The Los Angeles Clippers are the best team in basketball

There’s a decent chance that you’ll get to the end of this piece and wind up muttering to yourself, “Who cares? It’s the regular season. They’ll blow it in the playoffs like they always do.” (Or something along those lines.)

But it needs to be known that, through the first two weeks of the season, the Los Angeles Clippers have been the best team in basketball.

The 7-1 Clippers have the best record in the Western Conference and the best record in the NBA. They lead the league with a plus-16.9 point differential. The next-closest team is the Hawks at plus-9.4. Six of the Clippers’ seven wins have come by double-digits. Only the Hawks and Pistons join them with more than three double-digit wins, and they each have “only” four. The most recent three of LA’s victories have been by 20-plus points, and the last two have been by 30-plus.

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They’re not fattening up on slouches, either. The Clippers are beating good teams. Jazz, Grizzlies, Spurs, Pistons, Blazers — they’ve all lost to the Clips by double-digits within the first two weeks of the year.

How have the Clippers gone about it? By leaning on a defense that has thus far been the NBA’s best — and it’s not particularly close. Heading into their Wednesday night game against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Clippers had allowed a league-low 90.4 points per 100 possessions, per That mark was more than five full points south of the next-closest team. Then they allowed the Blazers to score just 80 points in a 94-possession game. By the end of the night, the Clips’ defensive efficiency had dropped all the way to 89.3; that’s 6.1 points ahead of the Charlotte Hornets for best in the league.

That big a margin begs the question of how exactly they’ve separated themselves from the pack. The simplest answer is that they are getting elite level defense from both their starters and their bench. There are 23 five-man lineups that have played at least 70 minutes together so far this season, per The best defensive group among those 23 is the Clippers’ starting lineup of Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. The second-best defensive group is, incredibly, the Clippers’ five-man bench lineup of Ray Felton, Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, Wesley Johnson, and Marreesse Speights.

There’s a lot of institutional memory with these Clippers. Paul, Redick, Griffin, and Jordan are now in their fourth season together, and Doc Rivers has been coaching them that entire time. This is Crawford’s fifth season with the Lob City trio, a threesome now in its sixth year together. When a group plays together long enough, it develops a communication shorthand, and when that group features true plus defenders at the point of attack (Paul) and in the paint (Jordan), it becomes remarkably tough to score on.