After several disappointing finishes in the postseason, the Los Angeles Clippers will hope a new look will lead to more success.
The Clippers traded Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets for seven players and a draft pick in June, removing arguably their most important player from the past six years. Considering the team has failed to advance beyond the second round despite making the postseason every year in this stretch, this might have been a necessary move.
There is still plenty of talent on the roster with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan leading the way, but the question is how the team will fare heading into the 2017-18 season.
Season Opener: Thursday, Oct. 19 at Los Angeles Lakers (7:30 p.m. ET)
Championship Odds: 100-1 (via OddsShark)
Full Schedule: NBA.com
Houston Rockets: Dec. 22, Jan. 15, Feb. 28, March 15
The first time the Clippers face Paul will be strange. While they endured some low points during his tenure in L.A., he received three first-team All-NBA nods and made two more appearances on the second team.
Per Basketball Reference, Paul has the most win shares of anyone in franchise history with 78.2.
On the other hand, the relationship between Paul and head coach Doc Rivers reportedly deteriorated over recent years, with one league executive telling SportsCenter's Michael Eaves the point guard "despises" his former boss.
Regardless of his feelings, Paul will want to be at his best against his former team. The same could be said for current Clippers like Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker and others who came over from the Rockets.
Additionally, the matchup pits two of the top teams in the Western Conference against one another, with the lethal backcourt tandem of Paul and James Harden going up against the frontcourt-heavy Clippers with Jordan and Griffin. The storylines will be great, but the level of play should also make this a must-watch.
Los Angeles Lakers: Oct. 19, Nov. 27, Dec. 29, April 11
Two teams that share an arena will typically have some bad blood between them, but the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers have rarely been good at the same time.
Owner Steve Ballmer did a good job of summing up the recent rivalry.
"I'll say two things. No. 1, we've been kicking the Lakers' ass the last several years. Let's just face it," he said, per Julie Bort of Business Insider. "We don't have the championships that the Lakers do. We don't have any of that."
The Clippers' goal is to win a championship, but continued success against the Lakers is a reasonable side quest, too.
Unfortunately, the purple and gold have been getting better, especially with the addition of No. 2 overall pick Lonzo Ball. Adding Ball, Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a decent young core with Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle could make the Lakers far more competitive next season.
The Clippers have to ensure they remain the dominant team at the Staples Center.
Los Angeles' win total has dropped in each of the last three seasons, and the team finished with a 51-31 record in 2016-17. The squad has since lost Paul, JJ Redick, Jamal Crawford, Luc Mbah a Moute and Raymond Felton, five of the eight players who averaged over 20 minutes per game last season.
Even with Beverley and Lou Williams filling up spots in the rotation, the team has clearly taken a step back.
At the same time, the rest of the Western Conference added talent at an alarming rate.
The Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Rockets were all ahead of the Clippers in the standings and either got better or stayed the same. The Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets each added All-Stars in the offseason and will be tougher to beat.
Although the Clippers have gone five straight years with 50-plus wins, finishing above .500 will be a challenge with every game against a Western Conference opponent being so difficult.