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30 Teams, 30 Days: Clippers hope changes end heartbreaks

POSTED: Sep 27, 2015 10:35 AM ET

By Shaun Powell

BY Shaun Powell

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2014-15 Clippers Top 10 Plays

Relive the top plays from the Los Angeles Clippers' 2014-15 season.

Since the Warriors grabbed their first NBA title in 40 years in June, NBA teams have undergone a number of changes over the summer break. NBA.com will evaluate the state of each franchise in the month of September with a look at 30 teams in 30 days.

Today's Team: Los Angeles Clippers | All 30 Teams

Who's gone: Matt Barnes, Spencer Hawes

Who's new: Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson, Cole Aldrich, Wesley Johnson, Josh Smith

The Lowdown: You know something is weird when getting Lance Stephenson ranks as the second-most controversial incident of the summer for the Clippers.

Yes, it was a wacky and wild ride for the Clippers, but in the end, it was all good, as DeAndre Jordan reversed field during free agency and left the Mavericks at the alter.

Re-signing Jordan was obviously the priority for the Clippers, and maybe they took him for granted initially. Anyway, it's a moot point, and the nucleus of the Clippers remains intact for yet another run toward a title, hoping this one won't be as bitter as the last. And the one before that. And the one ... well, you get the picture.

It's not that the Clippers' window is closing; it's just the sour endings are piling up, and Chris Paul and Co. will only get so many cracks at it. Not only must they remain healthy, the Clippers need the right supporting cast, and to that end, Doc Rivers the GM finally helped Doc Rivers the coach.

We can even say Rivers had a solid summer, all things considered. The mark of a good GM is being able to erase mistakes, and Rivers did that. We think. He was able to dump Spencer Hawes, a free agent mistake, and even upgrade the small forward position from a scoring standpoint, without working with much in assets.

But Rivers is gambling, getting what's classified as a "distressed asset" in Lance Stephenson. Two years ago Stephenson's only problem was his antics; as a player he was very sound for the Pacers. But last season in Charlotte, the switch flipped. Stephenson was generally on good behavior but his play bombed. The Hornets were anxious to dump him for Hawes -- your trash for mine -- and therein lies the (admittedly low) risk for the Clips: Can Stephenson help?

GameTime: Clippers Projected Depth Chart

The guys talk about the way DeAndre Jordan handled the Dallas situation and discuss the Clippers projected depth chart.

Matt Barnes was an enforcer and solid defender who came up aces for the Clippers in the playoffs but he couldn't score. That's what the Clippers want from Stephenson, someone who can get buckets from the swing positions. Rivers has excellent rapport with players and if anyone can reach Planet Lance, it's Rivers. That's what the Clippers are banking on, Rivers getting the most from Stephenson.

Actually Rivers factors into the Clippers' three biggest offseason additions. In addition to Stephenson, Paul Pierce and Josh Smith are also here because Rivers, in a sense. Pierce won a title with the coach in Boston and the two are like-minded. It's unlikely Pierce would've left the Wizards had the Clippers been coached by anyone else.

Smith brings a game built on decent athleticism and mental errors to L.A., and probably won't see many minutes, but in the right system and with the right coach, he can help more than hurt. That's all the Clippers are asking from a player who shoots too many 3-pointers and makes the wrong decisions, but also finishes well and blocks shots.

In a nutshell, if Rivers gets good production from a player going on 40 years old, and another player who was benched in Charlotte, and another player who lacks fundamentals, he should get Coach of the Year. And maybe Executive of the Year, too. If two of those three pan out for the Clippers, that's a percentage Rivers will gladly take.

Pierce came up big for the Wizards in the playoffs last season and brings precisely what the Clippers need, another clutch shooter for the postseason. Usually that task falls to Paul and also Griffin to an extent. Now comes Pierce, who stays healthy and fit and most of all, competitive. Should he hit on all three of those components again, the Clippers will bring a little something extra in springtime to boost their chances of reaching the NBA Finals.

It's possible that Wes Johnson could bolster the bench; he came cheap, was decent last season with the Lakers and fits in an up-tempo system. He's very athletic and can flourish on the break. As for Cole Aldrich, he can spell Jordan for a few minutes.

So the summer was a good one all around for the Clippers and Rivers, who has to be thrilled, especially when the Jordan fiasco worked in L.A.'s favor. If nothing else, the general manager gave the coach something to work with this season.

Coming Next: Houston Rockets

To check out the rest of the series schedule, click here.

Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

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