The Los Angeles Clippers are heading into training camp with the same old suspects. Between Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick, and Jamal Crawford, the Clippers are stocked with a surplus of talent, but the team always crumbles in the postseason. With this core, the Clippers haven’t gotten past the Western Conference Semi-finals, and were even eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last year. However, that was mostly due to the injuries of Paul and Griffin, Griffin especially. Griffin suffered a hand injury when he was involved in a reported altercation with a member of the Clippers training staff in February. Paul suffered an injury in the playoffs, as well, which led to the Clippers’ elimination. That was a legitimate excuse for not making a deep playoff run; however, there are no excuses this year. If the Clippers don’t make it to the Western Conference Finals, they need to let both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin leave in free agency.
Los Angeles Clippers 2017 Free Agency May Lead to a Re-build
Paul’s Time in L.A. May Come to an End Soon
Chris Paul is the face of the Clippers franchise, but he’s also the face of doubt. He’s been criticized for being too critical of his teammates, particularly DeAndre Jordan. Paul is one of the five best point guards in the NBA, but this major flaw can make his teammates and other NBA general managers feel uneasy about his presence on their roster. The duo of Paul and Griffin started what became known as “Lob City” five years ago. Their alley-oops electrified the L.A. crowd and the NBA world, but the pixie dust is now wearing off.
While both Paul and Griffin are elite players at their respective positions, they appear to have separated over the years. Griffin tends to get the ball on rebounds and go coast-to-coast, while Paul tends to pass the ball down low to Jordan or out on the perimeter to Redick and Crawford. Paul and Griffin don’t appear to be on the same page anymore. With Paul entering free agency next summer, this season is the most important year of his career. He needs to prove that he can lead this Clipper team to a deep playoff run, or else the Clippers need to let him walk. Even then, that doesn’t mean that Griffin is off the hook.
Griffin Needs to Prove Himself
While Paul has a lot to play for this year, Griffin has just as much to prove. Griffin has been called a mediocre rebounder, a poor defender, a non-existent shot blocker. Some have even labeled him as soft. However, he’s not soft; his defensive numbers just sometimes lead to this exaggerated belief. Griffin has never been a great defender, but the emergence of Jordan as a defensive anchor has clearly changed Griffin. He’s become more relaxed and laid back defensively; the presence of Jordan makes it easier for players to ease up a bit on that end of the floor.
It’s widely known that Griffin is one of the best forwards in the NBA, and that he’s a threat on the offensive side of the ball, but Griffin needs to immensely step up his game defensively. If he doesn’t improve in that area, the Clippers won’t get any better, and they won’t get the playoff position that they desire. If Griffin can’t adjust his game and stay on the court, the Clippers need to let him walk in free agency.
Conference Finals or Re-build
The Clippers are heading into training camp with the same core of players, but they did improve their frontline depth. By agreeing to deals with now-former Golden State Warriors big man Marreese Speights and Los Angeles Lakers power forward Brandon Bass, the Clippers have added two versatile bigs who can help out on the defensive end. In addition to Speights and Bass, the Clippers re-signed guards Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford, as well as swingman Wesley Johnson. The Clippers are entering a make or break season. They need to prove themselves to the NBA, but more specifically, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin must do so. If the Los Angeles Clippers don’t make the 2017 Western Conference Finals, they need to let Chris Paul and Blake Griffin walk in free agency.