There is no question that the starpower superfriends of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol have more recognition and pedigree than the Clips’ All-Star duo of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Nevertheless, Lob City can go ten deep with some formidable rotations.
It must be made clear that the team with the better record is not always the better team overall.
In the 2008-09 and 2009-10 NBA seasons, LeBron James lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference. Despite the team's regular season brilliance, the Cavs were unable to make it to the NBA Finals in either year.
Rings are everything, but regular season records have tremendous implications on playoff seeding and matchups.
Both the Clippers and the Lakers are far from a finished project, but each team should find its mojo sooner rather than later. In terms of continuity, the Clippers have the edge in that they do not have to integrate as many crucial components into their gameplan as their Staples Center co-tenants.
Here is why the Clippers will shock the NBA and finish with a better regular season record than the Lakers.
With some of the best young talent in the league, the Clippers have the pieces to keep them consistently on the floor once the wear and tear of the regular season sets in.
Their ability to stay on the floor will have even greater implications once the NBA season moves on.
Since missing the beginning of last season while recovering from knee surgery, Bledsoe has been a consistent staple in the Clips’ rotation and the primary relief for Chris Paul.
The ever-durable DeAndre Jordan has missed a total of two games since the 2009-10 campaign. After sitting out his entire rookie season with a knee injury, Blake Griffin has started and played in every subsequent game for the Clips.
In contrast to the veteran Lakers, the Clippers have the power of youth, and the durability that comes with younger legs.
The same is not true for the Lakers.
Kobe Bryant is renowned for his toughness and ability to play through injury, but even he has been hobbled this season. Dwight Howard’s back is still an issue and could result in some time off the court if it becomes aggravated again.
Even the ageless Steve Nash has been forced to miss time with injury.
With so many key players susceptible to lingering injuries, the Lakers could find some of their star players in street clothes during different chunks of the season.
Coach Mike Brown and Kobe Bryant have been there before and will likely preach patience for the team. Given the success of the Lakers over the last five years, the regular season is really a tune-up for the playoffs.
The Lakers, as constructed, are built for April. The purple and gold's emphasis on the postseason could be enough for the Clippers to squeak by LAL and steal the Pacific Division title.
The Clippers can go ten deep and then some. Their second unit is regarded among the best in the NBA.
From the budding development of Bledsoe and Jordan, to the prime of Chris Paul, to the veteran leadership of Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups, the Clippers not only possess a strong likelihood for solid team chemistry, but are arguably the deepest team in the league.
LAC is not even at full strength yet. Once Hill and Billups are on the floor, this team will be even deeper and scary good.
Across the hall, the Lakers do not have the same sort of luxuries.
The bench is rather porous and unassuming, putting even more pressure on the Lakers starting five.
Steve Blake’s inability to stand in for Steve Nash in the first couple games of the season is a manifestation of the Lakers’ bench woes.
Come playoff time, the Lakers may be able to rely heavily on their starting five in a seven game series.
The regular season is a different story, however. With constant travel and back-to-back games, the depth of the purple and gold has to be concerning.
Still Figuring it Out
Although the Clippers brought in multiple new pieces, the major parts are the same as last season. The starting five is intact, and an offseason together should improve their continuity.
Expect a few speed bumps once Billups returns, but there really should be no chemistry issues with the Clippers' starters.
Rather than molding the rotation players to fit the offense, the Clippers brought in complementary players that would excel in their screen and roll gameplan.
The Clippers did not look especially incredible in their first few games, but they did show what they were capable of in solid wins over the Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies.
On the other hand, the Lakers are not only trying to acclimate Nash and Howard to the team, but are also working on implementing a new offense.
The Lakers’ integration of the new Princeton offense will be a longer process than some might have expected. The team's pedestrian 0-3 start was evidence that executing a new offense takes time.
Once the Lakers figure it out, they will be among the most formidable squads in the league. They showed hints of brilliance in their dominance of the Detroit Pistons in their first regular season win.
LAL will hit its stride eventually, they have way too much talent not to. But a similar case can be made for the Clippers.
Both teams will get it right, but which will figure it out faster could dictate playoff seeding.
The Clippers' dominance over the Lakers in their first meeting demonstrated some of the early season development gap between the two teams. On both sides of the ball, the Clippers looked like a more complete team.
Tying up the loose ends quickly could be enough for the Clippers to capture that ever-elusive Pacific Division title and finish the regular season with a better record than their Staples Center co-tenants.