Since the Warriors downed the Cavs to take the 2017 NBA title back on June 12, NBA teams have undergone a number of changes over the long summer offseason.
NBA.com's Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise -- from the team with the worst regular-season record in 2016-17 to the team with the best regular-season record -- as we look at 30 teams in 30 days.
Today's team: LA Clippers
2016-17 Record: 51-31
The lowdown: As usual, the Clippers won 50-plus games, and as usual, they met with a quicker-than-expected exit in the playoffs.
Now that it’s over, what must we make of the Chris Paul Era in LA? Ultimately, it failed to deliver when he and the Clippers failed to reach even the Western Conference finals during his six seasons despite a rather strong starting lineup and a proven winner of a coach in Doc Rivers.
That’s not all Paul’s fault, though. Rivers, the general manager, never spruced up the bench enough to put LA over the hump. And more than anything, injuries crept up at the wrong times and denied the Clippers in the playoffs. The only real stench was against the Houston Rockets in 2014, when the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to a Houston team that used reserves to pull a stunner.
Still, there’s nothing to show for his time in LA except some clever commercials by an insurance company that helped turned Paul into a celebrity while not helping the Clippers’ bottom line.
Rivers was totally sold on bringing back the gang for one more try. But he didn’t have full support inside the organization (more on this later). And sometimes it’s just “time” and the Clippers weren’t prepared to give Paul the five-year max worth $201 million, not at age 32. So, he opted into the final year of his deal ($24 million) and was dealt to the Rockets. The Clippers received a package of players, none of whom is remotely as good as Paul and who probably will be gone in another season or two.
The task is finding his replacement and it’ll likely come down to Beverley and Teodosic, with Austin Rivers remaining as backup. Beverley was a pit bull in Houston but James Harden handled the bulk of the point-guard chores. Teodosic is the longtime European player who led Serbia to the silver medal in the Rio Olympics. He’s 30 and well-seasoned but, of course, just a rookie when it comes to NBA play.
The Clippers also lost two other mainstays of the Paul era in Crawford and Redick, and at least in Redick’s case, he was ready to move on. Curiously, Crawford’s new team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, could find itself fighting for a playoff spot with the Clippers.
Williams is a former Kia Sixth Man of the Year winner who returns to LA and can gobble up some of Crawford’s role and minutes. Then there’s Gallinari, who overcame injuries in Denver to piece together a solid career. While suited up for his country in international play this summer, Gallinari broke his hand while taking a swing at a player and could miss a portion of training camp.
Harrell was a worker bee near the basket for the Rockets and undoubtedly, they weren’t thrilled to include him in the trade for Paul. Problem is, Harrell isn’t a good shooter and teaming him next to DeAndre Jordan would put two poor free throw shooters on the floor together.
After losing Paul, the Clippers weren't about to do the same with free agent Blake Griffin and gave him five years at $173 million. That's rather rich for a player who lately has been injury-prone (he came up lame last season in the playoffs for the second straight year). But when he's healthy, Griffin is a 20-and-10 guy and still a star -- which the Clippers need in LA.
The other major change involved Rivers, who surrendered his GM duties after much discussion with owner Steve Ballmer. Many NBA observers wondered when Ballmer would act regarding Rivers’ dual duties, yet figured it would take time while Ballmer, who brought the team only a few years ago, learned the ownership turf.
Perhaps Ballmer wondered why Rivers struggled to fortify the Clippers’ bench until last season, when it was decent. Anyway, Rivers didn't put up a fight (maybe he feels unburdened?) and Jerry West was brought in to serve as a consultant. In addition, the Clippers chased Mike Winger from Oklahoma City, where he served with Sam Presti, to take control of the GM duties. They also added Trent Redden, formerly with the Cavs’ front office, and Mark Hughes, formerly with the Knicks, to assist. Winger, Hughes, Redden and holdover Lawrence Frank make for a top-heavy front office.
What does this mean for Rivers, long-term? That’s hard to say, and his fate will likely be an ownership call. Lots will depend on how well Rivers does his job this season and maybe by solely concentrating on coaching, Rivers can help the Clippers overachieve.
In all, it was a franchise-changing summer for the Clippers. But raise your hand if you believe this will also change the Clippers’ fortunes next spring in the playoffs.
Coming Next: Cleveland Cavaliers
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