With the Los Angeles Clippers out of the playoff picture, it’s time to address the priorities. Before being defeated by the Memphis Grizzlies in six games, the Clippers enjoyed their best regular season. Ever.
A franchise-high 56 victories, a positive road record (24-17), the Pacific Division title, and the fourth seed in the Western Conference. There was plenty to be proud of for Clipper Nation.
But, with the season over, there are a few important factors that need to be addressed for the momentum to continue.
Last preseason, the Clippers did not address anything through the draft. They met most of their player needs through free agency. With Matt Barnes, Grant Hill, and Willie Green brought in for safety and veteran presence, free agency was a wealthy resource (with Lamar Odom as the one risk). It was the addition of Jamal Crawford that really made the loss of Mo Williams and Randy Foye offset.
The first priority is re-signing Chris Paul. He’s the floor general, the best player in a Clipper uniform, and the unanimous leader of the team. The most important player in Clipper franchise history, he is the first priority (and the next five, honestly). The trade for Paul changed the environment of NBA’s biggest loser into a franchise that could “win-now.” He’s a franchise-changer and an MVP player to boot.
Much like Williams last season, the fate of the emerging Eric Bledsoe must be decided. While his growth and maturity is aided with the presence of both Chauncey Billups and Paul, those two players are also the main blocks for Bledsoe’s playing time. There is plenty of appeal to an ultra-athletic, young, defensive, point guard in a faster NBA. If the Clippers decide to keep him as the energy off the bench, the other alternative is a trade for a shooting big man.
And thus, the third need is a shooting big man. Aside from Blake Griffin‘s developing mid-range game, there is no other power forward or center with range outside of the paint. DeAndre Jordan, Ronny Turiaf, and Ryan Hollins combined to shoot nine shots outside of 10 feet all season. Odom shot 39.9 percent from the field, including 20 percent from 3-pointers. A trade or free agent signing for a big man in the mold of a Carlos Boozer would be ideal.
The age of the wings are showing for the Clippers. Between Crawford, Billups, and Hill, the average age is 36 years old. The next need is a younger wing to keep Billups and Hill on a minimum minute limit. There were plenty of younger wings that moved during the 2012-13 season alone, but the ideal fit for the Clippers would be a guy like the Chicago Bulls’ Marco Belinelli, a wing that can shoot and stretch the court to respect the presence of both Jordan and Griffin.
If the decision to fire coach Vinny Del Negro ends up as fact, the last priority is a coach signing. While Los Angeles attracts big names, the successful coaches of the past were previous unknowns like Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scotty Brooks or Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. The coaching hire should not be a name that brings consumers to the seats, but rather, wins to the record.
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