Trying out new diary powers.
My reaction to the being near the bottom of the power rankings and predictions of a 15-20 win season is to take a quick look at the schedule. Admittedly a little geeked up on the opening day of training camp, I'm making the optimistic assumption that the Clips have to hold the fort somehow through the first two months of the season, November and December. It's highly doubtful that the calvary--Elton Brand (and Livingston)--will have arrived by that point, but my hopeful feeling is that they should be in sight.
The first two months are crucial. As ClipperSteve mentioned, if they start out 4-16 like the Bobcats did, they're cooked. With that many losses, there's no way Maggette is having a banner season, and he and Cassell are both very much on the trading block. And it's that kind of start that puts you into the position to win less than 20 games, as a domino effect sets in. Brand and Liv take extra time coming back. Maggette and Cassell are gone, for young players and picks. Losing breeds losing.
But my quick breakdown shows the Clips in decent shape. They play 29 games in the first two months. Anything over 15 wins would be fantastic--they would have 55 games to improve on a .500 record, and their playoff hopes would rise with Brand's return. If they can get into double figures they might be okay, but less than 10 wins and the Clips could be in trouble.
The usual rule of road wins vs. home losses applies. 15 of the 1st 29 games are on the road.
I looked at the top 16 teams in the preseason Power Rankings. The Clips play 17 games against these teams, 9 of them on the road.
That leaves 12 games against teams ranked at 17 or below. These are split evenly, 6 home, 6 away. These twelve games are obviously the most important test, and the home losses/road wins rule is especially crucial in these games. The road schedule against these teams is: Ind-Sea-Sac-Char-Mem-LAL. If the Clips are healthy and playing well, they should be able to get some victories in that group. The home six are: Sea-NY-Ind-Mil-Mia-Min. The Clips won't win all of these (Miami is ranked pretty low, but you never know what's going to happen with them), but again, if the Clips have any of the toughness they've shown over the last few years and play with an urgency that was lacking in this portion of the season last year, they're a pretty good home team.
A noble goal is winning 75% of those 12 games against lower tier teams. Road victories over division opponents Sac and LAL would be especially sweet, but aren't necessary for the Clips to take care of business in this portion of the schedule.
The Clips play 5 games against teams ranked 11-16. Three of these are at home: Den-Tor-NO, and they play road games against Den-NJ.
So those would be, logically, the most winnable 17 games, 9 of them at home (and a road Laker game).
Squeaking a few wins out of the other 12 games will be a tricky task, but it's doable if the Clips are playing well. The good news is that the Clips don't play more than one game against any of the top 8 teams except Phoenix. The three games against Phoenix are a big obstacle on the schedule, and road games against SA-Det-Dal are less than promising. The Clips also have road games against GSW-Chi. There's a home game against highly ranked Hou, and home games against Cle-GSW-Chi figure to be the Clips best shot against top ten teams.
It's a challenge, but I must say that I don't really see the Clips losing 75% of these first 29 games.