How much of a gap is there between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers when it comes to winning a title this season?
"In league circles, Lakers skepticism has burbled about for some time, before and after Anthony Davis awkwardly made his way to Los Angeles. Questions of fit and chemistry persist, and many are noting just how many games LeBron James has played up to this point. Like the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers are also lacking in perimeter defense, in a league where it seems to matter more than ever. Much as you would expect some 'It's LeBron' faith, that faith appears to be wavering after the last disastrous season. Even flanked with Davis, no one I spoke with believes LeBron and the Lakers are better than the upstart Clips."
One executive added of the gap between the teams: "There is a big gap in likelihood of winning the title. Not sure about regular season wins."
The Clippers can make several strong arguments in their favor. Leonard, 28, made his case that he's the best player in the NBA last season after averaging 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 steals in the playoffs, leading the Toronto Raptors to a title.
George also seems to be most comfortable in the "elite sidekick" role, thriving next to Russell Westbrook last year while averaging 28 points and 8.2 rebounds. Starting your team with two All-Star, two-way wings is an amazing foundation in the modern NBA.
But the Clippers also boast the superior supporting cast. Patrick Beverley is a defensive menace. Landry Shamet proved to be a fantastic shooter in his rookie season. Lou Williams is a three-time Sixth Man of the Year Award winner. Montrezl Harrell is a low-block force off the bench. Ivica Zubac has shown promise at center. Maurice Harkless, JaMychal Green and Rodney McGruder round out a nice collection of depth pieces.
Oh, and Doc Rivers is a better coach—or at least a far more proven and successful one to this point—than Frank Vogel. Rivers is 894-658 in his coaching career, with 15 postseason appearances, two trips to the NBA Finals and a title with the Boston Celtics on his resume.
Vogel is 304-291 in his coaching career, with five postseason appearances in eight seasons as a head coach. Hardly shabby numbers, but not on Rivers' level.
Yes, the Lakers have James and Davis, two top-five players who perfectly complement each other. That makes them extremely dangerous, without question. But with questionable fits around them, the team's third-best player, Kyle Kuzma, likely having to adjust to a role off the bench and the constant drama that has circled around them the past year, the Lakers have major questions to answer.
The Clippers aren't without some question marks of their own—namely the ongoing health of Leonard and George—but all things considered, they seem like the safer bet to win a title than their L.A. counterparts. NBA executives certainly think so.