On Wednesday June 28th, it was announced that the Houston Rockets had traded for point guard Chris Paul in exchange for seven players and one first round pick in the 2018 draft.
Chris Paul was set to be a free agent after rumors swirled he was going to decline his player option on the final year of his contract. Instead, Paul agreed to his player option, was traded to the Rockets and the Clippers were able to get something in return instead of letting the point guard walk in free-agency.
Now if you are a Clippers fan, you are wondering what is the next move the team should make.
With Blake Griffin set to become a free agent this summer and the uncertainty of him willing to resign with Los Angeles, it might be time for the Clippers to head in a new direction.
The way I see it, they have one of two options.
Reboot in Free Agency:
If you are a hopeful Clippers fan, you do not want to see the team miss the playoffs next season after making it six straight years during Paul’s tenure. And with the current players on the Clippers roster, they are not too far from being a playoff contending team again.
As of right now, the projected Clippers starting five might look like this next season:
PG: Patrick Beverly
SG: Lou Williams
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Sam Dekker
C: DeAndre Jordan
Not to mention, guys like Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford, Montrez Harrell & recent draft picks Sindarius Thornwell and Jawun Evans coming off the bench.
Nothing stellar obviously, but with stacked free agent class this offseason and some cap room to play with now, the Clippers could make improvements. Power forward, small forward and point guard should be the positions of emphasis when looking at free agents.
Sure the Clippers will have cap room, but not nearly enough to add two or even one max contract so they will have to dig deep for cheaper options.
Some potential value small forwards at a cheaper costs: Tyreke Evans, Tony Snell, Shabazz Muhammad, Thabo Sefelosha, Gerald Green and Omri Casspi. None of them are necesarily an upgrade from Wesley Johnson, but all of those listed above could provide quality minutes off the bench.
Another option the Clippers have is put all their eggs in one basket and go after a second-tier small forward like P.J. Tucker or Danilo Gallinari and have little money to spend elsewhere.
If they go cheap at small forward, their is a deeper selection of starter caliber power forwards to go after in free agency. How about a guy like Amir Johnson? Taj Gibson? Patrick Patterson? Nikola Mirotic? Jonas Jerebko? Or a Kelly Olynyk? Dekker has provided quality minutes for the Rockets during his short tenure but its still unporven whether he can be a starter in this league or not. If I am the Clippers the power forward is the biggest position that needs to be adressed.
And at the point guard position, they could go after guys like Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Shlelvin Mack or Aaron Brooks all of which would be nice backups to the duo of Patrick Beverly and Austin Rivers.
Not to far-fetched right? If you are owner Steve Balmer, general manager Dave Wohl or head coach Doc Rivers you have to think becoming a playoff team again is not to far out of reach…right?
Trade assets, begin to rebuild:
Here is another option the Clippers could take and this one makes the most sense.
If I am a member of the Clippers front office, I look at the best player on the roster DeAndre Jordan and ask if he is the type of player you build a franchise around? The answer is no.
What about in free agency, could they land a franchise type player there? Maybe, but it is not likely.
They could try the ‘reboot in free agency’ route listed above and add pieces here and there to contend for a playoff spot. However, I am sure the Clippers front office is looking at western conference teams on the rise such as the Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets and the New Orleans Pelicans. Can the Clippers add enough pieces to hold off either of those teams from gaining the 7 or 8 seed?
Once Wohl and the front office realize playoffs might be a lost cause, they should take a page out of Vlade Divac’s book and begin to rebuild by trading their best player, DeAndre Jordan.
Although the trade of DeMarcus Cousins was a little lopsided, the Kings were able to turn that lottery pick from the Pelicans into two more great picks, to go along with a young sharpshooter that the team could build around. Now with a young core of DeAaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Willie-Cauley Stein, Justin Jackson, Malachi Richardson and others, things are looking up for Sacramento.
Clippers need to to try the same thing. Jordan is not the player Cousins is but pair him with either Jamal Crawford or Lou Williams and a team on the verge of playoff contention will be willing to give up a couple first round picks and some prospects.
The Denver Nuggets, Portland TrailBlazers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Washington Wizards are the first few teams that come to mind. All four have great offenses but they all need improvements on the defensive end. Plus, all four of them have their own draft picks the next two years.
Here are some scenarios I would like to see the Clippers entertain with each of those four teams:
Denver Nuggets: DeAndre Jordan and Louis Williams for Wilson Chandler, Jamal Murray, Tyler Lydon and a 2019 1st round draft pick.
Nuggets get a defensive big to pair along side Jokic and a sixth-man coming off the bench, while the Clippers get two prospects to start a core around, Wilson Chandler an experienced and versatile small forward and a 1st rounder in a draft year they would not have one.
Portland TrailBlazers: DeAndre Jordan, Sam Dekker and cash considerations for Myles Leonard, Noah Vonleh, Caleb Swanigan and 2018 1st round draft pick.
Similar to the Nuggets, the Trailblazers get a defensive big to pair alongside their star big man Jusuf Nurkic and a stretch four because they lack spacing. Clippers are going to have to throw some cash their way because Portland has a high payroll, but in return they get three young bigs to build around and a 1st rounder next year.
Oklahoma City Thunder: DeAndre Jordan, Patrick Beverly, and Clippers 2018 1st roud pick for Steven Adams, Doug McDermott, Terrance Ferguson and Thunder 2019 1st round pick.
Beverly and Westbrook may have some bad history together, but I am sure the Thunder would love some interior and perimeter defensive help. If the Thunder make the playoffs next year (which they should) they will lose their 1st round pick to Utah, so the Clipper might have to cough theirs up but in return would get a younger rebounding center, a scorer who has yet to find a home, a talented rookie and a 1st rounder two years from now.
Washington Wizards: DeAndre Jordan, Louis Williams, and Jawun Evans for Marcin Gortat, Trey Burke, Chris McCullough, Wizards 2018 1st round pick and Wizards 2019 first round pick.
With no first round draft pick this year, the Wizards have very few talented prospects to give up which makes this one tough. But if Washington is serious about winning now, they will give up their next two 1st rounders, Gortat – because his game will not mesh with Jordan’s – and an unproven duo of Burke and McCullough. The Clippers might even ask for more because none of them are players you can build a future around.