Last week, I talked about the Los Angeles Lakers which is now in full rebuild mode. It got me thinking if the other L.A., the Los Angeles Clippers, should seriously think about taking the same path. Since the demise of the Lakers at the end of the Kobe Bryant era, more and more fans have shifted to rooting for the Clippers simply because they are winning more.
I can recall the time when the Clippers were the NBA’s laughing stock since all their campaigns year in and year out were laughable at best. To put things in context, the Clippers have never won an NBA title or even a Conference title. They have never played in the NBA Finals and were considered “the worst franchise in sports history.”
Things really started to turn around when they acquired perennial All-Star point guard Chris Paul at the end of 2011. Paul joined big men DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin and the franchise instantly turned into contenders as “Lob City” was formed. Despite their athleticism and talent, the Clippers have never gotten past the Western Conference Semifinals despite making the playoffs the past five years.
Last season, their Finals hopes were extinguished with injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin versus a young Portland Trailblazers team.
At the start this season, Paul will be on the wrong side of his prime at 31 years old. Griffin is 27 and Jordan is 28. There is no doubt that Paul is still one of the best point guards around but he has been saddled with injuries over the past few years. Jordan, meanwhile, is a voracious rebounder and shot blocker and is huge on the defensive end. However, he doesn’t have range and is one of the league’s worst free throw shooters. Griffin is a double-double threat and his game is excellent. However, his stability has been questioned especially when he assaulted one of the team’s trainers that led to a season-ending injury.
With the addition of Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors and the Spurs grabbing Pau Gasol, it would be difficult to think that the Clippers have a real shot. While the Clippers’ “Big Three” have a lot of chemistry, they don’t have enough help to put them over the top. The Clippers have no bench to speak of which means tired legs for their superstars.
While management’s direction is to keep on building around the trio, they must break them up to build another contender. Paul and Griffin can walk after next season for nothing so the best bet would be to already trade one or both while their value is still high. For instance, Griffin can be traded to the Celtics, which has a lot of young assets to deal. A trade could include two good players plus draft picks.
The Clippers as built won’t make it past the might Western teams. If they want to keep their Big Three intact they must break the bank to surround them with good role players. They must make a major move soon.