Here’s an interesting stat for Los Angeles Clippers fans: in their three years under Vinny del Negro, their wins column was slowly getting larger (32, 40, 56), while in their three years under Doc Rivers, the opposite is true (57, 56, 53).
Without trying to sound alarmist, it is definitely time for LA Clippers fans to panic. Chris Paul turns 31 today. DeAndre Jordan turns 28 later this year. Blake Griffin is 27, and yet this team has not looked even close to a Finals appearance in its’ five years together.
Outside of that core, the story doesn’t get any better. Jamal Crawford, JJ Reddick and Jeff Green are the only other talents still worthy of being on a NBA playoffs roster.
In perhaps the most alarming reality yet, Los Angeles will next year have the least cap space available – they will hand out a touch under $83 million in salaries, which means that if they want to add players, they will almost certainly be paying luxury tax.
So with unfortunate trends against them, no Conference Finals appearances in five years and currently paying out the most money in the league, how can LA quickly right the ship to salvage what years they have left with this core?
The easiest and most immediate option would be to fire head coach (and current President of Basketball Operations) Doc Rivers and find a new one of each – this time, presumably two different men.
It’s likely the Clippers would go down the path of an experienced head coach, but unfortunately, they don’t grow on trees. Names like Jeff van Gundy, David Blatt and Henry Bibby have all been mentioned in connection with NBA jobs lately, all of who are experienced names, but this is all pure speculation.
With the way the Clips have been playing over the past few years, a new head coach seems to be almost a must-have. It’s becoming clear that Rivers’ style is not compatible with the team he is coaching.
However, with that in mind, if firing Doc is not the road the LA Clippers want to go down, there is one other quick fix that the team may or may not be daring enough to take.
DeAndre Jordan is no doubt a luxury to have for any NBA team – he’s a fantastic defender, fantastic athlete and works exceptionally well in the pick-and-roll, which is how he has primarily been used on offence over his career.
However, whilst a luxury he may be, he is probably one that this Los Angeles team cannot afford. Whilst he is undoubtedly their third-best player, he is one of the worst free-throw shooters in the league, rendering him almost useless down the stretch of close games with the hack style teams commonly employ.
As probably the most valuable NBA currency LA currently have, he is the most likely candidate to get the tap on the shoulder and told he’s been traded – but to where, and for whom?
In any potential deal, it’s likely the Clippers would want something in the ballpark of a high-quality wing, a decent role player and a first round pick(s).
Whilst this would probably require them to lower their asking price, or bring in a third team, solid wing play is something the team has been sorely lacking over the past few years, and would be the perfect foil for the play of Paul and Griffin.
In the modern NBA, two dominant big men such as Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan is becoming less popular, with teams choosing to go smaller. The Clips may also be tempted to follow this trend.
However, potential candidate for the unemployment line, Doc Rivers, came out on Tuesday and suggested that none of their big three will be traded, and they will attempt to add to their core rather than move it around.
With Rivers running the show in Playa Vista, one wonders if they will manage to do anything to break the maddening cycle they are currently stuck in.