I've been surprised by the rampant pessimism that has greeted the Clippers upcoming season among the so-called experts. While the prospects of playing without Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston are daunting, to think the Clippers will be worse than the Timberwolves (as two out of the 10 panel members at ESPN.com did) is just silly.
Marc Stein had the Clippers ranked 28th in his pre-camp Power Rankings, and although he did at least have them in front of the Wolves, 28 still seemed crazy. In his updated Rankings just prior to the regular season, the Clippers have climbed 4 spots to 24. More importantly, he now has the Clippers ahead of three other Western Conference teams, the Blazers, Sonics and Kings.
This seems more reasonable. Here's Stein's explanation for the change:
You're just noticing? Of course nothing has really changed for Seattle and Portland - they have the same roster they had going into camp. Sure Roy and Aldridge and Durant have had some minor injuries, but nothing that isn't to be expected, and none of them are supposed to miss significant time with their current injuries. Stein is essentially admitting that he overreacted to Brand's injury initially, which is certainly what it seemed like to me. In Sacramento's case, an already bad situation certainly got worse when Mike Bibby was lost for the first two months.
Here's what I find most interesting: as I've been saying all along, the Hornets and Lakers and to a lesser extent the Grizzlies look to be the teams fighting for the final playoff spot in the West. Stein has them at 8, 10 and 9 in the West respectively. Looking at those three teams, suddenly the playoffs just don't seem that implausible.