Twin brothers are constantly pitted side-to-side. Being the other team in Los Angeles is like being the ugly twin brother.
If renovating their logo wasn’t enough, hiring Jerry West and making moves trembles the narrative. This offseason you saw more of it as they swung on strike three for Kawhi and wrestled for the King.
Usually, getting rid of the franchise centerpiece leads to fan impatience, a subtracting win total, and management makeover of yearly expectations. Except none of that manifested for a 42 win Clippers team. No, they didn’t make the playoffs, but the fact that they contended says a lot about the direction the organization is heading in.
The Blake Griffin swap extracted a valuable asset and more importantly got rid of a back loaded contract that would pay him $38 million at 32. In return, The Clippers were gifted Avery Bradley, the 12th pick (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) and a younger forward, Tobias Harris.
Bradley has yet to regain that magic he had in Brad Stevens’ scheme. He scored, rebounded, and assisted in Boston. Those struggles were amplified in Doc Rivers’ offense where he relied on other pieces to create shots.
He averaged just 9.2 points in 27.5 minutes on a roster where a player of his supposed caliber should get more. Whether that be his own fault or Doc Rivers’ is up in the air as he heads into the second season, with his third team in four years.
Tobias Harris embraced the “Clipper for life” onus from Blake Griffin. Okay, maybe not to that extent. But if the trade was a straight up Griffin-Harris swap, I don’t think the Clippers would feel a lick of buyer’s remorse. In an expanded role, Harris took more shots yet shot a higher true shooting percentage, all while scoring more points. It’s plausible that his role swells up even more, and Harris reaches even greater heights this season.
With all that said, the 13th pick was what the Clippers had their sights set on from the get-go. The pairing of a defensive point guard with a score-first shooting guard compliment each other like salt and pepper.
Winning whilst concurrently tanking, the other LA team has a chance to dent Western Conference armor next year and for years to come.
Marcin Gortat (Trade, Washington Wizards)
№12 Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
№13 Jerome Robinson
Austin Rivers (Trade, Washington Wizards)
CJ Williams (FA, Minnesota Timberwolves)
Tyrone Wallace (FA)
The lengthy point guard from Kentucky skyrocketed up draft boards days before the draft. Teams fell in love with his frame and never-quit attitude. His versatility was enticing. He is just another branch on the Calipari point guard tree and figures to be a starting player professionally as well.
Meanwhile, the departure of Austin Rivers opens up more opportunities for Gilgeous-Alexander. The coach’s son could get buckets, but he never became the star that his high school mixtape assumed he would. His slow upward trend did not suffice as a juncture in the future. The parting opens up a floodgate of minutes at the guard position.
There is a possibility Gilgeous-Alexander is a bench piece next season, but he at least figures to be a part of the rotation. However, minutes are not guaranteed for the other draft pick.
Everyone wants to find the diamond in the rough; the Donovan Mitchell of a draft class. Picked at 13 and a shooting guard, Robinson shares a couple similarities. But besides that, Robinson’s game deviates from the aforementioned.
Jerome Robinson can fill up the box score, and do it fast. He averaged 20.7 points per game for a Boston College team. Robinson was the sputtering light in a dark room; the team went 36–74 in his stay. He could have a similar role right off the bat in the Clippers second unit, dominating the ball and getting up shots at light-speed.
If he doesn’t score at a high rate and with grains of efficiency, it could be hard to squeeze him in the lineup. After all, his defensive ability is lacking.
The roadblock for him to start is Lou Williams. Williams shares a lot of similarities with Robinson; a combo guard that could fill up the stat sheet.
A stop-gap at center
Losing DeAndre Jordan meant replacing him with a 35-year old stopgap, at least that’s what the Clippers settled on. At this point in his career, Gortat is not going to move the needle for a fringe contender like the Clippers. But he provides some rim protection, solid finishing ability, and is a positive locker room presence.
Gortat may not garner the same attention that Jordan does, but he is not significantly worse. In fact his 59.8% opponent rim protection compared to Jordan’s 60.4% suggests he is a better rim protector (per NBA.com/stats). Couple that with the fact that Jordan’s athleticism is dwindling at age 29 and his blocks bottomed out this past season, and you see why Gortat was pegged as a short-term replacement.
Luc Mbah-Moute is also a solid locker room presence who does a little more. His defense was essential to the offensive-heavy Rockets. For the Clippers, defense is already a strong-suit, but with the propensity of Superman-like wings in the West, grabbing wing kryptonite for a dime a dozen is logical.
Letting DeAndre Jordan walk and shipping off Blake Griffin symbolizes how the wind is blowing the Clippers’ sail. By not stacking up loans on the hefty debt (or potential debt) of Griffin and Jordan, they freed up money to swing at big-name free agents. One thing is for sure, the twin brother will never get caught looking at strike three.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com/stats.