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I Really Don't Get This

What am I missing here?

I mean, obviously I know that I'm a Clipper fan and therefore I may not be totally objective.  And I likewise know that ClipsNation is likely in for a difficult season.  But when John Hollinger predicts that the Clippers are going to win only 20 games, or Marc Stein picks them 28 in the entire league in his Power Rankings, as a semi-sentient basketball-savvy individual, I just don't get it.

Let's see, they won 40 games last season and that was considered a disappointment.  They were tied for 16th in the NBA, they were 9th in the West and they were within 2 games of 7th in the West.  Some pretty amazingly bad things have to happen for a team to go from 16 to 28 and from 9 to 14 or 15 in a single season.  Moreover, you're talking about a team going from the top 8 in the NBA to the very bottom in two seasons.  That's a spectacular collapse, and you really have to justify it.

At least Stein had Minnesota behind the Clippers in his Power Rankings.  Two out of ten of the 'experts' on the ESPN Preview Dime have the Clippers dead last in the Western Conference (Hollinger and Jemele Hill) and two more have them 14th out of 15 (Chad Ford and Chris Broussard).  Interestingly, Stein has them at 11 after having them at 14 in the Power Rankings.  I guess they've improved quite a bit in the last couple weeks.

Look, I get one thing.  Elton Brand, their leading scorer and best player is out for part of the season.  That's bad, I know.  But you know what would be worse?  If your leading scorer and best player were gone for ALL of the season!

There are three teams in the Western Conference (Minnesota, Seattle and Portland) who lost their leading scorer and best player from last season, and unlike Elton Brand, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Zach Randolph aren't coming back.  Hell, Seattle lost their second leading scorer too.  And we're talking about teams that were significantly worse than the Clippers last season.  Those three teams each lost at least 8 more games than the Clippers in 06-07.

I'm saying, if you're picking any one of these teams to be finish ahead of the Clippers this year, you need a better reason than 'Elton Brand is hurt.'  Picking Minnesota as anything other than the worst team in the West, even before Antoine Walker waddled into town, is just irresponsible.  As for Portland and Seattle, sure they've got some exciting young players.  But does anyone seriously expect Seattle to be BETTER THIS SEASON with Kevin Durant and Jeff Green instead of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis?  REALLY?  And Greg Oden isn't even playing this season.  So now you've got Channing Frye trying to replace Zach Randolph's production.  Good luck with that.  Neither of those teams has a scorer as good as Cutttino Mobley, let alone Corey Maggette (at least not one whose allowed to buy alcohol).

There's plenty to be excited about in Seattle and Portland.  They have young talent, and soon they will have cap space to go after free agents to add to that young talent.  The three year plan looks great.  But the one year plan is to LOSE - and get another high draft pick to feed into the three year plan.  

Is it possible that the Clippers will be the worst team in the West, or even the second worst team?  Sure, anything is possible.  It's like everyone says, look at Memphis.  But it seems like everyone thinks that Memphis-sans-Pau is the standard.  "Sure, that's just what happens when you're star power forward is injured."  Um, no it's not!  When Sacramento lost Chris Webber for half the season they played great.  Memphis-sans-Pau was a completely unprecedented event - to go from 4th in the West to 15th.  No one expected it to happen to them, and I see no reason to think that it will happen again.  (By the way, Memphis-avec-Pau was 17-43, so while you can reasonably expect them to be a little better this season, picking them ahead of the Clippers is another pretty big leap.  17-43 would give you 23 wins on the full 82 game season.  The Grizzlies won 22 overall.  In other words, their problems went WAY BEYOND 'Pau was hurt.'  They were just as bad with the guy.)  

So while it's possible that the Clippers could collapse completely, it's certainly not likely.  Pick them 11 or 12 in the West... that's fine, that's justifiable.  But 14 or 15?  Give me a break.    

By the way, check out our friend Kevin from ClipperBlog on the ESPN Preview Dime.  He is featured in box number 5, 'TrueHoop wants to know' asking a few hypothetical questions of Elgin Baylor.  Now you may be wondering why Kevin got the call for that gig and not your beloved ClipperSteve.  Well, the fact that Kevin is one of Henry's guest bloggers on TrueHoop probably didn't have anything to do with it.  It's all political anyway.  But I'm not bitter.  Great job, Kevin.  Whatever.