With the Clippers continuing to win without Chris Paul, and Paul's potential return on the immediate horizon, the pundits who write power rankings are suddenly quite bullish on the Clippers. It's actually not all that sudden -- the Clippers have climbed steadily in the rankings since they were first downgraded in the wake of Paul's separated shoulder -- but statistically things haven't changed all that much, and yet the Clippers keep moving up in the collective consciousness.
The two best teams in the NBA right now are pretty clearly the Thunder and the Pacers, and they are 1-2 in every ranking this week (with the exception of the mercurial Matt Moore who has the Heat ahead of the Pacers). After that, every team has some blemishes on their record, and the Clippers have the advantage of being the team who is about to get the best point guard in the league back into their lineup. Marc Stein has them third overall this week, and it's not all that ridiculous. No one else has them that high, but it's worth noting that there's certainly no consensus as to who should be considered the third best team in the league right now. Given San Antonio's injury issues and Miami's general lack of form, and Portland's general slide since a red hot start, the Clippers can make as good a claim as anyone.
The real question for the Clippers right now is whether they've played their best basketball of the season yet. With Paul returning soon, they'll have their starting backcourt together for the first time since the first month of the season. Given that the team was still struggling on the defensive end back then and is better (if still not great) now, it's very easy to make a case that the Clippers team we'll be seeing over the final 10 weeks of the season is going to be better -- perhaps much better -- than anything we've seen so far.
The average ranking for the week (after tossing out the highest ranking and the lowest ranking) is 4.6.
|ESPN.com||Marc Stein||3||Nothing quite matches the 16-0 December that L.A. rung up last season. But its 12-4 mark in January, with Chris Paul's bad shoulder allowing him to play in only two of the games, is tied for the second-winningest month in team history. And now CP3 is poised to return to work this week.|
|Yahoo.com||Marc Spears||4||Chris Paul, out since Jan. 3 with a shoulder injury, said he needs to play one game to be comfortable enough to play in the All-Star Game on Feb. 16.|
|CBS Sports||Matt Moore||6||They're hanging without Chris Paul, so credit Doc Rivers' coaching and Blake Griffin's play. They could use a post-All-Star run to make you feel better, though.|
|SI.com||Matt Dollinger||4||The Clippers not only have the best point guard in the league, but the best backup, too. L.A. is 12-4 when Darren Collison starts this year, with the fifth-year guard averaging 14.3 point, 6.1 assists and 50.0 percent shooting from three-point range when he's in the first five.|
|Pro Basketball Talk||Kurt Helin||5||Our own D.J. Foster wrote about this earlier in the season then Zach Lowe of Grantland covered it last week - if you think Blake Griffin is a one-dimensional dunker with no post game or midrange shot I would say you haven't watched him play this season. They are on the road Monday night in Denver for the ninth time in 11 games, then they are home though the All-Star break.|
|NBA.com||John Schuhmann||4||From the start of the season, it's seemed like the Clippers needed one more veteran big man. But the vets that they've signed have been Stephen Jackson and Hedo Turkoglu, with Sasha Vujacic reportedly on the way this week. They have been really good offensively playing small (with Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan as the only big on the floor), but in less than 500 minutes of total playing time.|
|NBA.com||David Aldridge||4||You wonder if the Clips are satisfied with their current stock of small forwards.|
|SB Nation||Jason Patt||5||While the Clippers did get pounded at Golden State on Thursday, that has been their only loss in the last six games. The upcoming schedule in February is challenging, but Chris Paul should be back soon to provide a boost to a team that has played extremely well without him.|
|Sheridan Hoops||Kamenetsky Brothers||N/A||No rankings this week|
|USA Today||6||Chris Paul hopes to play in the All-Star Game in his old city, New Orleans.|