can think of off the top of my head. Where do they get these writers?

    For The record, the clippers are sure as hell not a dark horse team.they have one of the best records, a great coach, great starters, a deep bench, and plenty of experience!! No dark horse in L.A.

  3. Chris says:

    Title contender is a huuuuuuge stretch when you’re talking about the Nets.

  4. RedX says:

    What exactly makes the Nets a title contender???? Not just that but you’re disscrediting the Raptors entirely.

  5. jj says:

    The true dark horse and I think can be the contender in the NBA finals is the Brooklyn Nets. Their roster are caliber players that had championship experience, Paul Pierce and KG adding to it are their deep bench players. They will win their Battle against the Raptors and surely beat the Miami Heat in Game 7.Experience will take them to Championship

  6. Edward says:

    With Paul Pierce as a third option in the fourth quarter the Nets can win the East.

  7. Jim Muncy says:

    How can anyone call the Clips a “dark horse.” They have a better record than any team in the east. Objectively, they have a better chance than anyone in the east and about as good a chance as anyone in the west. The Clips are a serious contender not a dark horse. Here is my dark horse. Brooklyn. I think they could easily beat Toronto. Unless we see Miami’s A-game, they could make it to the east finals and they could beat any team in the other bracket (especially if Hibbert continues to be missing in action). Their problem would be that they would then face whoever survives out west. Their only hope there would be that the west team is so beat up from a brutal previous two rounds that they can somehow pull the upset. Still, of all the teams out there, I think Brooklyn has the best shot at being a real “dark horse” (not a true contender like the clips being called a “dark horse”).

  8. NYCE says:

    I see the Nets as my only Dark Horse. They get definitely steal the East.

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      If Deron Williams and Joe Johnson can return to “All Star form,” the Nets could very well steal the East.

  9. Bryan says:

    I can’t stand the NBA sometimes. Clips a darkhorse? 3rd best record in the league… but they’re an outside shot to make a deep playoff run…… Riiiiiiight.

    Griffin not selling enough cars and CP3 not boosting insurance? I got it, let’s try to create some more buzz about them by calling them a “darkhorse” candidate. That way, when they make it to the conf. semi’s we can say we were right all along!

    Bunch of “yes men” writing for this league. What happened to the b-ball?

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      It’s because some of these writers are L.A. fans!!! They just want to cheer for an L.A. team!!

    • Tom Thibodeau says:

      @ Bryan…You completely read my mind. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I guess sometimes the truth has to come from the real fans of basketball. Those who chose the Clippers have no idea of the meaning of dark horse.

  10. Number 13 says:

    Confidence is the last emotion felt before reality sets in.

  11. Marco29 says:

    Clippers are no Darkhose but a legit contender even if I don’t see them beating OKC in the second round.
    For a true darkhorse, I would pick Chicago. Washington should be no problem in the first round and in the second round they could be a though opponent for the Heat (they have won several times against Miami in the regular season). If they make it to the East Finals against the Pacers, it would be an ugly series, very defensive but Bulls have a better offense and a great point center that could carry them to the Finals.

    • Totally agree on the qualification on the Clips. How can people call them a darkhorse this year????
      Agree again on LAC not beating OKC. Despite that if they do beat OKC, than Spurs are going down against LAC.

      A real darkhorse this season are the Nets & Toronto. Net 4-0 against Heat & Toronto is unpredictable.

      But LAC a darkhorse?? U gotta be kiddin’ me!!

  12. Bob M says:

    The Clippers would be a surprising champion. After watching the Clips and GSW, I think the Clippers are not mentally strong enough to win it this year.

    I think the two playoff hardened teams are Miami and San Antonio. I believe that the Spurs will bow out early, as is their custom after a great year.

    I choose Miami. They are not playing well now, but they get in a zone and grind people out. Plus, it’s hard to go against LeBron James.

  13. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    While on this playoff topic, I’d rather face Memphis in the 1st round than the Mavericks. I’m glad Memphis got the 7th seed to face OKC in the 1st round. EASY series win for the Thunder. Thunder are 3 wins and 1 loss against Memphis this season. Westbrook is 100%. Perkins and Sefolosha are back and ready to rock.

    This should be a series sweep, Thunder wins 4 – 0.

    Dallas is actually scarier this season. It is possible they could upset the Spurs in the 1st round. Their starting lineup (Dalembert, Nowitzki, Marion, Ellis, and Calderon) is quite formidable. Dallas can’t beat OKC in a series, anyway, but I think it would be a tougher series than going against the inferior Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis lacks offensive firepower; Thunder are going to storm right past them easily. Dallas’ offense actually has a lot of firepower, compared to Memphis.

  14. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    I predict: Western Conference Finals: OKC Thunder vs. Portland Trailblazers.

    2014 NBA Finals: OKC Thunder vs. Indiana Pacers

    2014 NBA World Champion: OKC Thunder

    If this really happens, I’m going to look like a brilliant genius of some kind. Or a brilliant prognosticator.

    Or not. NBA tends to be predictable, although this season has had a lot of erratic results.

    HOWEVER, the Indiana Pacers’ record is their best in YEARS, despite them playing erratic as of late. THUS, they will be in the Finals against the OKC Thunder.

