If you thought basketball and it’s weekly/monthly/annually traditions ever sleep think again. Even amidst the off-season, NBA.com writer John Schuhmann has begun churning out NBA Power Rankings and the Los Angeles Clippers have placed at third behind the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs and Western Conference runner-ups in the Oklahoma City Thunder.
L.A. Clippers (57-25)
Pace: 98.4 (7), OffRtg: 109.4 (1), DefRtg: 102.1 (7), NetRtg: +7.3 (2)
Key addition(s): A hard cap
Key question: Is Spencer Hawes the third big they needed?
No big man combo played more minutes together last season than Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. If Hawes is going to relieve some of the pressure on those two, he has to defend a lot better than he did with Philly and Cleveland. With the Clippers less than $1 million from a hard cap, they have little in-season flexibility.
Schuhmann’s excerpt on the Clippers was brief, but it hinted toward the teams biggest move of the off-season: the addition of Spencer Hawes.
Last season, the Clippers biggest issue, at least depending on who you ask, was their lack of frontcourt depth. After DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, the Clippers basically relied on scraps in order to make up time with those two on the bench. Byron Mullens. Antawn Jamison. Hedo Turkoglu. Danny Granger. Ryan Hollins. Glen Davis. In comparison to his predecessors, Hawes is a giant leap towards progression.
What’s really important here is the Clippers position in the power rankings. For the first time in the franchise’s history, Los Angeles may be looked at as true championship contenders. With LeBron James in Miami, dropping the consensus Eastern Conference favorite has dropped a few notches, opening a space for the Clippers to enter the top-3.
Of course, power rankings mean little. They’re a judgement of how a team looks on paper in comparison to other teams in the league. But third is an excellent starting point for the Clippers.
They can only go up from here.