Are the Clippers a better team without Chris Paul than they were with him for six seasons?

Most observers would say, no. After spending the past six seasons as one of the top four teams in the hyper-competitive Western Conference, many have picked the Clippers to finish anywhere from sixth to eighth. Some have suggested they won’t make the playoffs without Paul.

Clippers guard Austin Rivers would disagree. Count him among those who believe the Clippers are deeper, more talented and more capable than when Paul was their point guard, before he was traded during the offseason to the Houston Rockets for a package of players.

What’s changed?

What’s improved?

“Our competitive spirit, our defense, our overall chemistry,” Rivers said. “We have a willing to pass the ball. We have a willingness to cheer people up. I had a rough game (Thursday against the Lakers). The whole bench was, like, ‘Keep your head up.’ Last year, I would have been on my own.

“A lot of guys had rough games and we just stuck with it. That’s why we won by (16). Last year, if we would have had that bad of a game I don’t know what the score would have been. We still defended. We were still, like, ‘Next shot, next shot.’ It’s a different vibe here.”

No question, the Clippers are a work in progress. Game 2 of their 82-game regular-season slog arrived Saturday at Staples Center with the Clippers attempting to clean up their act after a Game 1 victory over the Lakers revealed several flaws in their game.

The Clippers didn’t shoot particularly well, making only 39.3 percent (42 of 107). They mishandled the ball at key times, committing 15 turnovers, which led to 13 points for the Lakers during a 108-92 win that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score might have indicated.