After failing to reach the postseason for the first time since the 2011-12 NBA season, the Los Angeles Clippers have a number of question marks heading into the offseason. The team is bound to make a number of changes this summer to the player personnel, the coaching staff and even some of the front office group. This season’s efforts from this Clippers team were undoubtedly admirable. Every player on the Clippers except Boban Marjanovic started at least one game. Injuries sidelined a number of the team’s most important players throughout the season. Six different rookies played significant minutes. A major trade of the team’s franchise player Blake Griffin shocked not just the Clippers but all of the NBA, and constant trade speculation surrounding the remaining group of players certainly kept them uneasy at the very least. All things considered, it’s impressive that game 80 of this past season legitimately meant something to the Clippers and their playoff hopes.
Heading into this offseason, the Los Angeles Clippers are straddling the line between total rebuild and a contending team. This position can be dangerous to linger upon, as now more than ever in the NBA, teams are committing themselves fully to one side or the other of this tanking or all-in dilemma. Teams like the Philadelphia 76ers have become the poster boys for exhibiting how tanking can eventually get you into contention for an NBA championship. It seems that L.A. isn’t interested in blowing the team up and orchestrating a total rebuild of this franchise using the blueprint Philadelphia and a number of other NBA organizations have adopted. President of Basketball Operations, Lawrence Frank has coined their current strategy as “reshaping.”
At the forefront of the Clippers’ current plans for the team’s future is their two picks in the first round of the next NBA draft. In the Blake Griffin trade, L.A. acquired Detroit’s first-round pick, so they now hold the 12th and 13th draft slots of this year’s lottery. With a possibility of at least one of these picks netting the them a top-10 pick if they get lucky in the lottery, the Clippers will have a lot of opportunity this offseason to re-tool their already above-average roster personnel. Premature mock drafts have Los Angeles targeting guys such as Alabama point guard Collin Sexton and Villanova shooting guard Mikal Bridges. It’s way too early to know exactly who the Clippers should be considering with these two picks, or whether they should look to trade one or both of them for something more promising, but the fact is that after missing the playoffs for the first time in quite a while, L.A. will have a great opportunity to utilize these high draft picks to help “reshape” their team.
The Clippers’ biggest storyline at the moment is perhaps center DeAndre Jordan‘s uncertain future with the team. Already mentioned on isportsweb, Jordan is the last of the Clippers’ “Big Three,” referring to him, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. After losing Paul last offseason and Griffin via mid-season trade, Jordan’s decision whether or not to opt out of his contract with the Clippers will be followed intently over the course of the summer. He has a player option for over $24 million next season with the Clippers, but he’s expected to opt-out, and after he listed his Malibu home for sale and his emotional embraces with coach Doc Rivers and other team members in his last game, it seems likely D.J. plans to be playing for someone else next season.
In Doc Rivers’ exit interview with the media, he elaborated some on his relationship with Jordan over the years. During their first meeting in 2013, Doc told D.J., “I’m going to coach you to who I think you should be someday.” Jordan has become an elite rebounder, rim protector and inside presence under Rivers’ counsel. Doc said that Jordan has accomplished everything he set out to with exception of an NBA championship – the obvious most important accolade. This year, D.J. became the franchise leader in games played with the Clippers, and if this season was truly his last in Los Angeles, it’s possible his number six jersey may end up being the first ever hung in the rafters of Staples Center with the Clippers name on it.
If DeAndre Jordan is set on leaving Los Angeles with hopes of greener pastures elsewhere, look for the Clips to make a sign-and-trade with the all-star big man similar to the move they made with Chris Paul and the Houston Rockets last offseason. A sign-and-trade would be beneficial for both Jordan and the Clippers, as L.A. is able sign D.J. to a contract worth more money than any other team can, and if he’s leaving, Los Angeles will want to receive something in return for his departure.
Rumors have been swirling around the Clippers and San Antonio Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard. If Los Angeles is in fact amongst the teams composing a package to try to trade for the two-way NBA great, expect DeAndre Jordan to be a player the Spurs would be interested in getting in return for Leonard. Jordan is a Texas native, and Kawhi is from Southern California, so a trade of this nature would make a lot of sense.
The final offseason narrative to follow regarding Los Angeles is the future of head coach Doc Rivers. This year was Doc’s fifth season with the Clippers and his first to not make the postseason with the team. Reports suggest that he’s probably going to return next season for what would be the final year on his current contract, but no definitive statement coming from the team has been made just yet. I’ve read conflicting stories suggesting he’s going to stay and others saying he’s leaving. The Clippers’ 2017-18 roster was likely the least talented Doc has coached since coming to Los Angeles via trade with the Boston Celtics, but the media mostly feels it was his best effort as coach thus far getting the most out of his team considering all of the roadblocks L.A. experienced this season.
League sources indicate that both Doc Rivers (Clippers) and Dave Joerger (Kings) are expected to return to their respective jobs next season, despite not making the playoffs this year.
— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) April 12, 2018
I think the organization’s decision to remove Rivers from the General Manager position last year was a great one. Doc’s undoubtedly one of the league’s most coveted head coaches, but his decisions as an executive for the Clippers were questionable at best. With new, smarter minds like Jerry West, Dave Wohl and Lawrence Frank directing the team’s roster decisions, the Clippers seem to be heading in a much more encouraging direction. If Los Angeles parts ways with Rivers, we will likely hear something definitive from the team sooner rather than later, as teams like the Orlando Magic and New York Knicks have already gotten a head start on searching for new head coaches next season.
Heading into the upcoming NBA offseason, the Los Angeles Clippers have a plethora of decisions on their plate, but fans of the organization should remain positive based upon the team’s clear commitment to winning efforts and thriving franchise chemistry led by enthusiastic owner Steve Ballmer. One of the team’s biggest criticisms during the Lob City era with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin was the evident lack of team chemistry and positive attitudes. The 2017-18 roster meshed much better behind an underdog attitude with minimal expectations. In his exit interview with the media last week, Lawrence Frank, President of Basketball Operations, said, “The thing I don’t think has been talked about enough is the chemistry of this group… Every team has talent, some more than others, but the difference makers usually are commitment, attitude and team chemistry.” The Clippers are moving in the right direction entering the summer, and the team’s decisions regarding these narratives and how they fit into their future plans will certainly be worth monitoring.