Contenders and Pretenders: 3 NBA teams that are the real deal, 3 that aren't

New York Knicks v Milwaukee Bucks
New York Knicks v Milwaukee Bucks / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages
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Pretender: Los Angeles Clippers

This one might be controversial but count me as out on this Clippers team. Yes, they have had stretches this season where they have looked dominant, especially from December to February. However, after the All-Star break they have shown their flaws.

Since the break, the Clippers are tenth in the NBA in offensive rating. Expected. However, their defense has been three in the NBA. The only teams worse? The Charlotte Hornets and the Chicago Bulls. Given the fact that they are set for a first-round matchup against the Mavericks, who have Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, this does not bode well for the Clippers.

One thing LA does have, though, is star power. James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George, as a big trio, are as good as they come. However, outside of Leonard, there is no guarantee that their stars will rise to the occasion. 

Harden is not the same player he was in Houston, and he has shown that this season. He's averaging his lowest points per game since his third year in the league. Harden has also come up small in the playoffs a lot, including in his Houston days. Even last year with the Sixers, he was a no-show in Games 6 and 7. He went seven-of-27 from the field in those two games.

As for George, he has a history of coming up small in big moments. He has multiple postseason runs, shooting below 40 percent from the field and shoots 31 percent from three-point range in elimination games. He does average 22 points per game in elimination games though. George has also not played in a playoff game in two years, so who knows how good he will be.

Like the Bucks and Suns, the Clippers have too many flaws to be considered a real contender. They also have a tough matchup on tap with the Mavs that could expose their defensive flaws on the big stage. Don’t be surprised if they flop again.