Updated: Oct. 27, 2005, 7:34 AM ET

SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
While we sleep, Clippers dream

Clippers

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | Hollinger Stats

Where will the Los Angeles Clippers finish in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference? Get 12 different takes from ESPN's NBA experts.

ANALYST DIV CONF COMMENT

Chris Broussard ESPN Mag

5
13
Young and talented, but "Clippers" and "playoffs" aren't compatible.
Ric Bucher ESPN Mag
2
7
On paper, they're a solid playoff team. The litmus test – i.e., chemistry – suggests there are too many dribblers and shooters and not enough passers and defenders.

John Carroll Scouts Inc.
3
8
Forget about the fact they have Clippers on their jerseys. Just look at their talent. Cassell, Mobley, Maggette, Brand. I would match those four up against any starting four in the league. And Cassell's the key to reaching the playoffs.
Chad Ford ESPN Insider
4
11
The Clippers appeared to be on the verge of the playoffs last season. However, the acquisition of Cuttino Mobley and a mercurial Sam Cassell don't make up for the loss of Marko Jaric and Bobby Simmons in team chemistry.
John Hollinger ESPN Insider
5
13
If everyone stays healthy they could challenge for the playoffs, but we think that every year. Clips bench is a wasteland and injury-prone starters like Cassell and Maggette will expose it sooner or later.
Scoop Jackson ESPN
Page 2

5
13

Will play .500 ball, need Kaman to be great, not just good. The situation with Cassell/Mobley/Livingston might implode.

Tim Legler ESPN Insider
3
10

See Item 7 for Legler's analysis of the Los Angeles Clippers.



Eric Neel ESPN
Page 2


5
11
I secretly have hopes for them, but I'm afraid to go on the record with my hopes for fear of being burned once again.
Jim O'Brien ESPN Insider
3
9
They are deeper and will be tough for opponents to match up against. Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley must decide to share the ball. If they do, Mike Dunleavy's team will be tough to guard.
Will Perdue ESPN Insider
4
13
The big question is, "Will the Clippers win more games than the Lakers?" They have good individual talent but have not been able to put it together. Does this team need a coach or a chemistry teacher?
Chris Sheridan ESPN Insider
1
3
How can you not like a lineup that includes Brand, Maggette, Mobley and Cassell? If the latter three can remember to get the ball to Brand on a steady basis, there's enough talent and barely enough depth here to win a weak division.
Marc Stein ESPN.com
5
13
As promising as the starting lineup reads – more talented than the Lakers' first five, in other words – you have to wonder how these guys will fit together. Cassell, Mobley and Maggette all like the ball, which suggests it won't be the best mix.


On the Ball
Brand, Cassell
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
The Clippers' big dog, Elton Brand, will be fed often by Sam "I Am" Cassell, who arrives from Minnesota.


Lineup Breakdown
ESPN The Magazine sizes up the Clippers roster:

PLAYER ANALYSIS RATING
Starters: Weapons at every position. Well, almost (Hi, Chris!).
PF
Elton
Brand
Only thing he doesn't do is shoot 3s (nine in six years).
8
SF
Corey
Maggette
Career year (22.2 ppg, 6 rpg, 3.4 apg). But with this team!
8
C
Chris
Kaman
Clips were 11-4 when he double-doubled. Think about that.
6
SG
Cuttino
Mobley
He shoots and moves ... a lot (four teams in three years).
7
PG
Sam
Cassell
Knock knock. Who's there? Starter. Who? Shaun Livingston.
7
Bench: Thin. And not just because Walter McCarty is their best backup forward. You could swear Ollie from Hoosiers is sitting down there at the end.
5

TOTAL SCORE

41

ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands Oct. 26.



Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Elton Brand
Player Efficiency Rating
22.54
vs. NBA Avg.: +7.54

The snubbing of Brand for the All-Star Game has become such an annual ritual that it hardly seems like news anymore. Last season when Brand was predictably left off the Western Conference roster, the media focused much more on Chris Webber's alleged snub (yes, really) than the strange inattention Brand receives.

Brand is a difficult player for casual viewers to appreciate because he isn't great at one particular skill -- he's just good at everything. He was above the league average for his position in every metric except 3-point shooting, making him one of the league's best players overall.

Brand hurt his right hand during the course of the season but it may have been beneficial long-term. He started using his left much more often instead of going right all the time and ended up with a more diverse game around the basket. He struggles at times to score in the post against taller players, but his jump hook shot is a reliable weapon and he's very good at playing from the high post.

