Clippers fans will be happy to see ESPN's new poll. In a collaboration by 15 ESPN basketball experts, the network laid out several predictions for the upcoming season, including the MVP, best player, and (of course) the title winner.
Surprisingly, the panel gave the nod to the Los Angeles Clippers over the Bucks, Celtics, and Warriors. Here's why:
Last year, the Nets received seven votes to win the East, and six to win the title, while the Lakers received five votes to win the West and two more to win it all. Things didn't quite work out that way.
This time around, it is the other team in Los Angeles, the Clippers, who came out on top, getting five of the 15 votes to win the title.
They received the majority of support to win the West, and edged out Boston and Milwaukee to win the title, behind healthy versions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to support what is arguably the NBA's deepest team.
"I don't know if [Leonard will] necessarily be MVP, because he won't play enough and I don't think he cares about that," an East executive said. "But when it comes to playoff MVP, he has an excellent chance of that."
The Clippers aren't coming off a very impressive campaign. Last season, they struggled to find their place in the West, existing more as an afterthought than anything else.
But with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George healthy? The Clips could become a contender for the title. One NBA analyst described them as 'special' if Kawhi returns to MVP-form.
"There’s a lot of Clippers buzz, a lot of Clippers talk. ... All this Clippers talk starts and ends with Kawhi Leonard and if he’s healthy, this team is special. But how many games is it gonna be? How many games is he gonna rest? I'm curious about Kawhi."
Leonard is one of the best two-way players in the game. In the 2020-21 season, he averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game on 51% shooting.
With him, Paul George, John Wall, Norman Powell, Robert Covington, and others, the Clippers are poised to have an impressive and explosive season. And for a franchise with such a dark and troubling history, that's got to be like a breath of fresh air.