    If LaMarcus Aldridge is 100% for the whole playoff run, Portland shall return to elite status and reach the WCF against the OKC Thunder.

    The Thunder are the West #2 Seed; however, they are 4 wins and 0 losses against the West #1 Seeded Spurs.

    Thunder are clearly the best team in the West and in basketball.

    • U on drugs again dude???

      Rockets & LAC are going to the 2nd round.
      Do u really think that GSW is gonna win the series with small ball as a strategy?? The paint is an open house dude….LAC has 2 guys that can only dunk so how stupid is that strategy??

      At least I do agree with u on a sweep for OKC & that they are the best in the West. All the rest u wrote is garbage (as usual)

      OKC – Heat finals

      • Joshua Greenfarb says:

        Testing. 1, 2, 3. Testing. 1, 2, 3.

      • Joshua Greenfarb says:

        Darn it, stop deleting my rebuttals to Bstarr NBA Holland. That’s the second time! Let me set the record straight with this person! Hahahahahaahaha!!

      • Joshua Greenfarb says:

        I have never ever done drugs before. NEVER HAVE, NEVER WILL. I believe in living a life of purity.

      • Joshua Greenfarb says:

        Thus, you are wrong about me.

        Maybe you are wrong about some of your NBA predictions, too, eh? :-)

      • Joshua Greenfarb says:

        If Aldridge is 100%, watch and learn…

        If the Splash Brothers and Jordan Crawford get hot in that series, watch and learn…

      • Joshua Greenfarb says:

        There is no need for personal attacks (of which are 100% false, to begin with). Your falsities make it extremely hard to believe you over Joshua Greenfarb.

        People will agree with me faster than they agree with you and your false drug use accusations.

        You made yourself look silly.

        You lose.

        How come you get that comment past moderation? Preferential treatment. I guess they let you write whatever you want, huh?

    • mike says:

      This dude sound dumb as ever!!!! Smh

  15. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    I’m gonna laugh when the GS Warriors beat the LA Clippers in the first round.

    Remember: GSW defeated the Denver Nuggets last season in the 1st round, Warriors as 6th seed and Nuggets as 3rd seed.

    Let’s see…: Warriors are 6th seed AGAIN and Clippers are going to lose just like the Nuggets did as the 3rd seed.

    Then, bandwagoners will jump on the Warriors train until it falls off the tracks when they lose in the 2nd round.

    • Oooh son….did I hit a nerve?
      There is no need to take it personal and get off topic. The drug part was pure sarcasm. It’s a blog section & people are free to give their opinion & free to disagree.
      Not to mention that predictions are part of this blog too. No offense but you should work more on your substantiations & realism.

      So wasn’t it you that was saying in Febr. that Portland will end in the top 2 of the West? While others were saying that they only rely on their 5 starters so that’s a big risk….
      And wasn’t it you that was saying that GSW will not make the playoffs & Wolves will make it?? Last time I checked GSW is in, Wolves are way out & u are supporting GSW against LAC….

      So that’s why I did mention the word “garbage”. Oh & talking about people that do agree with you??? I can hardly find them….
      Read for yourself to refresh your memory:

      http://hangtime.blogs.nba.com/2014/02/12/morning-shootaround-feb-12-2/

      http://hangtime.blogs.nba.com/2013/11/11/jamison-and-clippers-play-a-waiting-game/

      Anyway, like I said (if you read my comment right) I do agree with some things that you said. Beside that I do give Portland a 50% chance against Houston. But here is the thing:
      How does Portland going to survive if JHarden gets his usual 15-20 FT’s every game? He penetrates every time so Aldridge & Lopez are targets for foul-trouble. Who do the Blazers call to fix that problem? The Ghostbusters??
      Their bench is not the best in the league & haven’t played a lot. So it would mean that D12, TJones & JHarden will have the paint to party. No D means no victory if you ask me. So that’s why I go with LAC & ROCK.

      However I wish you a happy playoffs. May your team do well.

    • Yave says:

      The difference between the Nuggets from last year and Clippers from this year is that LA has A LOT more offensive fire power than the Nuggets. Denver was an attack the basket team with almost no shooters. LA has guys that can shoot, drive, draw the foul and make free throws. Not to mention that LA has the coaching advantage.

  16. dustydreamnz says:

    For me are the Clippers a dark horse? Yes and no. Yes because the franchise has been largely unsuccessful for so long and no because they were highly rated this season. My dark horse is the Brooklyn Nets.

  17. If everyone is picking the Clippers then they are, by definition, not a darkhorse

  18. lol says:

    Kobe is gunna make a comeback at the playoffs as a referee, he is gunna suprise everyone and be the first referee in NBA history whos gunna win finals MVP.

  19. Chris says:

    I want the Nets to win it at home if they make it that far. The pride of Brooklyn’s crowd is almost comparable to the roar from MSG in the Ewing days. I just want to see the team hoist the trophy with the crowd behind them chanting;

    “BROOOOOKLYN!”

  20. bodjee says:

    Clippers would only be a dark horse if they were playing in NBAD or in Euro-league. They are no longer the underdog but they are not the dark horse either. The Raptors is the team closest to the definition of a dark horse.

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