FLANNERY: Last year, I made what some would call a bold pick for the NBA Finals when I selected the Los Angeles Clippers. Others might call it foolhardy, vainglorious or just downright irrational. I reject the latter term.
There were perfectly reasonable reasons to take the Clippers, namely Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. They are all really good players, and in the case of CP3 I'll go so far as to say he's the most underrated great player of all time. (Bold!)
I'm not picking them again, but if you were to choose one team out West who could physically (on paper) match up well with the Golden State Warriors, wouldn't it be these guys?
ZILLER: I believe in the Clippers and they'd be my pick in the West had the Warriors not flipped over the table on July 4. I won't spoil my thoughts on the other West contenders just yet, but it's really, really hard to find another team with the stars to challenge Golden State's Western hegemony.
Griffin and CP3 are the league's second- or third-best 1-2 punch (behind Durant-Curry and maybe LeBron-Kyrie), and that goes a long way. You add almost perfect supplemental role-playing starters in J.J. Redick and Jordan. Depth remains an issue, and the small forward slot leaves something to be desired. The team works hard and has one of the most demanding on-court leaders. It's well-coached. There's so much to love.
We'd be talking about the Clippers like we talked about the Thunder back in June if not for that damn Game 6 against Houston.
FLANNERY: Right, and if they hadn't blown a tough, but winnable, series against the Thunder in 2014, or if they didn't lose Paul and Blake against the Blazers last year, or if Blake hadn't punched his buddy, or if Steve Ballmer didn't hang out with a condor named Chuck. There are all kinds of reasons why the Clippers haven't taken that next step. At some point, it's worth asking if there's something deeper than talent behind their inability to reach the promised land.
You believe in curses, Tom?
ZILLER: I believe in the power of the Basketball Gods, and I believe the Basketball Gods are benevolent, yet mischievous. This gets us a narrative-cementing choke job in Game 6. This gets us the incident that led to a Blake Griffin broken hand. This gets us jokes at Ballmer's expense.
But I don't believe the Clippers are cursed. What should curse them? Some of these dudes had to work for Donald Sterling, the scuzz of all scuzzes. These poor fans had in some cases decades of futility before them. No one involved deserves a curse. Except maybe Blake, because what the heck, man?
No, I believe the Clippers are DUE. But for those darned Warriors ...
FLANNERY: That's where I am, as well. It wouldn't shock me if the Clippers got everything together at exactly the right time, but it would surprise me given their lack of depth and shaky situation on the wing beyond Redick. It's going to be tough to beat the Warriors under any circumstances, but I do believe the Clippers are the team that could do it. Theoretically, at least.
I also believe in continuity and am an advocate of not overreacting to the moment. It's not like they had many other options, but not blowing it up was the right play. With the free agent wolves at the door, this has to be it, though. Right?
ZILLER: If the Clippers don't go deeper than ever, 2017 is going to make for a fascinating offseason for them, considering they'd be desperate to re-sign Griffin in order to not lose him for nothing. But the obvious play would then be to trade Jordan, Blake's close friend, or CP3, the team’s undisputed leader.
Good luck with that, Doc.