The Next Best Thing
The Clippers should go 3-1 in their group play games. That’s just where the expectation should be. Anything else, there will almost certainly be bigger problems to address than the result of an ultimately meaningless in-season tournament.
For Group A in the West — which consists of the Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, and Portland Trail Blazers — all of the teams were fairly competitive in head-to-head play with each other last year, going a combined 36-30 against each other.
The Grizzlies and Suns, who had the best overall standings among the five teams, couldn’t find an edge against their opponents, with each team going .500 against the other teams in the group. In short, it’s not out of the question that one of those two wins the group with a 3-1 record, with second place having a 2-2 record.
Group C should have clearer lines drawn than Group A, with the Warriors and Sacramento standing ahead of the rest. However, it’s not unlikely that Minnesota could cause some headaches for them.
Neither team held a winning record against Minnesota, with Golden State going 2-2 and Sacramento going 1-3, and because of injuries, the Timberwolves’ core five have only played a total of around 75 minutes together up to this point. A fully healthy Wolves team could make some waves in the group play, causing either Golden State or Sacramento to fall to 2-2 with the Wolves.
If that happens, the Clippers would secure the Wild Card spot in the West and move forward into the knockout round.