Posted August 30, 2013

Offseason Grades: Los Angeles Clippers

2013 Offseason Grades, Ben Golliver, Chris Paul, Darren Collison, Doc Rivers, J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Los Angeles Clippers, Matt Barnes
Doc Rivers

The Clippers’ offseason haul included the addition of coach Doc Rivers. (Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Point Forward will grade every team’s offseason over the next few weeks. Click here for the complete archive.

Additions: J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Darren Collison, Antawn Jamison, Byron Mullens, Reggie Bullock (No. 25 in 2013 draft)

Losses: Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups, Ronny Turiaf, Grant Hill

Other Moves: Re-signed Chris Paul, Matt Barnes and Ryan Hollins; hired Doc Rivers to replace Vinny Del Negro as coach

What Went Right: It’s rare that a team fails to address arguably its biggest bugaboo and still manages to put together a superb summer, but that’s the Clippers’ story.

Center DeAndre Jordan is the leaky roof, the deal-breaker that shows up upon close inspection of the Clippers, the fault that makes it difficult to buy their status as true title contenders. This summer, the Clippers not only didn’t get their roof replaced, but they halfheartedly tried to patch things up (again) with the likes of Hollins and Mullens. That approach didn’t work last year, and it’s not likely to work this year. Presumably the Clippers understand that and simply couldn’t locate any better, cheap options to use next to All-Star power forward Blake Griffin.

The twist: L.A. remodeled its kitchen, installed a pool in the backyard, put in an entertainment center in the basement, added a new coat of exterior paint, redid all the bathrooms and, well, you get the point. The roster and organizational upgrades abound, and the totality of those moves ensures that the takeaway reaction to this summer is, “Wow! Look at this place!” rather than, “Why is there water dripping on my head?”

I’m going to cut this HGTV analogy right here — I will refrain from matching up each player with a specific home improvement — but the list of quality moves is long. It starts with the relatively smooth re-signing of Paul, one of the league’s top-five players and a man who has turned this franchise on its head in only two years. The terms of his deal were never a question, and Paul’s apparent happiness in Los Angeles coupled with the lack of obvious, championship-ready suitors made this a drama-free courting process. But nothing should ever be assumed when it comes to keeping superstars, especially with a team with no real history of success, so the Clippers deserve top marks for Paul’s retention, even if it seemed like a formality.

Upgrading from Del Negro to Rivers on the bench amounts to a coup, even if that was about as interminable, heated and annoying as coaching changes get. Del Negro hinted that Paul was behind the Clippers’ decision to part ways with the coach; Paul denied he had anything to do with it; Boston fans were upset that Rivers wanted out and that he waffled; the Clippers and Celtics couldn’t seem to agree on fair compensation; the NBA stepped in to block a potential side deal involving Jordan and Kevin Garnett.

Amid all these competing interests and subplots, it was clear, even to Clippers owner Donald Sterling, that Rivers was the guy for this team. Championship experience? Check. Functional relationship with star point guard? Check. Capable of handling big-market glare? Check. Beloved and respected by players, media and coaching colleagues alike? Check. That Sterling actually delivered Rivers, despite the cost involved (the new coach received a three-year, $21 million deal after the Clippers sent a first-round pick to Boston to free him from his contract), should make the team’s fans giddy.

The Clippers also did well in acquiring guard J.J. Redick (from Milwaukee) and forward Jared Dudley (from Phoenix) in a three-team trade that sent guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Caron Butler to the Suns. The L.A./Phoenix portion was a win-win exchange for two parties in different places going in different directions: The rebuilding Suns secured a potential star in the making in the 23-year-old Bledsoe, while the win-now Clippers obtained a savvy, team-first wing on a reasonable contract in Dudley who can shoot but doesn’t need the ball to be effective. Peeling Redick off the Bucks for next to nothing (Milwaukee got a second-round pick from the Clippers and another from Phoenix in the sign-and-trade) and getting him on a reasonable deal (four years, $27.8 million) gave L.A. another experienced, quality shooter in his prime.

