AOL.com's Preseason NBA Power Rankings: 5. Los Angeles Clippers
We're now just one week away from the official beginning to the NBA season, which means it's almost time to wrap up our daily team preview and power ranking series. But before we call it an offseason and focus on the wins and losses, there's still a bit more speculating to do.
Yesterday, we explained our choice for the Chicago Bulls at No. 6 in Fred Hoiberg's first season at the helm of an NBA team. Today at the five spot, we have one of the West's powerhouses -- but one that is still looking to take the leap into Conference Finals territory for the first time.
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It seems to be the question asked every October in Los Angeles: Do the Clippers have enough to finally break through the Western Conference? But, still, it's up for debate, despite Blake Griffin only improving and DeAndre Jordan (eventually) re-upping with the team long-term. The Western Conference, as brutally competitive as it has been over the last decade, could be better than it has ever been.
It says a lot that a team with a top-three point guard, a top all-around threat in Blake Griffin and a top-level rim protector and rebounder in DeAndre Jordan is hardly a lock to contend for a title -- but that's the scenario given the climate out West.
But this Clippers team has the potential to be even better than the one that tied for the second-best record in the West in 2014-15 with 56 wins. Paul Pierce is on board, and despite turning 38 earlier this month, the forward shot 39 percent from three-point range last year on 303 attempts.
He'll presumably join a starting five with Paul, Griffin, Jordan and J.J. Reddick -- essentially replacing Matt Barnes' role. Jamal Crawford has remained on board as the sixth man and bench scoring option, while Lance Stephenson should serve as the second guard off the bench -- a seemingly ideal role for the 25-year-old coming off a miserable campaign with the Charlotte Hornets.
Wesley Johnson has been added to provide two-way depth in the frontcourt and Pablo Prigioni should be able to handle third-string minutes at the point. Josh Smith returns as a scoring option on the second team and Cole Aldrich has been added as a backup center after two decent season with the Knicks in that role.
From top to bottom, the Clippers may be the most talented team in the league. With depth no longer an issue, it's easy to expect more big things from Doc Rivers' team. But competing against the Rockets, Spurs and defending champion Warriors, they'll need every bit of that depth to finally take the crucial step in the West.
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