The Los Angeles Clippers were gifted Chris Paul by David Stern and the NBA on December 8, 2011, after the league rejected a trade that would have sent Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers. That deal — plus the emergence of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan — was supposed to put the Clippers into yearly contention for championships. Six seasons later, after a second-consecutive first-round playoff exit, all the Clippers have on their hands is a mess.
The “other team” in Los Angeles has reached the playoffs in every season of Paul’s tenure. That’s great considering their history. But they have yet to even reach the Western Conference Finals. Griffin, Jordan and Paul were exciting at the beginning with “Lob City” becoming a really fun trend. But on the court the group has always lacked toughness, discipline and consistency.
That was all supposed to change when Doc Rivers fled the Boston Celtics for the Clippers in 2013. He was going to take the team to the next level. In four playoff trips, Rivers has guided the Clippers to two conference semifinal losses and two first-round exits. Additionally, since taking over the front office in June of 2014, Rivers has been a disaster.
Remember, Rivers gave his son, Austin, a three-year, $36 million deal last offseason. The younger Rivers has rewarded his pops by posting a PER of 11.44, which ranks 258th in the NBA. That’s right, the Clippers are stuck paying a yearly average of $12 million to the 258th most efficient player in the league because his dad is the coach and general manager. Thanks pops!
Rivers also splurged on a 37-year-old, wildly inefficient shooting guard in Jamal Crawford. He handed Crawford $42 million over three years, and the veteran posted a PER of 12.06 this season (that ranks 237th leaguewide).
Now Griffin and Paul can hit free agency this offseason. Paul holds a player option for $24.3 million, and Griffin has one for $21.3 million. Both guys are expected to opt out and test the market. Meanwhile, the Clippers are stuck paying nearly $49 million just for Jordan, Crawford and Austin Rivers.
Sadly the Clippers’ only option is to try as hard as they can to re-sign both Paul and Griffin because they could wind up losing both with absolutely nothing to show for it. Meanwhile, the free agent market doesn’t favor the Clips. Kevin Durant can opt out, but he’s not going to the Clippers and neither is impending free agent Stephen Curry. Gordon Hayward seems to be intent on staying with the Utah Jazz, but could reunite with former Butler head coach Brad Stevens in Boston. Either way, he’s not headed to the Clippers.
That leaves second-tier options like Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, LA native Jrue Holiday, Danilo Gallinari and Serge Ibaka. None of those guys are adequate replacements for what the Clippers could lose.
If Paul and Griffin opt to land elsewhere, the Clippers should see what they could get in return for Jordan and begin a full-scale rebuild. This is a team that got old quickly, has suffered a ton of injuries and there are a lot of bad vibes surrounding the whole organization. In fact, they might want to blow it up anyway, since this group is going nowhere fast. This group just lost a Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs at home.
As it stands, this offseason could be a disaster for the Clippers.