Blow it up: Why the Clippers should embrace a rebuild

The Clippers are only one game back from the eighth seed in the West. Lou Williams is playing outside of his mind. Blake Griffin is back from concussion protocol and Patrick Beverley says he could potentially play again this year. Not to mention, they’re one of the most injured teams in the league, all around, and they still beat the Warriors on Wednesday.

So why blow it up? Why not keep getting healthier and make one last meaningful run at the title while everyone has written them off?

Easy answer to an easy question; They won’t win a title in the West. They can’t. Not with this roster in this conference with this level of competition.

The Clippers are already teetering on breaking their streak of six straight playoff appearances. So here’s why they should wave the white flag and lean into the disappointment.

Trade chips

Lou Williams’ value will simply never be higher than it is right now. He’s averaging 31.6 points per game off the bench in his last 10 contests. He’s a virtual lock for Sixth Man of the Year, although he’s pretty much playing starters’ minutes. And he dropped 50 points on Golden State on Wednesday night, which is significant because the name of the game for 29 teams in the Association is to beat the Warriors at all costs. That’s something to, at the very least, take into consideration while going over a shopping list.

Clippers

Lou Williams tries to score over Omri Casspi. (Photo by: Alex Gallardo/Associated Press)

The Clippers also have two of the premiere offensive-minded rebounders in the league in Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan.

At 28 and 29-years-old respectively, are both in that sweet spot where the Clippers can trade them away without an iota of seller’s remorse. Historically, big players have started to have a downturn in their numbers around 30-years-old. So, the Clips can say that they held onto Griffin and Jordan in their prime, tried their very best to make it work and can sell very high to teams in need of their production.

Also, if they keep Beverley off the court this year and maintain an air of mystery around what he is capable of, then they can sell high on his defensive potential during the off-season.

Coaching

Doc Rivers is a prolific players’ coach, and puts more stock in talent than schemes. This isn’t a knock against him in any way, and, in fact, it is what won him a championship in Boston.

The problem is that without transcendent talent on the floor, coaching has to be about schemes and patterns. Now that Chris Paul is a Rocket, Blake Griffin can’t seem to stay on the court for an entire season, and defensive wizard Patrick Beverley is probably done for the year, Rivers is not the right fit for the team.

Clippers

Doc Rivers yells at an official while Deandre Jordan begins to hold him back (Photo by: Kathy Willens/Associated Press)

Trading away talent for picks and placeholders is an easy way to phase out Rivers and begin again with a clean slate. His contract is up after next season, so if the team commits to the rebuild, then next year’s record should be pretty bad. That’s an excuse to let Rivers go find his next job and lets the Clippers pick a new direction.

The draft

The Clippers don’t have a wealth of draft picks this year. In fact, as of now they only have one pick. Obviously, if they trade away stars and want to rebuild, that will (or should) result in more picks.

The 2018 draft should be pretty balanced and should feature some franchise-altering talent in the first round. That leaves two ways Los Angeles can play this particular game.

They can stockpile picks and see what sticks and what doesn’t, a-la the Philadelphia 76ers. Or, they can bear hug the tanking philosophy after trading away Williams, Griffin and Jordan and aim for a high pick. Once that pick is secured, they can flip it for more chances at less-valued players, or go for broke and try to draft a star.

Either way is equally risky and equally viable, but it should all depend on what they can get for their on-court talent.

Clippers

Blake Griffin throws down a dunk. (Photo by: Harry How/Getty Images)

It’s not easy to say goodbye to Lob City. The Clippers were, genuinely, one of the most exciting teams in the NBA for a long period of time. They also successfully overshadowed a certain purple and gold clad team that shares their arena.

But with Chris Paul dropping dimes in Houston, an aging frontcourt and no real identity, it’s time to watch these players be great somewhere else. Steve Ballmer is, arguably, a top-10 owner in the league, so let’s all hope he won’t want to mortgage the future for another meaningless first round exit.

Two good teams in Los Angeles is good for the Association, and good for the fans. If this happens, however, there will be two pretty bad teams in Los Angeles, for what is probably the very first time. But this is a Band-Aid that needs to be ripped off. They still have the Dodgers, after all.

Featured image by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

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Making the case for every fringe playoff team

The NBA season is halfway over, which means it’s time to start evaluating potential playoff teams.

