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7 CLIPPERS

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Though he has struggled with injuries in recent years, Blake Griffin has played like an All-Star anytime he has been healthy. Over seven seasons he has enhanced his skill set with more passing and better shooting, including a career-high 76.0% from the line last season.

Yet as great as Griffin is, every now and then his game transforms from "more athletic Karl Malone" into something even greater. His creativity from the high post turns defenses inside out, his pure shooting touch keeps defenders off-balance, and his combination of explosion and body control makes him unstoppable on the break.

With Chris Paul in Houston now, playmaking, ankle-breaking Super Blake is going to have to become a regular in Los Angeles; over the past two seasons, the Clippers are 11--18 without Paul. A good sign: Last season Griffin averaged 23.2 points and 6.4 assists per 36 minutes when Paul was off the floor, versus 22.7 and 4.8 when Paul was playing.

Danilo Gallinari will stretch defenses and Patrick Beverley will be a workplace hazard for opposing point guards. But the Clippers' fate will be decided by how often Super Blake shows up.

PROJECTED LINEUP

2016--17 STATS

COACH DOC RIVERS

(5th season with Clippers)

2016--17 RECORD 51--31

(2nd in Pacific)

90 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]

PG PATRICK BEVERLEY [NEW ACQUISITION]

9.5 PPG; 4.2 APG; 42.0 FG%; 38.2 3FG%

SG AUSTIN RIVERS

12.0 PPG; 2.8 APG; 44.2 FG%; 37.1 3FG%

42 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]

SF DANILO GALLINARI [NEW ACQUISITION]

18.2 PPG; 5.2 RPG; 44.7 FG%; 38.9 3FG%

22 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]

PF BLAKE GRIFFIN

21.6 PPG; 8.1 RPG; 4.9 APG; 49.3 FG%

28 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]

C DEANDRE JORDAN

12.7 PPG; 13.8 RPG; 1.7 BPG; 71.4 FG%

BENCH

93 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]

SG LOU WILLIAMS [NEW ACQUISITION]

17.5 PPG; 3.0 APG; 42.9 FG%; 36.5 3FG%

SF SAM DEKKER [NEW ACQUISITION]

6.5 PPG; 3.7 RPG; 47.3 FG%; 32.1 3FG%

PF MONTREZL HARRELL [NEW ACQUISITION]

9.1 PPG; 3.8 RPG; 1.1 APG; 65.2 FG%

• THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING

*NEW ACQUISITION

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP LOS ANGELES

They will look more different this year compared to last year than any team in the league.... For years their biggest problems have been small forward and depth. They solved those by adding DANILO GALLINARI and improving their bench, but losing Chris Paul creates an even bigger problem.... PATRICK BEVERLEY's life is about to change. It's a big drop from playing with James Harden to playing with AUSTIN RIVERS. He will be exposed offensively. He's better as a spot-up guy, but it's hard to do that playing off Rivers.... BLAKE GRIFFIN has been slipping athletically. They just committed to a [five-year, $173 million] contract that says, "We need you to be better than you've ever been before." I'm not sure he can do that. It's going to be a lot harder with defenses keying on him.... DEANDRE JORDAN will miss Paul more than anybody. He's depended on him for his offense for most of his career. They definitely should look at trading Jordan before the deadline.... MILOS TEODOSIC is a magician with the ball and a matador on defense. Late in games, I could see them going to offense/defense substitutions with their point guards, swapping him and Beverley in and out.... If Gallinari has to play most of his minutes at small forward, he'll find it harder to exploit matchups. But they'll have a hard time going smaller with Griffin at center and Gallinari at power forward because both guys will struggle defensively.... LOU WILLIAMS needs to have a huge year for them. He's going to have a major, major responsibility as a scorer.

TELLING 11--18 STATISTIC

BOTTOM LINE

Griffin's good enough to carry them to the playoffs if he's healthy. If not, this year could get dark.