The Clippers are Screwed
“Life is like the river, sometimes it sweeps you gently along and sometimes the rapids come out of nowhere.”
Author Emma Smith not only summed up the complexity of life but also the current troubles of the Los Angeles Clippers. How apt that a metaphor about a river describe the plight of Doc Rivers’ team? The Clippers started the season full of promise going on a 4-0 run, and their star, Blake Griffin was putting his name in the MVP conversation. Since then, they’ve gone 4-13 and have been decimated by injuries along the way. Patrick Beverley is out for the season with a knee injury, the passing wizard, Milos Teodosic, is still out for a few more games as is their key off-season signing, Danilo Gallinari. The biggest one though is Blake Griffin, who you can’t help but feel bad for. He’s had rotten luck with injury to say the least and this time he’s out due to clumsiness on Austin Rivers behalf.
In total, Griffin (190), Gallinari (269) and Beverley (78) have missed a combined 537 games across their respective careers; those are absolutely absurd numbers. There’s no way you can build a team around such shoddy foundations. Doc only has himself to blame as one of his final moves as the team’s general manager was to sign Gallinari to a 3-year, $65 million deal. Many thought the deal to be a risky move, as did OTG's elite.
The Clippers were struggling even with a healthy Griffin but without him things could turn disastrous. On-court, the team has a 110.9 offensive rating, while off it, it dips to under 105 (104.3). They’ll now be looking to play through DeAndre Jordan who is still rebounding well this season (2nd in the league at 13.8 per game), but is struggling in a lot of other areas.
His offense has dipped; he’s scoring 4.7 points per 100 possessions which is still good for the 73rd percentile in the league, but it’s his worst number since the 2011-12 season. With that, his effective field goal percentage while still quite high (65.9%) is his lowest in five seasons.
The defensive end isn’t much better. Jordan’s defensive field goal percentage at the rim, 67.2%, is good for 33rd in the league among centers who have started at least 10 games. Last year he was 12th in that category among players who started 50 games or more at 50.1%. His defensive rating as whole is the the same number as his worst years in his rookie and sophomore season (107), a far cry from 2013-2017 where it was at 98. DeAndre’s also allowing 1.3 points per 100 possessions which is the worst since the 2012-13 season, however, that number might be inflated due to the loss of two great defensive guards in Beverley and Paul. Finally, his turnover percentage (22.5%) is the highest it’s been since his sophomore season (22.7%). The ball is going to be in his hands a lot more with so many of his teammates out, so that number is going to have to improve significantly.
There’s a lot of disappointment surrounding the Clippers franchise so let’s do something fun. Remember those old Choose Your Own Adventure books popular in the 80s and 90s? Well we’re going to make our own revolving around the Clips. There’s going to be two options:
Steve Ballmer and the front office decide to blow things up and get a headstart on the rebuild.
Stay the course and ride things out with the current roster and coaching team
DeAndre Jordan’s services are being sought out by a number of teams though the team are yet to make clear if he’s on the trade block. He’s also without an agent which does complicate things. In this case, he’s traded to the Wizards for Marcin Gortat, Kelly Oubre, Jason Smith and a 2018 lottery-protected first-round pick. A decent return but also, the team is left to build around Austin Rivers until Gallinari and Griffin return.
With DeAndre gone, some fresh faces are also needed on the bench, and Doc Rivers is relieved of his services. Many around NBA circles have reported of rumblings around his future anyway and we all know Doc isn’t a rebuilding coach. Sorry coach, but the internet people won.
By the end of the season, the Clippers are a lottery team and get another pick in a talented draft. With a new young talent comes a new young coach, former Grizzlies’ coach David Fizdale seems a nice fit going into next season and would be able to bring in a bit of life to a stagnant organisation.
The most successful era in Clippers’ history is officially over, but hey it was fun while it lasted right?
This is the more likely outcome for the Clippers. With Steve Ballmer looking to move the Clippers out of Staples Center there’s no way the team can be shitty moving to a new arena.
DeAndre stays, as does Doc, who is given an out with all of the unlucky injuries. They ride out the season to an 11th placed finish in the standings and they somehow still have to endure two more years of Gallinari’s contract and another four of Griffin’s.
With a healthy team the Clippers have playoff-level talent; maybe they’ll get lucky with that next season.
Neither scenario provides truly happy results for Clippers fans. Their chance to blow it up came before the start of this season. While it may have been risky in terms of remaining relevance in a crowded Los Angeles market, it was the best option for long-term success. Now they are, where they are, stuck in NBA purgatory. Chris Paul is long gone, DeAndre may follow, is the coach next?
“I think he (Chris Paul) was tired of hearing my voice.”
For Rivers’ sake, let’s hope Ballmer doesn’t get sick of it too.
Stats provided by NBA Stats, Basketball Reference and Cleaning the Glass