On top of those additions, the signing of Collison (who can help fill Bledsoe’s minutes), the re-signing of Barnes (a valuable rotation player last season) and the drafting of Bullock (yet another shooter who showed more than a few flashes while averaging 18 points during the Las Vegas Summer League) leaves L.A. with an embarrassment of perimeter riches. How rich? I didn’t even mention Jamal Crawford, the 2012-13 Sixth Man Award runner-up, or the competent Willie Green, for goodness’ sake.

What Went Wrong: One could argue that the Clippers didn’t make a single misstep this summer. Paul didn’t bail. They didn’t strike out in their coaching search. No rotation players they wanted to keep left. They offloaded the $8 million owed to Butler this season. They didn’t sell themselves short when it came time for the seemingly inevitable parting with Bledsoe. And none of their signings or re-signings can really be labeled as “overpays.”

They also didn’t break the bank: With some minor finagling, the Clippers should be able to sneak under the luxury-tax line. Composing a team capable of winning 60 games (if everything breaks right) for $72 million is no easy task, and it’s a sign of good management.

What went wrong, then, was really a matter of the step that wasn’t taken as opposed to the ones that were.

If the name of the NBA game were simply doing bodily harm to Brandon Knight, few players anywhere could stack up to Jordan. Unfortunately for the 2012-13 Dunker of the Year, his job description calls for a lot more than that, namely everything that he didn’t provide in the Clippers’ postseason loss to the Grizzlies. He averaged 3.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in 24 minutes in the playoffs, and Jordan undoubtedly sits at or near the top of the “players to blame if their contending teams fall flat” list.

The rumored Jordan-for-Garnett swap would have been perfect for the Clippers: a tested, tough, reliable, defense-first, ultra-competitive champion who has averaged a double-double for 10 of the last 11 postseasons and is on a fair contract that doesn’t run too long ($24.4 million remaining over two years). What’s not to like? Yes, Garnett is 37, but this moment, right now, is Paul’s prime and Garnett isn’t out of steam yet.

Instead, when it comes to the middle, L.A. is looking at another year of making do with crossed fingers (and closed eyes whenever Jordan steps to the free-throw line), although there’s always the possibility of a trade-deadline move to balance the roster or a a late-season pickup to bolster the front line.

Grade: A. The Paul/Griffin tandem is back, Rivers in in town, the incoming perimeter pieces (Redick, Dudley, Collison, Bullock) surpass the outgoing perimeter pieces (Bledsoe, Butler, Chauncey Billups) and the new round of shaky reserve bigs looks like it will essentially be a wash. The acquisition of Garnett would have made this an A++, but the Clippers more than kept pace with their competition at the top of the Western Conference.

14 comments
DanaGreer
DanaGreer

The fact that the Clippers will have two 40% 3 point shooters on the floor for just about 58 minutes per game should open up the middle for DeAndre to post numbers a bit better than his career avg. I agree that Rivers is not as good as his hype, but he is light-years better then DelNegro. With so many good offensive options Paul will be able to do what he does best, penetrate and dish the rock. Clippers will make the Western Conference Finals, too soon yet to say how well they do beyond that. 

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

They did not get any better player wise, and Doc is nothing special, but he is better than DelNegro.   They will still go nowhere in the playoffs.

spiderminion
spiderminion

This team looks like Paul's NOH about 5 years back, only with more talent (especially off the bench) and less toughness. They feel more like Pretenders than actual Contenders. We'll see.

Plus15
Plus15

So essentially some writer named Ben Golliver thinks he's a much better judge of basketball talent than Doc Rivers who specifically targeted DeAndre Jordan along with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin as the reason he was excited to come to LA and coach the Clippers. Seems like a typically schmucky , ego'd out  self appointed NBA blogger (a/k/a fan).

