Time to Take Out Some Clippers

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”

  • Lao Tzu

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When you think of the Los Angeles Clippers, you immediately associate the team with the faces of their franchise: Deandre Jordan, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. Three men who are rated by many as each being in the top 30 players in the league. On paper, this Clippers team is good – very good; in actuality, however, they finished 4th in a top heavy western conference and bowed out in the first round of the playoffs to the Trailblazers.

This core has knocked at the door for 4 years now, 4 years that have failed to prove that this experiment is worthwhile and could bring the Clippers a championship. In my opinion, it clearly hasn’t worked. Holding Deandre Jordan at ransom to resign this year was the death of them, and their final chance in my eyes.  If he wanted out, he obviously didn’t believe that LA was the place for him to win a championship.

The Clippers need to consider moving on from this team, trying to find another combination of players that can truly contend with a top-heavy western conference. This is the off-season to make their move due to the boom in cap space.  With Chris Paul and Deandre Jordan both on around 20 million dollars a season, they’re relative bargains under the new salary cap, giving the Clippers incentive to move these players while their values are at their peaks.

blake_griffin_250Despite his previous season, Blake Griffin should be one of the only main pieces that the Clippers should keep after they go through this roster rebuild. The Clippers had one of the worst benches in the NBA this season, with two lineups composed of different bench players posting the 10th and 11th worst plus/minus of any lineups this season.

Their depth demonstrates that this roster is not ready to win, because you can’t afford to have such terrible line-ups using valuable minutes on the floor.  So, in my opinion, this is what the Clippers should do:

The Rebuild:

Gone through Free Agency: Prigioni, Green, Aldrich

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Pablo Prigioni averaged 14 minutes a game and didn’t do much in the time he was on the court. Now 38 and out of contract, he may retire: regardless, it is time for him to move on.

As of right now, Jeff Green is the 4th highest paid player on the Clippers.  His contract expires and he may look to sign elsewhere with the cap exploding this summer.  If the Clippers do hold onto him, it would likely be as an asset rather than a piece to build around moving on: the Clippers will have first crack at him, and due to questionable contract negations, limited flexibility may force their hand into resigning him.

It was reported by ESPN that Cole Aldrich will deny his player option and leverage his breakout season into a sizable contract and new role elsewhere.

Trade: Chris Paul, Deandre Jordan, Paul Pierce, Luc Mbah a Moute, JJ Redick

Jan 18, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers players Chris Paul (3) and DeAndre Jordan (6), forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (12) and Austin Rivers (25) and J.J. Redick (4) huddle during an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Rockers 140-132 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers players Chris Paul (3) and DeAndre Jordan (6), forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (12) and Austin Rivers (25) and J.J. Redick (4) Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Paul and Deandre Jordan are the 2 most valuable assets on this squad – coupled with JJ Redick and Pierce, the Clippers could force one absolute blockbuster of a trade. These players are worth a lot to teams who are looking to compete for a championship now, and in capitalizing on their trade value, the clippers can acquire draft picks and younger players to build their squad around Blake Griffin.

I say to trade most of these players not because they haven’t been good, but because most of them will no longer be in their primes when the rebuilt Clippers will be competitive. Paul and Redick are both the wrong side of 30, and Pierce is 38 and not going to be around for any more than 2 years.  Mbah A Moute hasn’t shown anything special in his time with the Clippers and trading his salary is a move to make space for a top 10 draft pick in the future, rather than acquire assets outright.

Deandre Jordan is the only one out of these who could still be in their prime; however, it makes sense to trade Jordan because his long-term contract and youth make him a valuable asset.  He isn’t the best possible fit next to Blake Griffin, and he could no doubt land the Clippers a couple of first round draft picks and a player with higher potential and better fit.

Keep: Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, Wesley Johnson

check 2So we’re left with these guys.

Blake is obviously the most important here, as he will be the centerpiece of this quick rebuild.  With youth comes inexperience, and it’s always good to have veterans on hand to teach rookies the game: Crawford is a sharp shooter and could be a very handy mentor who also still contributes to this team.

Austin Rivers is a young point guard with the potential to be a solid starting point guard when this team regains contender status in his prime.

Wesley Johnson is a scorer: he may be incredibly streaky, but he’s a scorer. The Clippers are going to need someone like Johnson to score buckets down the stretch when they get to contending. I wouldn’t mind having the ball in his capable hands.

check1This rebuild for the Clippers should be short and sweet, waiting only 2-3 years before contending again with the assets they’ll get from trading 2 of their Big 3.  I’ll give it to them: they had a good crack at going for a title, and in the NBA, if you want it, you’ve got to take risks.  

Clippers – if you want to avoid a massively long rebuild after inevitably falling short of a title, just break up the Big 3 now, and try again.

By Tim D’Elia