Welcome to the first installment of the Power Rankings Roundup, a weekly column that will conveniently aggregate (and likely quibble with) Monday’s updated rankings from major national media sources. Without further ado, let’s see what the pundits have to say about the Clippers’ prospects for the 2016-2017 season.
ESPN (Marc Stein) — 4
Is this the second-best team in the West? Is the gap between the Warriors and Clippers/Spurs so dramatic that we shouldn't even bother asking? Do we need to include the obligatory line you're supposed to throw out about the Clips at the start of every season about how the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin-DeAndre Jordan trio better win ... or else? We wish the Clips' offseason inspired fresher questions, but it didn't.
CBS Sports (Matt Moore) — 4
They ran back the same team but you're still left with concerns about chemistry. This squad still has two top-tier players and two top-tier role players and might have given the Warriors some real trouble if, you know, a cacophony of terrible fate hadn't landed on their heads.
NBC Sports (Kurt Helin) — 4
I didn’t love their offseason — Cole Aldrich was good for them and will be missed, they still have Luc Mbah a Moute as their starting three, and they overpaid Austin Rivers — but they kept the core together including Jamal Crawford. With the Thunder taking a step back the odds of the Clippers reaching a conference Finals just went up.
Sports Illustrated (Jeremy Woo) — 4
Maybe this is the last ride for the enigma formerly known as Lob City, and at this point, sky-high expectations are valid.
Bleacher Report (Grant Hughes) — 6
Unless you think rookies Diamond Stone and Brice Johnson are going to contribute major minutes, the Los Angeles Clippers enter the 2016-17 season a little older and a little thinner than a year ago. Aldrich and Green are gone from the rotation, leaving a void up front. Still, as long as Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan are around, the Clips are a threat to secure a top-four seed. As has been the case for the last three years or so, they're also a key injury to a real contender away from barging into the conference finals conversation. Realistically, L.A. is bringing back the same group that broke down and fell short a year ago. This figures to be a fine regular-season team, but it's probably not one we can count on to do serious postseason damage.
It should come as no surprise that the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are locks for the top two spots in the rankings, and while I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Clippers leapfrog the San Antonio Spurs into the three spot sooner rather than later, I have no qualms with giving national treasure Coach Pop the benefit of the doubt. The general consensus then is that the Clippers slot in at number four, which sits just right with me. This year’s iteration is about as close as we’ve had to a known quantity in recent years. Sure, there are new arrivals to integrate and departures to mourn (miss you already, Cole), but the core is back, healthy, and should hit the ground running. We know what this team is capable of in the regular season and I see no reason to believe that they will deviate from the consistent output that has delivered four consecutive 50+ win seasons.
The only outlier, Bleacher Report has the Clippers behind both the Utah Jazz (4) and the Boston Celtics (5). I can see the case for the Celtics, my pick to snag the two-seed in the East, as they brought in rock-solid Al Horford to anchor the team’s defense and give them a reliable low-post scoring option, but the Jazz at #4? That’s ludicrous. Sure, I like what they did this offseason by trading for underrated George Hill and signing savvy vets Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson. Add those three to their young, versatile core and I expect them to make some noise in the very-competitive West, but ranking them that high, especially with Gordon Hayward set to miss the first month of the season, is just letting the hype-train go off the rails. Luckily we won’t have to wait long to see how they stack up against the Clippers — they’ll meet on Sunday for LA’s home opener.