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.
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 has never been to a western conference finals, and even with Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Jamal Crawford they are unable to advance.
There is no doubt that this core of players is not 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 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 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.
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 does 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 Kantar.
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.
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.
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 becoming “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.