The top four seeds in each conference are virtual locks, due to overall talent and coaching. The fifth-seventh seeds will do some changing around as teams jockey for their playoff seeding. Although, close followers of the NBA probably wouldn’t be surprised if the Pistons or the Trailblazers fell out of the playoff picture after overachieving slightly in the first half of the season.

As with any sport’s playoff, however, the most interesting storylines are the ones involving the teams on the bubble.

With that in mind, let’s look at each conference’s eighth seed and first two teams on the outside looking in.

Eastern Conference

Indiana Pacers (21-19, No. 8 seed)

The Pacers have been just fine without Paul George. Victor Oladipo has been playing close to his ceiling, although they’re still overpaying for him. The other piece of the trade that sent George away, Domantas Sabonis, has also been playing nicely. He’s two rebounds shy of averaging a double-double, and will probably end up setting career-high averages in every meaningful category.

While their offense has been clicking, their defense is some of the most below average in the Association. Not awful, just very mediocre. Their offense alone can win the Pacers enough games to keep them in the 8th spot. Lack of defensive consistency will have been their downfall if they fail to make the cut.

Philadelphia 76ers (19-19, first team out)

Philadelphia is one of the most exciting stories in the NBA this season. The “process” seems to have finally come to fruition, and we are finally seeing glimpses of what this long and arduous rebuild has wrought.

Even though the 76ers are a .500 team, don’t be fooled. They’re currently first in the league in rebounds per game, second in assists resulting made field goals, and sixth in points. A rested and re-energized team could ride that kind of momentum to a playoff spot after the All Star break. Plus, their first overall draft pick hasn’t even played five games yet.

NBA Playoffs

Embiid scores on Whiteside. (Photo by: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

What will keep them out of the playoffs is their youth and inconsistency in their game to game performances. As the season drags on, the young players might start to slow down, which will only exacerbate their inconsistency issues. Those red flags usually mean a .500 team will stay a .500 team, but playing in a weak conference will definitely help.

New York Knicks (19-21, second team out)

The Knicks are a force to be reckoned with in the paint on both ends of the court. They are ninth in points in the paint and second in points allowed in the paint. Yes, we’re talking about the New York Knicks.

The team is huge, size-wise. Porzingis, O’Quinn, Kanter and Noah are all either over or close to 7-feet. That length pays dividends over a long regular season, but could actually be a problem if they sneak into the playoffs. The East is full of jump shooting teams, which will stretch New York’s strengths too thin to make them truly effective.

Western Conference

New Orleans Pelicans (20-19, No. 8 seed)

New Orleans might very well be a better team than their record indicates. They’re second in points in the paint thanks to Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins. They’re also second in the NBA in assists per game thanks to some great guard play both from starters and off the bench. Not to mention they have the second toughest schedule in the NBA (according to 2016-2017 team records).

Team defense leaves a lot to be desired for the Pelicans. Bottom five in opponents points in the paint per game doesn’t make a lot of sense considering the front court they have. They also give up the third most points in the league per game.

NBA Playoffs

Davis and Cousins during a game against the Spurs. (Photo by: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

It’s an especially strange case on New Orleans’ part. The chemistry and coaching is clearly there, as evidenced by the assist totals. But the defense is nowhere near where it should be, in spite of Cousins and Davis. Remember that Alvin Gentry was brought on to be a defensive mastermind, and the roster has only gotten better since he came to town. Maybe look for a coaching shake-up if the Pelicans miss the playoffs.

Los Angeles Clippers (18-21, first team out)

Doc Rivers’ team is hurting out west. The Clippers have been a staple of the Western Conference playoffs for the past six years, but the days of Lob City have finally come to an end. Chris Paul’s departure marked a culture change for the Clips, and the team has not found its stride just yet.

Los Angeles still has a great 3-point game. Beverley, Williams, Rivers and even Griffin can all pull up from distance. They also have great personnel for man-to-man defense. Those two things are golden in NBA playoff basketball. But, yet again, team defense is going to be the main hurdle between them and their playoff streak.

Utah Jazz (16-24, second team out)

The new look Jazz are in a soft rebuild. After losing their number one scorer in Gordon Hayward, the Jazz were almost certainly take on a new identity. But picking up Ricky Rubio and finding a steal in Donovan Mitchell should have stopped the bleeding more than it has.

