1. Fact or fiction: The Clippers will host a Game 1 in the 2012 playoffs.
Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: Barring an injury to Chris Paul or Blake Griffin, that should be fact. Last year’s Clippers beat every elite team at least once, thanks to a frontline that dominated the glass and rose to the occasion in big games. This year’s version figures to bring a more consistent effort that should lead to a top-4 finish.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: The Clippers have added plenty of talent, some veteran experience, and definitely some personality, but I don’t see all of that adding up to a team above a 5-seed in the Western Conference this season. The team might find enough chemistry and consistency by the end of the season to look good enough to be a 5-seed or better, though..
Mark Shore, ClipperBlog: Fact. Given the condensed season and shortened training camp, finishing in the top 4 in the West will most likely take 41-43 wins. The Clippers definitely have the talent to finish in that range, but can they put it together in a short amount of time? Their natural chemistry seemed high during the preseason games, so I’ll say yes.
2. Fact or fiction: Anything short of a Finals appearance will be a disappointment.
Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: Fiction, but it’s not far off. I think that a run like the Thunder had last year that ended just short of the Finals could be considered a reasonable first season in this new Clipper universe — as long as it comes without all the drama. You wouldn’t want to see, say, Caron Butler, throwing temper tantrums and shooting more than Blake.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: Fiction. Unless you’re crazy, you probably don’t look at a teamwhose second-best player is only playing his second full season in the league and say that it needs to make the Finals to be considered a success. Having the best point guard in the NBA leading the Clippers creates high expectations, but not quite “Finals- or-bust” high for the Clippers this season.
Mark Shore, ClipperBlog: Fiction. There’s no need to win big right away with this team. The main focus is being competitive enough to entice Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to sign long-term extensions. While a Finals appearance would make that a near certainty, advancing a couple rounds in the playoffs should do the trick.
3. Fact or fiction: The Clippers will hang a banner before 2015.
Charile Widdoes, ClipperBlog: Fact! As long as Paul and Griffin stick around, they will be in the mix every year. I don’t think it takes more than a couple preseason games to see how perfect this situation is for both, so the odds say that they will have a shot to win it all over the next four seasons. I’ll take that bet.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: Fact. Assuming Chris Paul returns next season, the team adds a little more talent, and implements a solid defensive system, the Clippers will be good enough over next season (and the season after) to win their division, the Western Conference, or maybe even the Finals. And good news, even just one of those counts as a banner!
Mark Shore, ClipperBlog: Fact. The Clippers are a move or two away from being serious contenders this season, and they’ve barely even played together yet. Once Paul and Griffin figure each other out and DeAndre Jordan becomes the player that the Clippers expect him to be, they’ll have a championship core in place that should attract other key pieces for a title run.
Twitter: @charliewiddoes, @markshore12, @clipperblognick