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October 21, 2016

Los Angeles Clippers: Record last season: 53-29

Postseason results: Lost to Trail Blazers in First Round, 4-2.

Additions: Raymond Felton, Marreese Speights, Brandon Bass, Alan Anderson, Xavier Munford, Dorell Wright, Diamond Stone, Brice Johnson

Subtractions: Jeff Green, Cole Aldrich, Jeff Ayres, Pablo Prigioni, Branden Dawson, C.J. Wilcox

Biggest move: Re-signing Jamal Crawford

Projected finish: 4. Third in the Western Conference

Entertainment ranking: 3. Don’t get too hung up on feelings of déjà vu. The “same old Clippers” still have superstar talent, superb inside-outside balance, and high-level chemistry honed over hundreds of games together. — Ben Golliver

Power ranking: 4. Maybe this is the last ride for the enigma formerly known as Lob City, and at this point, sky-high expectations are valid. — Jeremy Woo

One number: 36. There was a time not long ago when Blake Griffin dunked with such regularity that the nightly highlight shows would have run out of time showing his best aerial assaults. In 2011–12, for example, Griffin threw down nearly three times per game, and dunks accounted for more than 20% of his shot attempts.

Those days are over. The world’s most famous Kia hurdler had just 36 dunks last season in his 35 games. (Griffin missed time with multiple injuries and for a four-game suspension after punching a team employee.)

His dunk rate has actually declined for four straight seasons as his scoring opportunities have shifted to the perimeter. In ’15–16, nearly 46% of his shots were long twos; even a mid-range maestro such as LaMarcus Aldridge has never devoted so many attempts to such shots. Although Griffin’s move to the elbow has cut into his efficiency and shooting numbers, the Clippers have compensated by increasing his role as a distributor and taking advantage of the extra space around the basket for DeAndre Jordan. The real hope, though, is that the perimeter approach will lead to less wear and tear, making for a healthier Griffin in the postseason—where he’s never advanced past the second round. — Ben Golliver

Scouting report: The biggest question with them is always, Who are they in the playoffs? Something always goes wrong—they always crack when it matters. They’re hoping that other teams will fall apart so they can have their day, but that’s a tough strategy in the West. Good luck. . . . We’ve been spoiled by Chris Paul’s greatness during the regular season, but how much of it has transferred to [success in] the playoffs? That’s where he’s at right now in his career and where they’re at as a team. He’s getting passed by some of these younger point guards. I’d rather have Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook or Damian Lillard. . . . Even during the regular season spot-up shooters like J.J. Redick work so hard to get a shot off. Now it’s the playoffs, and you have extra time to scout their pet plays, better effort across the board defensively, and it’s even harder for Redick to make a big impact. . . . If you take his health questions out of the mix, Blake Griffin is the best power forward right now, just ahead of LaMar-cus Aldridge. He can shoot, he’s a playmaker, he can handle the ball and make decisions. But Griffin has barely played since last Christmas. . . . DeAndre Jordan can be a championship center because he’s so elite defensively. He keeps making incremental improvements offensively, and they tweaked the Hack-a-Shaq rule, which could help him. . . . Luc Mbah a Moute was a nice find. He gives some defensive balance to their first unit, and he doesn’t need shots. They’re one of the teams that can start two bigs. Playing Mbah a Moute with Jordan and Griffin gives them a lot of length and size.

Bottom Line: Stop us if you’ve heard this before: They’ll have a 50-win season and watch the Finals on TV.

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