Their defense is some of the best in the NBA, all around. In fact, the Jazz are top 10 in almost every meaningful defensive category under Quin Snider. Against the trend, the offense is what will probably keep Utah out of the playoffs this year. Although, again, this is a new look team. And offense almost always comes together more quickly than defense. If they can keep up the defensive dominance, they won’t be out of the playoff picture for long.

 

Featured image by ANTHONY GRUPPUSO-USA TODAY

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Duke Blue Devils

Five former Duke Blue Devils who are poised for big NBA seasons

Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz

With Gordon Hayward now in Boston, Rodney Hood has the chance to take a major leap during the 2017-18 NBA season. Hood can score from anywhere on the floor and now will have the opportunity to be the primary playmaker in Utah’s offense. The soon to be 25-year-old is coming off a career best 37.1 3-point percentage.

Duke Blue Devils

Will Hood put up similar numbers to Gordon Hayward? (Photo from Bleacher Report)

Hood is an elite pick and roll player, whose usage rate will skyrocket this year. This is a guy who could average around 18 points per game. In a 3-point league, Hood can thrive, as he shot 44.7 percent on all corner 3-pointers. He also lowered his turnover percentage

Through three preseason games, Hood is shooting 65.4 percent from the field and an exceptional 75 percent from long range.

Justise Winslow, Miami Heat

Last season, Winslow appeared to be on the verge of a coming out party, until a bruised left wrist and shoulder surgery caused him to be sidelined for the majority of the season. In the 18 games he played in, Winslow looked good, averaging just about 10.9 points and 5.2 rebounds in 34.7 minutes per game. The biggest question mark is whether or not Winslow can shoot, as he shot 35.6 percent from the field last season.

Winslow is still just a kid. He will turn 22 in March, and still has plenty of time to develop his shot. In his one season at Duke, Winslow shot 48.6 percent from the field and 41.8 percent from three. Obviously, college and pro numbers cannot be compared, but Winslow has shown he has the ability to shoot at a high level.

Winslow is also down 10 pounds from last season and has been spending extra time getting shots up in the gym to round out his game. He is an elite defender and outstanding rebounder. If his shot develops, he has the chance to be a major factor in getting the Miami Heat back to the postseason.

Seth Curry, Dallas Mavericks

Last season, Curry started 42 games and averaged 12.8 points per game on 48.1 percent shooting. His 42.5 percent shooting from three was good for eighth best in the league. Curry is an absolute sniper, who will be starting at shooting guard once he is fully recovered from his recent left tibia injury.

Duke Blue Devils

One of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA, Seth Curry. (Photo from Bleacher Report)

Curry is tired of being “Steph’s little brother” and is ready to make a legit name for himself. He is in a contract year, so look for Curry to prove all the doubters wrong and work towards a major contract. While a max deal is probably out of the question, this is still a player, who in the right system, could average around 20 points a game.

Per 36 minutes, Curry averages about 16, and that is through only 118 career games. He is an underrated defender and an extremely efficient free throw shooter.

The addition of Dennis Smith Jr. will be very beneficial for Curry’s game. An insanely athletic point guard, Smith will be able to get into the paint and open the floor up for Curry to knock down shots.

Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers

Not only did Ingram grow to 6-foot-11, but he also changed his shooting mechanics and improved his leg strength. In his only Summer League game before getting injured, Ingram tallied up 26 points in 32 minutes. Although he could have played once he recovered from his leg cramp, Magic Johnson had seen enough. Magic told Ingram that he would be disappointed if he didn’t average 20 points per game. Post All-Star break, Ingram averaged 13.2 points per game on 47.5 percent shooting.

The sky is the limit for Ingram. Once he starts hitting shots, he could emerge as a top talent in this league. While off to a slow start in preseason, his teammates are by no means concerned. Brook Lopez, who was acquired this offseason via trade, said they know what Ingram is capable of and are confident in his abilities.

With a rather thin frame, Ingram looks a lot stronger than he did during his rookie season. Playing with Lonzo Ball, one of the most gifted passers we have seen since Jason Kidd, will only boost Ingram’s potential. Ingram told reporters that his confidence is sky high and so is Magic’s. The president of basketball operations believes Ball and Ingram will have great chemistry, comparing them to himself and James Worthy.