Defensively, Brand continues to be underrated. He blocked more than two shots per game for the fourth straight season and has the size to battle opposing big men in the post. Additionally, he's a workhorse on the boards and his Defensive PER was very solid. It's no wonder that he's one of the few players the Clippers have paid good money for in order to keep.

-- Clippers player profiles from John Hollinger's "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06," available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books.


L.A. Cat
Mobley
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
At last, Donald Sterling cracked open the dusty Clipper safe, so Cuttino Mobley will be an L.A. act this year.


SportsNation Speaks
We asked SportsNation to cut to the real bottom line for the Clippers:

More wins this season: Clippers or Lakers?
50.7% Clippers
49.3% Lakers

Vote: Clippers in 2005-06 | Results



Tim's Time
Legs on Clippers: They are getting closer, folks. They even have a shot to win more than they lose. They will be the best team in Los Angeles, but they won't make the playoffs.

Mike Dunleavy did a nice job last year in getting the Clips to believe they could win. They will take another small step forward this year. Many people believe that the additions of Sam Cassell (from Minnesota) and Cuttino Mobley (from Sacramento) will push the Clips to the promised land. I'm not so sure. Cassell is, at best, a 25-minute-a-night player if you want to maximize his effectiveness.

Mobley will provide leadership and perimeter scoring, but he is not the player he was three or four years ago in Houston. Corey Maggette is key in that he must develop into a complete player. He is a sensational athlete capable of making a living at the foul line, but he needs to improve his outside shooting and overall playmaking ability if he is to become an All-Star one day.

Elton Brand is 20 and 10 with a hard hat on every night, and Chris Kaman is a good young center. All in all, not a bad starting five.

The true barometer to the Clippers' success, however, lies in the hands of Shaun Livingston, the second-year point guard who joined the Clips right out of high school. He has superstar written all over him. At 6-8, and with uncanny court vision, he plays the point in a style similar to another L.A. point guard ... from the Showtime '80s.

The bottom line with this team is that Livingston is the only guy they have capable of being a star. The sooner he becomes one, the sooner the Clippers will be able to print playoff tickets.

Tim Legler, ESPN Insider



Coach's Corner
Mike Dunleavy
Experience: 12 years
Reg. season record: 463-489
Playoff record: 31-28
Coach's profile

A year ago the Clippers scored inside (sixth in field-goal percentage), but only made 2.82 3-pointers per game (last in the NBA). Cuttino Mobley and Sam Cassell should balance Mike Dunleavy's inside/outside attack.

Dunleavy's vets, with Brand holding down the middle, must improve on their 10-31 road record.

Jim O'Brien, ESPN.com Insider



Hollinger's Q & A
Will the Clippers ever buy a bench?

With a starting lineup that includes Cassell, Mobley, Corey Maggette and Elton Brand, at first glance the Clippers look like a potential playoff team.

But the Brand-Maggette tandem has been in place for years, and the two still haven't led the Clips to the playoffs. The problem isn't with those two or even the other two starters. It's that the Clippers annually have among the worst benches in the league because owner Donald Sterling steadfastly refuses to spend money on a second unit.

Last year, for instance, the Clippers got off to a hot start, and it looked like they might be playoff-bound. But once Jaric had his annual injury and Maggette turned an ankle, the Clips were left with stiffs like Rick Brunson and Quinton Ross to plug the dike.

The situation appears likely to repeat itself this year. The Clips have only four experienced frontcourt players on the roster, one of whom is oft-injured center Zeljko Rebraca, and the offensively impotent Ross is the only experienced reserve behind Mobley and Maggette. Throw in the likelihood of Cassell pulling a hammy and missing 20 games, and you have a major problem.

More Hollinger Clippers analysis Insider



Fantasy Fix
Livingston
Livingston

Sleeper: Shaun Livingston is a pass-first point guard, and he's about to do a lot of passing. Fantasy owners shouldn't be scared off by the trade for Sam Cassell. Livingston, 20, should direct this team for years. He averaged 9.2 points and 6.8 assists in his 15 starts, and he figures to pile up the steals, as well. Just don't draft Livingston in the first eight rounds.

Bust: Sam Cassell wanted out of Minnesota, but his situation hasn't improved. With Livingston primed to take the starting point-guard job, and Cassell clearly on the downside of his career, fantasy owners need to stop expecting big stats. Cassell should have some big scoring nights, but he's not much more than a spot player at this point.

Eric Karabell | Fantasy Basketball Index

 

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