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Real or mirage: The Clippers, not the Lakers, are the best team in L.A. this season?
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Steve Aschburner: Mirage. The Clippers are better at the moment, they have a lot of nice pieces, their team stats are solid on both sides. But they lack a tent-pole star, caught Houston twice in a down cycle and have yet to face the Warriors, the Raptors or the Bucks. The Lakers roster is seriously flawed, to no one’s surprise, and their learning curve is steep. But if forced to pick which team will be better by the start of the playoffs, I’m going with the Lakers (unless, say, the Clippers pick up Jimmy Butler for a stretch drive).
Tas Melas: A mirage, but this has been a pleasant surprise to start the season. I chalk up the Clippers' 6-4 start to continuity and a couple key injuries to opponents. I chalk up the Lakers' 4-6 start to zero continuity and a pretty tough schedule (and horrid perimeter defense). Familiarity is growing with the purple and gold and I see them ripping through the second 10-game portion of their sked.
Shaun Powell: That's a mirage, although no disrespect intended to the Clippers, who just like last season are playing better than most expected. But they don't have LeBron, and the Lakers haven't hit their stride yet, and we haven't reached the second week of November.
John Schuhmann: This race is too early to call. When you overhaul your team by adding LeBron James, you shouldn't expect to hit the ground running. The Lakers will be better in March than they are right now. Still, their defense, including James' effort on that end of the floor, is a concern. That the Clippers are one of the league's most improved defensive teams is a bit of a surprise, but they've played five of their 10 games against the league's bottom-10 offenses. And overall, the 6-4 Clippers have played an easier schedule. They've been more fortunate in regard to rest-advantage games and their 10 opponents having a cumulative record of 43-45 in other games, while the 4-6 Lakers' opponents have a cumulative record of 54-37 in other games. The Clips are about to play a tougher stretch (Portland, Milwaukee, Golden State and San Antonio), while the Lakers play just two of their next nine games against teams that currently have winning records.
Sekou Smith: The Clippers can make that claim right now and it would be a legitimate statement. They have been the better team through the first 10 games of this season. Whether or not they will hold on to that distinction over the course of the next six months, however, remains to be seen. I think coach Doc Rivers does some of his best work when people are doubting him and his team. That said, the Lakers' ceiling is much higher this season, given all of the new faces they are incorporating and the continued growth and development of their youngsters. If the Clippers are in the playoff mix a month from now and the Lakers are still on the outside looking in, we should revisit this topic.