Has Chris Paul played his last game with the Los Angeles Clippers?
Will Blake Griffin be traded?
Will the Clippers ever eclipse the Los Angeles Lakers as the city’s top basketball franchise?
These are the questions the Clippers face one week after getting knocked out of the NBA playoffs. Another early playoff exit equals questions that are running amok for the Los Angeles Clippers. A team which began the NBA season with so much promise, now faces an offseason with some serious questions and a bevy of doubt. The veteran Clippers team, which lost a Game 7 on their homecourt to an up-and-coming Utah Jazz club, may never look the same.
The Jazz defeated the Clippers, who were without the aforementioned Griffin, with grit and toughness. Even before Griffin was lost to a broken toe, as reported by NBA.com, the Jazz were proving to be equal to the much ballyhooed Clippers team.
The Clippers were expected to contend for Western Conference supremacy, or at the very least, be one of the teams that could push the Golden State Warriors. Injuries and a lack of depth eventually caught up to the Clippers. They never appeared to be able to create any chemistry, or secondary scoring options.
The Clippers’ issues with scoring options were clear anytime Blake Griffin was hurt. Guards J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford can score, but neither of them are capable of carrying a team at this stage. Redick is a spot-up shooter, who does not create his own shot often. And Crawford can create shots for himself, but seldom for others. His streakiness with his shot negates his ability to carry a team.
Nothing made these things more apparent than during the times when Blake Griffin was unavailable.
Redick is one of the eight Los Angeles Clippers’ players who could be free agents in the summer. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are also among the Clippers’ potential free agents. As of now, the Clippers are expected to re-sign both Griffin and Paul, but things could reverse course.
After the bitter series defeat to the Jazz, which further piles on the futility that has followed the Clippers as a franchise, it would be a surprise if one or both Griffin and Paul escape.
Clippers’ coach and general manager Doc Rivers is well aware of the decisions his players face regarding their future. According to the Los Angeles Times report, Rivers leaves everything open-ended.
“In the history of the Clippers, there’s no one, other than Ralph (Lawler), really, that considers themselves a Clipper. And these two guys are responsible for that. And so I would love them to shepherd that through. Whether that happens or not, it’s too early. We’ll make all those decisions or they’ll make them for us. But I do have a strong belief in that.”
The NBA rumor mill is churning out possible destinations for Blake Griffin. There is a Fox Sports’ report about his desires to re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers once he becomes a free agent, which could refute the rumors.
There is a solid chance that Griffin does return to the Clippers. And if he were to leave, it would be via a sign-and-trade. That way he does not lose out on maximizing his earning potential in free agency.
Chris Paul’s case could be different and more difficult to gauge. Paul is an older player who has never appeared in the conference finals. After a while, that could cause people to question his legacy as an NBA player.
Is Chris Paul a hall of famer? Yes. What he has done statistically can never be questioned. It is his winning resume that would.
Moving to a team with a better chance to advance in the playoffs could, and should be something Paul ponders going forward. Uniting with Kahwi Leonard in San Antonio could be a possibility. There could be a chance of him teaming with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade on the Chicago Bulls. A longshot would be for Chris Paul to return to New Orleans, where he could help a talented Pelicans team elevate into the Western Conference elite.
The latter makes perfect sense, because Paul would arguably be playing with the NBA’s two most gifted frontcourt players in Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. All the Pelicans need is a point guard to set the tempo, and a shooter. If they can acquire both in the offseason, it is not inconceivable for the Pelicans to be regarded as the second-best team in the West. This would require Chris Paul to leave via free agency. Right now the odds of Paul leaving are unpredictable.
Even if Griffin and Paul return, J.J. Redick is likely gone. As explored by The Vertical’s Bobby Marks, the Clippers can lose him while they are focusing on re-signing Griffin and Paul. Their cap numbers will likely price Redick out.
Teams looking for a shooter will be in position to sign him away from the Clippers. He could go to the Bulls, New York Knicks, or the Philadelphia 76ers. The market for Redick will be plentiful and that will hurt the Clippers.
Simply put, there will be a new shooting guard for the Los Angeles Clippers. Add to that a new starting small forward and all of that equals change. For the Los Angeles Clippers, some change is coming.
[Featured Image by Sean Haffey/Getty Images]