There's plenty of time for the NBA offseason to change the outlook on next year's contenders, but given the talent level the L.A. Clippers have, we better be ready for that hype train to only pick up speed as time goes on.
With the recent report that John Wall will sign with the Clippers after he's freed from Houston, a roster that already stayed afloat without Kawhi Leonard all year, and a good portion without Paul George looks that much better getting both All-Stars back and adding some much-needed talent at point guard.
The expectations are sky-high for the "other" team in Los Angeles.
Is It Different This Time?
That Wall report alone saw all kinds of movement for the Clippers' title odds, with them now behind the Warriors at BetMGM to +600, with Golden State in at 5 to 1. Over at DraftKings it's now even closer, with both the Clippers and Warriors currently co-favorites at +550.
It gets even closer at FanDuel, which not only has L.A. and Golden State at +600, but also the Bucks and Celtics to give us a four-way tie (it's about time the Bucks got some respect). Caesars hasn't moved nearly as much, though, with the Warriors leading the way still (+550), followed by Boston (+600), and then the Clippers (+700).
We've been down this road for years with this organization, though. Finally breaking through to the Western Conference Finals two years ago was a major step, but dating back to the Chris Paul era, this team has constantly underachieved.
Sure, it's unfair to compare a previous roster and coaching staff to what we have now, but it still sits in the back of your mind, and rightfully so.
Kawhi has the ninth-best odds to win MVP in 2023, and if he can return to the form we saw that carried the Raptors to their only NBA title not long ago, you're likely to see him jump on that list, and obviously put the Clippers in a position to contend in the west.
"I think the sky is the limit for our team," owner Steve Ballmer recently said. "It'll be our effort, our energy. Of course, you got to have a little good luck to win the Larry O'Brien Trophy, which is what we really like."
Luck is always a part of this, but in reality, they'll go as far as PG-13 and Leonard take them. Wall has shown he's got enough left in the tank to be a third option for a team after he averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists in 40 games in 2020-21 before sitting out all of last season. That's not only an upgrade, but a nice fit for his next chapter, and coupled with the rest of their depth that helped get this team to the play-in tournament, you have to feel at least luke-warm about something different this time around.
"I think if we stay healthy next year," Ballmer said, "we are going to be having a chance to talk way late into the [postseason]. How's that?"
Honestly, it's not crazy Steve. I'm still hesitant to put down anything on a team that always comes up short, but for the first time in a long time, there's a new sense of legit confidence surrounding this team, and it's actually reasonable to start considering the Clippers a threat to the Warriors' crown next year.