RLA 21
RLA 21

I'm a Lakers fan but even I'm impressed with their offseason. Dudley is a great pickup, CP3 was the must sign, even Doc Rivers despite being overrated is 10x the coach Del Negro was. Having a guy that can shoot 3's like Redick is awesome, Jamison was one of my favorite Lakers last year, Mullens is a good shooting big man. I'm predicting a top 3 finish with a chance at the 2nd seed (Spurs or Thunder could rest/stumble a little this year). 


And all I want to see is a Lakers/Clippers 1st round, even if the Clippers demolish my Lakers. Just want to see the hallway series.

P0is0nedKoolA1
P0is0nedKoolA1

What's wrong with all of you? What did Kendrick Perkins do other than clog the lane on offense & get stupid technicals? Sure, Perk's Def awareness is higher than DeAndre's , but Perkins hasn't shown much since joining OKC thus showing that it  may have been more about  Thibodeau's Defensive scheme then Perkin's abilities. 

DeAndre will have a better year 

Doc Rivers is HIGHLY over-rated, but he picks assistants well. I trust he will figure out  a way to get the Clippers (barring injury) the Western Finals. Yes, the Western Conf Finals. 

OKC vs Clippers. Spurs break down. Houston has D Howard (nuff said), Grizzlies continue to be "could have/would haves".

PaulSharpe
PaulSharpe

Clippers continue to be style over substance...  Does ANYONE believe they'll come thru in the clutch with CP & Blake the Flake??!....  Nah, I didn't think so....

SirGaryColeman
SirGaryColeman

Doc Rivers may be overrated, but he is still an upgrade. Vinny had the basketball IQ of a highschool coach, no lie.

Clippers still need a center, though. :(

WilyCoyoteSuperGenius
WilyCoyoteSuperGenius

I can't wait until Rivers is exposed as the mediocre coach he is. Not sure why the media is so in love with him. Before KG and Allen arrived in Beantown he was about to be fired, as he was in Orlando. $21 million and a first round draft pick is a lot to give up for a guy who did little more than roll the ball out to center court in Boston. 

The Clippers are basically the same team they were and will end up in the same place - gone by the second round at the latest.


Hampton180
Hampton180

@P0is0nedKoolA1 Perkins shoots better from the free throw line even if he still does shoot a bad percentage.  Also Perkins played alongside KG when he still played heavy minutes and was in his All-Star form.  Griffin is undeniably talented but he will never be as skilled offensively of defensively as KG has been.  Not saying your wrong about a possible WCF appearance, but you are wrong about the Jordan and Griffin front line being as good or better than the Perkins and Garnett front line during their championship run

SirGaryColeman
SirGaryColeman

Clippers might not win the Championship (or even go), but nobody can dispute that with Chris Paul on the court, they are a MUCH better team.

People act like the Clippers need to win a Finals or else they suck. Can't people appreciate the fact that they went from one of the worst teams of all time to a team that some people think could actually win it all?

eddie767
eddie767

@WilyCoyoteSuperGenius I've said the same thing about Rivers too. What i don't understand is,why KG wasn't able to be traded to Clips.? His trade was media guessing,but NBA believed them and not teams,about possible compensation. Either way Boston won,the trades they made. Just one more needed and that's Rondo to Rockets,for 2 more 1st rounders.

Skins'Fan
Skins'Fan

@eddie767 @WilyCoyoteSuperGenius Rondo to the Rockets' would be intriguing because they could theoretically swap straight up for Asik/Lin's salaries (with picks thrown in and maybe a third team) to make it happen. As for Doc being overrated, you're both crazy. Those early teams were GARBAGE outside of Pierce. Garnett never won anything until he played with Doc. He's the only coach EVER to bring in two stars, manage egos, then win a title within the same year. That's damn impressive and he's orchestrated an excellent defense every year on top of using his players strengths on offense. Not too shabby. Who would you rank above him? Pop, obviously, but then who?