Austin Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers

A highly criticized guard, mostly due to his father coaching him, Austin Rivers is ready to show that he is a legitimate starter at the NBA level. Whether it’s true or not that Doc Rivers showed favoritism by not trading Austin to the Knicks for Carmelo Anthony, all we know is one thing: Chris Paul is gone and it is Austin’s turn to make plays for the Clippers.

Duke Blue Devils

Austin Rivers is ready to prove the doubters wrong. (Photo from NBA.com)

Because of the fact that his father is his coach, Austin Rivers is often overlooked. This was a kid who was the player of the year in high school. He was also the top-rated player in the country by Rivals.com in 2011. At Duke, he made first team All-ACC.

In 29 games as a starter last season, Rivers averaged 16.1 points per game, shot 45.8 percent from the field and an elite 42 percent from three. If he starts this year, it is because he earned the right to.

Rivers wants the haters to know that if he scores 20 a game and locks down on defense, it is his doing and not his dad’s. No J.J. Redick and no Chris Paul means Rivers could shine in the Clippers’ offense.

 

Featured image by SI.com

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Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers: Overrated

The NBA playoffs are leaving basketball fans bored. Aside from the hype surrounding the Warriors’ and Cavaliers’ third-straight finals matchup, there isn’t much going on to talk about. There is one hot topic most are afraid to admit that needs to be brought to light.

There is always an argument that when a team is good, or bad, the reason is the players or the coaches, and of course, it usually is a combination of both.

Doc Rivers won a title due to the future Hall of Famers he was coaching. Aside from those players he had in Boston, for most accounts, he has been average at best as an NBA coach yet people will constantly list him as a top tier coach.

Doc Rivers is the most overrated coach in the NBA.

Orlando Magic

Doc Rivers Overrated

(Photo Credit: http://www.celticslife.com)

Doc Rivers’ head coaching career started in Orlando. While the head coach of the Magic, Rivers had an overall record of 171-168. That is just a 50.4 winning percentage. In the playoffs with Orlando, he went 5-10, which is far from impressive.

Rivers had some really great players while in Orlando too. Players by the name of Tracy McGrady, Ben Wallace, Mike Miller, Grant Hill, Patrick Ewing, Horace Grant and Shawn Kemp. Wallace, Miller and Grant were all eventual champions. A few players on this list are even Hall of Famers.

To be fair, McGrady, Wallace and Miller were relatively young. Ewing, Grant and Kemp were at the very end of their careers. He also had to deal with these players getting injured frequently.

Even so, he finished only three games above .500 in the regular season with Orlando. There was no postseason success and in 2003, he was fired after a 1-10 start. His lack of success in both the regular season and playoffs with Orlando would force him to sit out of coaching until Boston came calling.

Boston celtics

Doc Rivers Overrated

(Photo Credit: https://www.vavel.com)

Doc Rivers had the most success as a coach in Boston. Rivers amassed 416 wins with the Celtics. He also lost 305 games making his win percentage in Boston 57.7 percent. That percentage dropped to 55.7 in the playoffs with the Celtics as he went 59-47.

Until the Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to pair with Paul Pierce, many called for Rivers to be fired. All three of these core players will be in the Hall of Fame one day and that is the reason Rivers was able to lead the Celtics to two Finals appearances, capturing one championship.

Without this caliber of players, Rivers is just an average coach at best and even then he doesn’t win 60 percent of the games he coaches.

He also left Boston when it was time for a rebuild. Doc Rivers didn’t want to put in the work with young players and develop the team into a winner. He was looking for a team with star players to make his job as easy as possible which is why he waited for what he felt was the perfect opportunity.

Los Angeles Clippers

Doc Rivers Overrated

(Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/doc-rivers/)

Rivers’ ideal spot was with the Los Angeles Clippers after leaving Boston. Now, some may argue he was traded to L.A. and it wasn’t his choice but the trade was just so the Celtics could receive something in return because he truly loved the city and the organization. He had every intention of forcing his way to the Clippers.

Why would Doc Rivers want to go to a franchise that had only nine playoff appearances since 1970 and has never made it to a conference finals? The answer to that is a roster loaded with talent.

