The only major change the Los Angeles Clippers made to their team last offseason was Steve Ballmer becoming the teams new owner. After a season from elimination in the Western Conference semi-finals, the starting 5 of Chris Paul, J.J. Reddick, Matt Barnes, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan remained the same. In a loaded Western Conference, multiple writers including myself thought the Clippers didn’t have a chance to contend for a NBA Championship.
The Clippers played much better then expected. They ended the season 2nd in the NBA in points per game and 3rd in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage. Their defense included two players on the All NBA First Defensive Team.
The Clippers ended the season 17-5 and earned the three seed in the Western Conference. The San Antonio Spurs challenged the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs, but down 3-2 the Clippers found a way to win the series. Poised for a deep playoff run, the Clippers lost Games 5, 6, and 7 in the Western Conference Finals to the Houston Rockets and were eliminated from the playoffs.
The Clippers need to find a way to get past the Western Conference semi-finals. They need championship experience, improvement at small forward, and more scoring off the bench through free agency. When Doc Rivers was traded from Boston to Los Angeles, the Celtics received a 2015 Clippers first round pick. Lets see who could be in Los Angeles next season.
C DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
DeAndre Jordan proved he is a top center in the NBA. Jordan averaged 11 points and 15.5 rebounds per game. He led the NBA in shooting percentage and rebounds for the second season in a row and is the most explosive dunker in the NBA. He also swatted 2.2 blocks per game and made the All NBA 1st Defensive Team. His new contract will require a max deal and the Clippers already give Chris Paul and Blake Griffin large contracts. Hopefully the rift between Jordan and Chris Paul doesn’t negatively influence his decision. The Clippers defense will suffer if he walks.
C Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons
There is still the possibility that DeAndre Jordan leaves the Clippers. If he does, center needs to be addressed immediately. Greg Monroe isn’t DeAndre Jordan, but he is a younger, cheaper center who had a productive 2014-2015 season. Monroe averaged 15.9 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and thrived after the waiving of Josh Smith. His rebound total was a career high. He doesn’t get many blocks and isn’t nearly as good as a rim protector as Jordan. Blake Griffin and Greg Monroe would still be a nice front court for years to come.
SF Paul Pierce, Washington Wizards
Paul Pierce opted out of his current contract with the Washington Wizards and looks to have one more season on his legs. Doc Rivers was Pierce’s coach in Boston when he won his lone title and the Clippers will do all they can to win a title. Pierce has experience in the playoffs and in Doc Rivers system. He is a leader and was the most clutch player on the Wizards in their time in the 2015 playoffs. Paul Pierce is also from LA and after years with the Celtics, he won’t play in LA if it isn’t with the Clippers. Pierce isn’t the star he used to be, but has the leadership and experience that can get the Clippers over the semi-finals hump.
PF Ed Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
Ed Davis was forced to start for the Lakers after Julius Randle went down in the first game of the season. Davis was reliable last year averaging 8.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game and has had one of the most productive seasons in his six year career. He had career highs in field goal percentage, rebounds, both offensively and defensively, and tied for assists and blocks per game. I don’t see the Clippers re-signing Glen Davis which makes Blake Griffin the only power forward on the roster. Ed Davis would be a productive rotational big man with DeAndre Jordan (UFA) and Blake Griffin.
SF Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns
Gerald Green was on the Clippers radar at the trade deadline. Green played on a Suns team that was stacked at the wing position which killed his minutes. If the Clippers sign DeAndre Jordan, they will need to reluctantly reject Jamal Crawford’s team option. J.J. Reddick would become the lone shooting guard on the roster. Green is a freakish athlete who has averaged over 11 points per game last season. He could give the Clippers athleticism and shooting off the bench. I don’t see him back in Phoenix with the log jam at the wing. He can take minutes from Paul Pierce who will have reduced minutes.
PG Austin Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers
Austin Rivers made his way to Los Angeles from Boston in 2015, just like his father did in 2013. He was Chris Paul’s backup and Doc have him playing roughly 20 minutes per game. Rivers averaged 7 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists which is decent backup numbers. Both Doc and Austin enjoyed playing with each other and Doc is expecting him to return. The Clippers have no other backup and the point guard free agent class isn’t that great. If Doc wants Austin to return this deal is a guarantee.
The Los Angeles Clippers aren’t far from winning an NBA Championship. They have a coach with championship winning experience, a team with chemistry, and an energetic new owner. DeAndre Jordan is on the top of the Clippers list. They need to do all they can do to make sure he remains on the roster. Chris Paul was just ranked the #1 player on Alfonso DeFalco’s (@FonzyDeFalco) list of ringless players. There is urgency in Los Angeles and this offseason will test their urgency.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com