A season is a long time in basketball, six years is seemingly an eternity. The up and coming dominant force which we all knew as ‘lob city’ is well and truly in the rear vision mirror. Fast forward to now and the Los Angeles Clippers are one of the biggest stories this off-season. Three of their best four players are likely to be entering free-agency. Along with this their coach/director of basketball is rumored to be on his way out. Once a team on the verge of greatness, the Clippers are now in a state of flux.
After, yet another disappointing first round playoff exit, it is obvious that the Clippers cannot currently compete at the top of the East. Recently there is talk about ‘blowing up‘ the roster and starting again from scratch. However this is not a viable option as the Clippers have more future picks leaving them, than they have coming in. Additionally, they have no good young players already on their roster to build around.
So what will the Clippers need to do in order to fix their roster and turn their fortunes around? We have a few outside-the-box strategies for the franchise.
Change the front office
Doc Rivers’ time in Los Angeles needs to come to an end after failing to build a competitive post-season side with cornerstones like Paul and Griffin. However Steve Ballmer has shown to have faith in his man to make basketball decisions, on and off the court.
However GM and head coach are two all-encompassing jobs and it is foolish to expect one person to do both successfully. Whilst Doc Rivers has a team of backroom staff doing the leg-work, the buck stops with Doc. If the man who is most confident about a team’s success (the coach) is also the man making long term decisions, then it has potential to be a massive conflict of interest. This is the case, with Rivers paying massive contracts to Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers.
A front office option the Clippers should look at
Sam Hinkie, would be an interesting and ideal candidate. He has a track record of making shrewd business decisions and has shown he is confident in sticking to a plan.
Hinkie is most famous for bringing ‘the process’ to Philadelphia, which in the short term brought years of losing and D-league caliber teams. However, the 76ers are one of the rising young sides in the league and it looks like Hinkie’s moves will pay off in the long-term.
Hinkie saw that the best way that the 76ers could get superstar talent was to be through the draft. This lead to the bottom out, and subsequent tanking. However, this is not the case in Los Angeles. A massive market, with an owner on the forefront of innovation, it would be extremely interesting to see what an analytical genius like Hinkie would do with the Clippers.
Although this may be merely a pipe-dream after as it appears Rivers is likely to stay.
Keep Chris Paul
Weather the front office consist of Doc Rivers, Sam Hinkie, or Ghandi, the Clippers need to keep Chris Paul. If you have the best point guard since Magic Johnson, you don’t let him walk.
When Paul and the players’ union negotiated for the “over-36 rule” to change to the “over-38 rule” it resulted in Paul being able to be offered a 5-year deal worth over $200 million. The Clippers need to offer this on day one of free-agency and try to keep their man. Steve Ballmer told ESPN.com’s Kevin Arnovitz. “I love those guys, and I want those guys back,” so money is not an issue.
Paul will want the five year, full max and won’t sign for any less. This could be an issue towards the end of the deal. However it is an expense the Clippers have to make. Chris Paul is expected to accept the offer from the Clippers, but will also listen to other offers.
There is not point trading Paul away, as no team which he would like to join would offer him enough a trade. The only team with the appropriate assets and look to be close enough to challenge for a title is the Celtics. Chris Paul he does not entirely fit their recruiting strategy, seeing they already have an undersized all-star guard. However, if the Clippers could get any of the Brooklyn picks, and a young asset for Paul then it would be considered. If that were the case, it would lead in to a full-scale rebuild.
Look to Trade Griffin
If the Clippers sign one of Paul or Griffin, they will need to sign them both. They will not have the cap means to replace them with free agents. With only one of the two, the Clippers are destined for mediocrity. Well, even more mediocrity. If Paul signs, then Griffin has to be favoured to come back. However dealing Griffin in a sign-and-trade, or trading him at a later date needs to be the main priority.
Blake Griffin has developed his offensive game and took over a hundred 3-point shots this season. His offensive game and super-star capability would appeal to many franchises in a trade. If any franchise is willing to part with young talent for Griffin, then it would be the best practice to take the offer and keep an eye on the future.
Whilst Carmelo is not the player he once was, Anthony can still get a shot against any defender. He would be an asset to the Clippers as they make a final push for contention.
Recent talk of a sign-and-trade for J.J. Redick has aroused interest, although as a free agent Redick would have to agree to the move.
Phil Jackson has made it clear that he wants to deal Anthony. A deal involving Redick, and Austin Rivers would work. Especially compared to the Rivers and Crawford deal rumoured in the regular season. This would be a decent return for the Knicks, especially if recent moves made by them are any indication.
Adding Anthony to a team with Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan creates a solid core, regardless of what the Franchise does with Griffin and Redick.
Focus on getting younger
The Clippers have had a strategy of recruiting veteran players on short term deals. This is a solid strategy for a side that is reaching for the title. The Clippers need to focus on going the way of franchises like the Miami Heat who are developing young talent.
The addition of players like Mo Speights, Raymond Felton, and Brandon Bass were never going to be deciding factors in winning a title. Those three, alongside Luc Mbah a Moute, and Alan Anderson are all free agents this off season and will need to be replaced.
This is a prime opportunity to use those roster spots to develop young talent. Talent that will be there long after Felton and Speights are out of the league.
Regardless of which way the Clippers tackle the off-season, it will be franchise altering.