The Los Angeles Clippers have had a busy off-season, there are no doubts about that.
The new squad that has been assembled will be put the test immediately. Eleven of the Clippers first 17 games are against playoff teams from last season. This isn’t including two games against the Timberwolves who are now a strong team with Kevin Love’s return. The Clippers will have eight nationally televised games in the first month. On opening night, they will begin their championship campaign against the Lakers in the Staples Center.
It will be hard to judge this Clippers team in the first month because they will still be learning to play together. With five new additions to the roster and a new coach there will be a learning curve. In addition, they will face an eight game stretch which starts in Miami and includes a trip to Houston, two games against the Thunder, two against the Timberwolves, a matchup with a revamped Brooklyn team, and a battle with rival Memphis. Four of these games will be nationally televised, adding pressure to start fast.
The Clippers biggest weakness is at the small forward position, where there is no clear starter. Matt Barnes, Jared Dudley, and Reggie Bullock are all good players, but my confidence in Dudley is low and Barnes is great off the bench and should remain in that 7th man role.
The Clippers stable of small forwards will be tested as they go against the likes of LeBron James, Andre Iguodala, Chandler Parsons(twice), Paul Pierce, Kevin Durant(twice), Luol Deng, and Carmelo Anthony. The amount of offensive fire power the Clippers will face at the three position should allow Reggie Bullock to showcase his strong defensive game. At the same time this will give Bullock an opportunity to develop his incomplete offensive skill set. As raw as Bullock is, the Clippers will need to rely on his defense early on this season.
Despite all the challenges this Los Angeles team will face in the first month, they still have the best point guard in the league, one of the best coaches in the league, and the deepest bench in the league. Don’t forget about Blake Griffin, who has been working hard to expand upon his offensive game. I believe that Griffin’s toughness will be on a level not yet seen from the 6 foot 10 inch forward thanks to Doc. My prediction for the Clips the first month of the season is an 11-6 record, which I see as a success. It will be interesting to see how they fare in the month of November considering the lack of time this group will have played together.