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Flipside: Should The Clippers Blow Up Their Core?

No, they shouldn’t. – Hank Stichter

The Clippers, while having limited success come the postseason with their big-three in Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan, aren’t going to find success by breaking up this group of All-Stars.

It is true that since Chris Paul has gotten to Los Angeles that the Clippers have not done particularly well come the postseason. However it is also true that they drastically improved from not having Chris Paul to having Chris Paul.

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In the five seasons with Paul running the point for the Clippers, they have made the playoffs five times, advanced past the opening round three times, and have had amassed a total record of 21-28. A fan of the Hornets would kill for those stats right about now, however given the talent and expectations that the Clippers have, it allows for arguments to arise surrounding if they really are as good as their roster says they are.

21-28 in the postseason is not a great number by any means, however it is certainly better than only having won two postseason series in the history of the franchise up until their big-three was created.

That is right, before the trio of Paul, Griffin, and Jordan, was formed in LA, the Clippers only won two playoff series (one seven game series in 2006 and one three game series in 1976) from the span of 1970-2011, making the playoffs just seven times in that span.

So it is hard to argue that the Clippers would be better off with one or two fewer All-Stars on their roster considering how awful they were prior to the formation of their big-3.

Obviously a lot has changed in basketball, even just in the past few years, so while the Clippers were simply awful in the past, it is unfair to compare this team with its outstandingly untalented predecessors. So moving back to present day, the Clippers’ limited success in the playoffs is not so much due to the talent of their roster as much as it is the talent they are going up against.

Let’s be honest here; this article would not even exist if the Clippers played in the Eastern Conference. But the fact is that they play in the Western Conference, so when they have not had tons of success come playoff time, most people would say that they are the fourth or fifth best team in the Western Conference and that is what the Clippers have played like over the past five years.

Almost no one in their right mind would say that, even purely based on a roster standpoint, that the Clippers are better than Golden State, San Antonio, or Oklahoma City, right now. Even if the Clippers are the best of the rest in the west (that phrase couldn’t have coincidentally been worded better), then it doesn’t mean an easy ticket to the next round, because Portland, Memphis, Houston, and even Dallas and Los Angeles (Lakers) up until a few seasons ago, are teams held with similar expectations to the Clippers.

If you look at who they have lost to in the playoffs, they have not been shocked by any team by losing. They have never lost a playoff series to a team seeded worse than five, nor any team seeded more than a seed lower than them while having their big-3 in place.

Shown below are the results of playoff series that the Clippers have played in organized by year, for the sake of the article the Clippers are named first in each series:

  • 2012 Playoffs: (5) Los Angeles Clippers vs (4) Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles wins 4-3; (5) Los Angeles Clippers vs (1) San Antonio Spurs, San Antonio wins 4-0
  • 2013 Playoffs: (4) Los Angeles Clippers vs (5) Memphis Grizzlies, Memphis wins 4-2
  • 2014 Playoffs: (3) Los Angeles Clippers vs (6) Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles wins 4-3; (5) Los Angeles Clippers vs (2) Oklahoma City Thunder, Oklahoma City wins 4-2
  • 2015 Playoffs: (3) Los Angeles Clippers vs (6) San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles wins 4-3; (3) Los Angeles Clippers vs (2) Houston Rockets, Houston wins 4-3
  • 2016 Playoffs: (4) Los Angeles Clippers vs (5) Portland Trailblazers, Portland wins 4-2

As you can see above, none of the results of any of the series were necessarily shocking. To be honest the results are pretty impressive, because not many teams can say they have won series against both the Warriors and Spurs over the past three seasons.

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The fact of the matter is that the Clippers are pretty much operating at the expected level. They aren’t winning championships, but at the same time they aren’t drastically underperforming like the Rockets this season.

Right now the Clippers are meeting expectations for a team of their caliber, and blowing the team up is not going to help them win a championship however.

Let’s say they do blow things up however, and get rid of one or two out of the three, okay now what? The guys coming in to replace the guys lost are going to be equally good at best most likely.

The only way to win a championship is by having an MVP or being the San Antonio Spurs, and so the only situation in which the Clippers have a better chance of breaking up the big-3 rather than keeping it is if they are able to sign Kevin Durant in the offseason, but other than that long shot the Clippers really don’t need to be looking to change things too much.

Also, the Clippers are so much better when they are able to have all three of Paul, Griffin, and Jordan on the court together, something that was not seen a whole lot this season because Griffin only played 35 of the team’s 82 games. A large part of this season’s playoff mishaps can be contributed to injury as well, as both Paul and Griffin missed two games out of six.

