This column reflects the opinion of the writer and does not in any way reflect the views of The Stanford Daily.
The Los Angeles Clippers have a serious dilemma after yet another early, injury-ridden postseason exit against the Utah Jazz earlier this week. Two of the Clippers’ big three, Blake Griffin and point guard Chris Paul, will almost certainly exercise their player options in search of lucrative, long-term maximum contracts, estimated to be worth$30.1 and $36.1 million, respectively.
What makes this offseason such a predicament for owner Steve Ballmer and the rest of the Los Angeles front office is the sincere gamble that both sides of the decision to resign the veterans poses for President Doc Rivers and Co.
Even if the Clippers decide to restructure their roster after failing to reach the conference finals in their six years of being a team with 50+ wins (despite FiveThirtyEight.com’s 85 percent probability), Los Angeles would then be anchored by DeAndre Jordan and a band of misfits that cant compromise a good bench rotation to supplement their top-heavy roster of this season.
In terms of young talent for the Clippers, Austin Rivers could be considered the only young player (at 25) with promise to make gigantic leaps forward in his game, highlighting the lack of young talent in Doc Rivers’ ranks and showing how a total rebuild poses little option for a hungry franchise that’s desperate for a winning team.
While NBA experts widely predict that both franchise icons will accept the Clippers’ offers in the upcoming offseason, the main arguments usually cite the Los Angeles lifestyle, cap inflexibility and chemistry mismatches from championship competitors, family, etc.; they hardly ever cite winning as the major factor behind an incentive for the two aging veterans, and especially Paul, who has yet to progress pass the second round of the playoffs.
From the front office standpoint, Steve Kyler of BasketballInsiders.com reported that sources close to the Clippers’ front office were “adamant” that the Los Angeles franchise remained determined to resign marquee veterans Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, with the news coming closely after Paul’s hand surgery and largely arguing that players of their caliber only come once in a blue moon.
Even Clippers’ new owner Ballmer made the sentiments clear, telling ESPN analyst Kevin Arnovitz, “I love those guys, and I want them back.”
On both sides, however, I cannot help but get the feeling of a relationship in which both parties aren’t fully satisfied with their partner, yet they simply keep on out of fear of breaking up. Yet, the question still looms: What would be the best for the Clippers’ interests going forward?
To me, resigning Chris Paul, who finished with the fourth-highest offensive rating among players who played over 50 games in the season and is the sixth most efficient player (according to Player efficiency rating), is a no-brainer. While point guard production tends to deteriorate rapidly in the NBA, Paul’s unmatched floor intelligence (4-to-1 turnover ratio) and stellar mid-range game should be enough for any team – let alone a hard-capped Clipper franchise on the brink of a rebuild – to be convinced of his worth as a max-contract player.
Griffin, on the other hand, will be coming off his second season-ending injury in the playoffs and already looks like the shell of a player that once captivated crowds with his gravity-defying dunks. While the power forward adapted to a changing NBA landscape that nearly extinguished the beefy, pound-the-paint archetype, Griffin’s post play has regressed in recent years, with an increasing percentage of his points coming from the midrange instead of the paint.
Coming off the back of another rough injury, this time to the toe, Griffin’s continued athleticism and long-term health surely needs to be evaluated in any multi-year contract with any team. Even further, Griffin has regressed in both points and rebounds in the last couple of years, changing the superstar commercial icon into a “borderline all-star” in the CARMELO player rankings on FiveThirtyEight.com.
CARMELO rankings also projected that Griffin’s offensive +/- and market value will deteriorate exponentially from here on out, with this season projected to be the highest potential for the six-year veteran (obviously turning into another bust of a season marred by injuries).
Ultimately, Griffin definitely ranks among some of the best in his position, yet a max contract that restricts cap space for years to come would be overpaying for the talent that hasn’t been able to play a full season since 13-14. While the Clipper power forward would be the best at his position in his free agent class, Los Angeles really needs to weigh both Griffin’s future value and the possibility to actually move past the second round with this same unsuccessful core.
After all, even in the NBA, the definition of insanity still rings true.
Remind Lorenzo that he actually thought the Clippers would be a championship caliber team, ultimately forgetting the No. 1 rule in the NBA that “The Clips gon’ clip,” at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu