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Three reasons why this season could be different for the Clippers

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Much of the talk during the offseason and the start of this NBA campaign has been dominated by the league's superteams - the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers.

In the eyes of the vast majority of experts, it's a foregone conclusion that the two teams will meet in the finals for a third consecutive year.  

That talk has allowed several teams to go under the radar and play without too much pressure. One team, however, who has done their talking on the court and made people take notice in the opening eight games is the Los Angeles Clippers.

Despite their unquestionable talent, it's always easy to write off the Clippers as the story of their season appears to be the same every year. 

They promise so much, give their fans hope and ultimately fail to even reach the Western Conference finals.  

But after a 7-1 start to this campaign, there are early signs that THIS year could be different to previous ones. 

Here are three reasons why the Clippers should now be taken seriously: 

Los Angeles Clippers Media Day

BENCH

One of Los Angeles' flaws in recent years has been their second unit. In comparison to their rivals in the west in Golden State and the San Antonio Spurs - who had the best benches in the league last season - Doc Rivers had previously assembled a weak blend of back-ups. 

To his credit, though, Doc has done a great job in putting that right with some shrewd moves in the summer. 

The Clippers' second unit of Jamal Crawford, Mo Speights, Wesley Johnson, Raymond Felton and Austin Rivers is a big upgrade and they have contributed considerably to the franchise's impressive start.

With the Warriors dismantling much of their bench to acquire Kevin Durant and the Spurs being weakened by the departures of some of their key role players, the Clippers can certainly boast an advantage over their rivals on this front now. 

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Clippers

This was evidenced by their 24-point blowout of San Antonio on the road recently.

DEFENCE

The L.A. outfit's starting five has the best defensive rating in the NBA (81.6) and an offensive rating of 108.6 - a net margin of 27.2, by far the best in the NBA, per FOX Sports.

The second-best defensive rating (89.2) in the league belongs to the Clippers' aforementioned five-man bench.

Another area where the team has struggled in the past is on the defensive end and once again head coach and general manager Rivers deserves praise for finding a solution. 

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Clippers

The defensive production by both lineups was on show in their 111-80 beatdown of the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center on Wednesday night, holding the red-hot Damian Lillard to just eight points.

As the saying goes, defence wins championships and if they keep up this kind of production on that end of the floor throughout the year, they cannot be overlooked as serious contenders.

REJUVENATED GRIFFIN

We all know Blake Griffin's problems on and off the court last season, which is why he has come back hungrier and more determined than ever. 

The big man is averaging 19.6 points and 10.1 rebounds over the first eight games and has added new dimensions to his game both inside and out. 

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Clippers

Of course, many will point to the fact that he's entering free agency next summer as a big reason for his improvement, but the Clippers will be the beneficiaries this year nonetheless if he keeps up this level.

If he stays healthy, along with Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan, the franchise always has a chance of beating anybody, but they look like they mean business now. 

CP3 is the leader of the team and the most important player - as he showed in Blake's absence for much of the previous campaign - but as the point guard stated at the time, the Clippers need Griffin and can't win a championship without him. 

Topics:
NBA
Western Conference
Chris Paul
LA Clippers
Pacific Division
Blake Griffin

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