This may have been impossible to say in previous years, but there's a basketball team in Los Angeles besides the Lakers that wants to contend for a title.
Unfortunately for the L.A. Clippers, their offseason additions may hamper their progress rather than propel it.
With Chris Paul set to hit free agency after the coming season, the Clippers' hopes to build on their turnaround success of 2011-12 largely depends on how long Paul and forward Blake Griffin stay with the team.
Free agency gives players every to right jump ship if better opportunities present themselves, so the Clippers' hopes of keeping Paul and Griffin long-term will depend on L.A.'s ability to remain one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
Of course, the Clippers will first have to make sure they're one of the best teams in their own division.
The Los Angeles Lakers will almost certainly be the top team in the Pacific Division with the additions of Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison.
The Golden State Warriors got drastically better, at least on paper, by adding Andrew Bogut, Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry, Richard Jefferson and Harrison Barnes over the past year.
Few players could replace Steven Nash, but the Phoenix Suns at least got the feisty Goran Dragic to fill in, and they also added Michael Beasley and Luis Scola to their frontcourt.
The Kings may not be in a position to contend for the top spot in the division, but they at least got better with the additions of Aaron Brooks, James Johnson and Thomas Robinson; center DeMarcus Cousins also looks to finally emerge as one of the top big men in the league.
The one thing all four of those teams have in common is they upgraded their frontcourts either by maturation, acquisition or both. Scola, Cousins, Beasley, Bogut, David Lee, Howard, Pau Gasol, Antawn Jamison and several other bigs will be lurking in the Pacific Division, intent on tormenting Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan when facing them.
And the Clippers haven't really addressed that.
They lost the steady rebounding of bench forward Reggie Evans and the veteran presence of forward Kenyon Martin. In their place, they added forwards Ronnie Turiaf, Grant Hill and Lamar Odom as well as guard Jamal Crawford.
Let's be honest, Turiaf and Hill are not going to be able to replace Martin and Evans' presence in the paint.
Crawford has a scoring touch and will be a spark for the Clippers off the bench, but he does nothing for their frontcourt and reminds me of a second Caron Butler, who is already on their team.
Odom is a skilled scorer and a decent rebounder, but he's a forward who has been known to play more like a shooting guard, and he is coming off the worst year of his career. Perhaps returning to L.A. will help him find his game again mentally.
Though Crawford has a multi-year deal, if the bring-Odom-back-to-L.A. experiment doesn't work he's only signed for one year.
However, let me remind you again that Paul is only signed to one year. Which means if the Clippers regress, he may be inclined to change teams, which would change the team's new-found glory into despair once again.
Hopefully for Clippers fans the team will end up in the top half of the Western Conference playoff seeding and will have a scoring presence that offsets their lack of depth down low.
I have a feeling though, that two former Sixth Man of the Year Award winners will not be enough to counter the size that other teams have on their roster, which will leave the Clippers with little to replace Griffin and Jordan when they need breathers.
I have a feeling that the Clippers didn't do enough this offseason to offset what their cohorts in the Pacific Division have done or have brewing.
I have a feeling that Chris Paul will have a hard decision on his hands next summer. One that directly affects the future of the Clippers.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!