Their current core of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan was already there. The roster also included the following: Eric Bledsoe, Chauncey Billups (five-time All-Star, Finals MVP, and NBA champion), Jamal Crawford (three-time Sixth Man of the Year), Caron Butler (two-time All-Star), Grant Hill (seven-time All-Star) and Lamar Odom (Sixth Man of the Year and two-time NBA Champion).

They were very deep and experienced before Rivers arrived. Vinny Del Negro led the Clippers to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons prior to Rivers arriving. Del Negro was taking the Clippers just as far as Doc has. He went 128-102 which was a winning percentage of 55.7 percent and can’t even find a job.

While Rivers has been in L.A., he has gone 217-111 in the regular season. He has underachieved in the playoffs going 18-22 with a team many considered one of the most talented in the NBA. The Clippers are the first team to blow series in five straight playoffs under Rivers. He isn’t succeeding because he is overrated and isn’t a top tier coach.

What This Means For the Los Angeles Clippers

Overall in Doc Rivers’ career, he is 804-584. His winning percentage is 57.9 and ranks ninth among active NBA coaches and 41st all-time. Despite having rosters constantly loaded with All-Stars, Hall of Fame caliber players, and in some cases, champions, he can’t win more than 58 percent of his games.

In the playoffs, he gets worse. He is 82-79 all-time, winning just 50.9 percent of the games he coaches. That is ninth among active coaches and 38th all-time.

Everyone wants to know why the Clippers can’t get over the hump. After another disappointing season, questions rose on what they should do with the roster and the core of the team.

The answer is rather simple. Doc Rivers is average at best and that is why the Clippers continue to remain average. The Clippers don’t have to blow up their roster yet, they just need a better coach.

 

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What’s Next For Chris Paul?

Chris Paul has failed to even make the Western Conference Finals for his sixth straight year in Los Angeles. The Clippers have had trouble in the playoffs during Paul’s time with the team despite having other star players surrounding him. Paul’s time as a star player is coming to an end, which raises the question of what’s next for CP3?

Paul has an opt-out clause in his contract that would allow him to hit the free agent market this summer. Regardless of whether or not he decides to stay in Los Angeles, Paul will almost certainly use the opt-out clause.

If Paul stays with the Clippers, he is eligible to sign a five-year deal worth more than $200 million. Leaving the Clippers would significantly reduce the maximum contract that Paul could sign. However, some other factors must be considered.

A recent report said that Paul is likely to opt-out and resign with the Clippers. However, the status of fellow star Blake Griffin is also up in the air. If Griffin decides to leave in free agency, would it be wise for Paul to return to Los Angeles?

Paul’s window of opportunity for winning a championship is closing fast. Blake Griffin has proven his lack of durability again this season, and he has lacked the same explosiveness after suffering a number of knee injuries. Clippers starting shooting guard J.J. Redick is also a free agent this summer, which could further impact Paul’s decision.

The incentive to move would be motivated by a desire to have a better chance at a championship as his prime begins to come to a close. Paul looked great without Griffin in this year’s playoffs, and could likely be a key piece in a championship contender if the fit was right. The incentive to stay would be the considerably larger contract.

It seems that no matter how well Paul performs in the playoffs, the Clippers are doomed to have an early exit year after year. According to NBA analyst Shane Young, his career playoff stats have been historically great. He ranks third in player efficiency behind LeBron James and Michael Jordan, third in true shooting behind Magic Johnson and Stephen Curry, second in assist percentage behind John Stockton and has had a career playoff slash line of .519/.318/.847.

Clearly, the Clippers playoff woes run far deeper than Paul. Would his chance at a ring be heightened if he were to change teams? Paul could move to San Antonio this summer and team up with Kawhi Leonard to try and take down the Warriors in the West. With better coaching, Paul would likely thrive in the Spurs’ system. He would also be able to be more of a playmaker for the offense with Leonard, which could make him a much more efficient player.

The Clippers would still be a strong team if Griffin and Paul returned and could still continue to compete for a championship. After all, they looked like one of the strongest teams in the league at the beginning of the year.

However, after six years of failing to meet expectations, how high is the Clippers’ ceiling truly? Either way, Paul is a generational talent and will be a game changer no matter where he ends up going.

 

(Featured Image by Sporting News)

 

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