What to make of the Los Angeles Clippers

You remember the Los Angeles Clippers, right? Swooped in and traded for Chris Paul after the Lakers deal fell through and vaulted to the top half of the Western Conference standings, made it to the second round for only the second time in club history only to get swept by your San Antonio Spurs in the second round.  Initially the Clippers expectations for this coming season were high, like could they be the best team in LA high.  But with the additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, the Clippers moved to the back of everyone's mind when it came to expectations.  Are they still going to be a second round playoff team or will another year of cohesion and growth in their young players make for a more dangerous Clippers squad moving forward?

The Clippers kept their starting five in tact and overhauled their bench in the offseason.  They traded for Lamar Odom, signed Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Matt Barnes, Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf.  You could do worse with the limited cap flexibility they had.  Lamar Odom can't play any worse than he did for Dallas last season and even if he plays close to his maximum capability he's an upgrade over Kenyon Martin as a third big.  They key for the Clippers' second unit is going to be how much Eric Bledsoe develops, because he showed in the playoffs that he can be a big problem for teams, especially the Spurs.

That brings us to Chris Paul and the rest of the starting five.  Paul is still the best point guard in basketball and a full training camp with Blake Griffin should do wonders for their chemistry.  What remains to be seen is whether Griffin can improve his mid-range jumper, which would pretty much make defending a Paul/Griffin two man game impossible.

This feels like the same Clippers team from last season that the Spurs swept in the second round, but that also a team with both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin not a 100 percent and no Chauncey Billups (I'll let you decide if that's good or bad).  This is probably the fourth best team in the Western Conference, capable of pushing the three ahead of them to a six or seven game series.  This is also a make or break year for this team since both Paul and head coach Vinny Del Negro are in the final year of their contracts.

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