• Kaunda Chama

Are the Clippers the early favourites for the title?

The NBA regular season may only be about three weeks old, but many a pundit is predicting how it will all end – the Los Angeles Clippers have already become the favourites.

The Clippers ended last season with an early Playoffs exit at the hands of the then defending champions Golden State Warriors, who beat them 4-2 in their seven-game first round series.

The clippers threw everything they had at the Warriors, but could not stop a fully loaded Golden State team that was determined to achieve a three-peat and mimic what the Chicago Bulls had done twice in the 90s.

The squad had a decent starting five that includes Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Beverly, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris and Marcin Gortat, as well as a solid bench that had multiple sixth man of the year award winner Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Boban Marjanovic, Ivica Zubac, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

However, what the team lacked was All-Star quality to take them over the hump and give the Clips the deeper postseason run that has eluded the team even as far back as when Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan were running “Lob City” at the Staples Center.

Fast forward to this season, and the Los Angeles Clippers now have two perennial All-Stars in Kawhi Leonard, who led the Toronto Raptors to a championship last season and Paul George, who is basically a great team away from getting his first chip.

The rest of the of the team remains the same apart from Harris, who is now at the Philadelphia 76ers, and Gilgeous-Alexander and Gallinari who went to the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of the package in the George trade.

The Clippers, with their current roster, are considered arguably the best defensive team in the league and have added two of the best two-way players in the NBA at the moment in Leonard and George. It is no wonder they also happen to be the favourites to be the champions, even this early in the season.

However, they will first have to get past teams like the Houston Rockets that have paired James Harden and Russell Westbrook in the backcourt as they push for another try at the title, and the Los Angeles Lakers who have also assembled a formidable squad that is led by LeBron James with Anthony Davis by his side.

Sentiment seems to be that the west will be taken by one of the teams from Los Angeles, but it also looks like the conference will be led by the two-horse race between the teams from Staples Center.

Even though the Lakers have two of the best players in the league in James and Davis with great pieces around them like Kyle Kuzma, Jajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Dwight Howard, Alex Caruso, Quinn Cook, Danny Green and JaVale McGee, the Clippers are considered more solid defensively.

Back at the Clippers, in addition to Leonard and George, Beverly is also a defensive force that can disrupt any star player. He has proven this when guarding the likes of James harden and even a much taller opponent like Kevin Durant.

The Clippers are able to send multiple defenders at James to wear him down and also able to do the same to Davis or any other star without depleting their resources, however if Kuzma plays to his full potential this season, the Lakers will be hard to beat for the Clippers.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, who won a championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008, and the front office may have possibly assembled the NBA Avengers, but this remains to be seen as the season has not yet even reached the halfway point.

However, just like any super hero story, they will not have it easy and just next door, the Lakers will also fancy their chances at lifting the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The battle for LA is real and it could potentially be the Western Conference final, if the current performances and team compositions are to be considered.

Who ever makes it out of the west will have to tame the beast from the east and that at the moment could either the Milwaukee Bucks, Sixers, Celtics or even the Raptors.

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