Staying healthy and working with the current roster and what they have needs to be the Clippers’ first priorities if they are to win a championship, because if they do that then they at least have a chance to win a playoff series against a big-boy team like the Spurs or Warriors.

What they have right now is the best chance that Los Angeles is going to have at winning a championship in the near future assuming they don’t sign Durant. They aren’t going to be the best team in the league, but they can certainly be a contender and maybe pull off an upset or two to find themselves in the championship game.

Yes, they should – Zach Washburn

On December 14, 2011 the Clippers acquired Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets hoping to become a championship contender with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Five years later, they have had five playoff runs and all have ended in failure losing twice in the first round and three times in the conference semifinals.

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Five years ago, everyone was looking at the Clippers as a championship team, but now the core of DeAndre Jordan,  Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and JJ Redick must be split up to actually win a championship.

Chris Paul, after 11 seasons as an NBA superstar, has never been to a Conference Finals, and even with Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Jamal Crawford they have been unable to advance.

There is no doubt that this core of players is good, but they have little chance against the Spurs, Thunder, or the Warriors. If Durant, Ibaka, and Westbrook choose to stay after the 2016-2017 season, then this core is cooked.

Chris Paul and JJ Redick are not getting any younger. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will be on the verge of 30 all with no championships or real playoff success to their name.

It is not all their fault. It isn’t like Paul, Jordan, and Griffin all offered themselves max contracts so the team had little cap to actually build a decent bench.

The Spurs and the Warriors both have talented benches that can keep them in the game when their stars are out.

If Doc does not think a strong bench is important, then look at this year’s Detroit Pistons. They had a good enough starting lineup to compete with James, Kyrie, and Love, but having the worst scoring bench in the NBA is a difficult impediment to overcome to beat a team as strong as the Cavaliers.

I’d rather have Patty Mills and Shaun Livingston over Austin Rivers every day of the week. Doc has tried with the Jared Dudley, Willie Green, Josh Smith, and Lance Stephenson, but all have let him down. Doc Rivers just has to throw draft picks away because he has no money to give away for them thanks to the $72 million spent on the core.

However, the cap is projected to raise $108 million by 2017-2018 season giving Doc Rivers something to work with in bringing in solid bench players.

Even with the salary cap increase, that also helps the Warriors giving them the chance to bring back Harrison Barnes and the Spurs to swoop in and steal Kevin Durant from the Thunder.

On the other hand, the core is still not going to be good enough to beat the Spurs or the Warriors even if Durant leaves OKC.

But when I say split up the core, the man that needs to go is DeAndre Jordan.

DeAndre Jordan is a good center who can protect the rim well and finish around the rim well, but there are other guys around the league that can do the same thing and more for less money.

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It is not like Jordan is some freakishly talented center that dominates the league and they just need pieces around him. He just is not good enough to be paid over $20 million a year and not torch opposing big men day-in and day-out.

Jordan is second in the league in rebounding and one of the best rebounding forces in the NBA. losing him would hurt an already horrible rebounding team, but maybe that’s where Doc has to go to make the bench essential in not being dominated by guys like Enes Kanter.

The rebounding aspect might not take that big hit if the Clippers can bring in Al Horford and/or Pau Gasol. Plus, trading DeAndre Jordan can bring some talent to the bench back to LA with something better than Pablo Prigioni to work with on the depth chart.

Horford and Gasol would be great additions just making that fantastic Clippers offense even more deadly with their pick-and-roll skills and having a strong mid-range game to spread the floor.

Horford might want to stay in Atlanta right now, but if given the opportunity to live in LA and get passes from Chris Paul and watch JJ Redick rain threes, he is going to take it.

Horford is a great rim protector also, but Clippers do lose some durability with Horford, but hopefully Gasol and other bench players could fill in if necessary.

The problem is, Horford and Gasol are both over 30, and if Doc Rivers is looking for a long-term core this might not be the road he wants to go.

But who knows how many years Chris Paul has left as one of the best point guards in the game. The Horford-Gasol route might give CP3 a true chance to win a title.

It is not a long term option but a short term success. Will Doc Rivers be willing to rebuild again in 2-4 years after Chris Paul hits the decline? Maybe if it means championships in the process. He also may retire by then.

The only issue is will Blake Griffin be happy with less playing time and getting the ball less especially for a guy that has elevated his game dramatically to become “the guy” for the Clippers.

Even if Gasol and Horford mean less playing time, that does not mean he will not be the most prominent option in the offense with his pick-and-pop skills plus could fit into Jordan’s role by receiving alley oops off of rolling back to the basket.

Trading DeAndre Jordan just makes sense in improving the core and the roster altogether. If something is broke you got to fix it. Hopefully Doc realizes that and makes the change and make Chris Paul’s time in LA one to remember.

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