The Clippers only got better this offseason and it all begins with their new head coach Doc Rivers. This team now has a leader that has won a title and that knows what it takes to win a championship. That was the key ingredient they were missing. Vinny Del Negro was not the answer to lead a young team that specialized in highlight reels more than winning playoff games. Lob City won't be as proclaimed as it used to be and with good reason. Rivers should have this team focused on playing the game right and showing some more defensive intensity. The Clippers had a busy offseason, complementing Lob City with three-point shooters J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley. This team has a ton of depth and Chris Paul just got paid. With a conference that isn’t as good as it once was, this team is going to make a lot of noise this season. The Clippers are my pick to come out of the Western Conference and go to the NBA Finals.
2. Golden State Warriors (52-30)
3. Los Angeles Lakers (38-44)
For the first time in a long time, the Lakers will not be taking over the back pages in Los Angeles. The Lakers have a long season ahead without Dwight Howard and without Metta World Peace. They’ll be banking on the return of Kobe Bryant, which may have to wait until the beginning of 2014. The Clippers will be the team playing meaningful basketball at the Staples Center this season. The Lakers will be lucky to contend for a playoff spot with their depleted roster. Look for the Lakers to miss the playoffs for just the second time in the last 20 years.
4. Phoenix Suns (26-56)
The Suns have thrown in the towel for the 2013-2014 season. Dealing Marcin Gortat is an early sign of that as they rebuild and try for a lottery pick. Goran Dragic impressed last season and it will be intriguing to see how rookie Alex Len plays, but complementary players like Eric Bledsoe and Emeka Okafor won’t have this team anywhere near a playoff spot this season. Expect the Suns to duke it out for a top five pick in the NBA Draft.
5. Sacramento Kings (24-58)
The Kings will be another team that will have their fans pulling their hair out. When your best player is DeMarcus Cousins, it will usually spell nightmares. This team has no real star and a bunch of young players that will have trouble getting in rhythm. Don’t expect much from the Kings this season as they came hours away from saying goodbye to Sacramento. Their fans are going to wish they left when this season is over with.