Chris Paul in Lob City

jueves, 15 de diciembre de 2011

3 comentarios
By Thomas Pintaric, via Wikimedia Commons




On Wednesday night, the LA Clippers made a blockbuster trade, acquiring Chris Paul and picks from the New Orleans Hornets for Al-farouq Aminu, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first round pick.

Contrary to what most bloggers/analysts are saying, the Hornets might have won this trade. Yes, they gave up a superstar, who also happens to be a top-3 point guard, but they probably got the best return any small market team has ever gotten when trading a superstar. Right now, the Hornets are in position to have two, and maybe three future all-stars by the start of next season. One of those is Eric Gordon, who is probably the best young shooting guard in the game right now. The other two are the two very likely lottery picks New Orleans will have in the next NBA draft, which is considered one of the best in years. As many others have already said, the Hornets are going to be awful this season. That means their first round pick is very likely to be in the top 5, and might end up being the number one pick. They also have Minnesota’s first round pick, which is very likely to be in the top 10. The odds are that in five years, the Hornets will have as many all-stars as the Clippers, and a third player that, if not an all-star, will likely end up being better than anyone on the Clippers’ roster besides Paul and Griffin at that point.

The Clippers would have been better off not making this trade. They had a realistic chance to become an elite team in three years. With the development of Griffin, Gordon and Jordan, and the player that came from Minnesota’s first, they were on their way to having a young nucleus similar to Oklahoma City’s. Now, they have a very good team, but not a title contender, and it might be a few years before they reach that level, if they ever do.

The current Clippers roster is probably a 6th seed in the West. Their offense will probably be much better, with the addition of Paul and Billups and Griffin’s improvement. The defense, however, is likely to remain bad. Thanks to Paul, and to the strides Jordan and Blake are likely to make on that end of the floor, the team will probably do better, but unless Jordan can become a real stopper, it won’t be good enough to make them a contending team. And those who point to what the Hornets accomplished last season with a mediocre team led by Paul are not taking into account enough the impact Monty Williams and Mike Malone had in improving the team’s defense. Paul and David West (before his injury) carried the offense, but the coaching staff improved the defense. Vinny Del Negro doesn’t have a good defensive system, if he has one at all. That’s why the Clippers were so horrible on D even with a very athletic shot blocker in the middle. Until they hire a new coach or find a way to improve their roster, the Clippers will not be championship contenders.

In the next few years, Griffin, and to a lesser extent, Jordan, will get better on both ends of the floor. At the same time, Caron Butler will get worse, as will Billups if he remains with the team. Because of that, the Clippers can only become a contender by acquiring players through free agency and making some trades. The two great players they have right now were pretty easy to get. Blake Griffin was considered the best player in his draft class, and was a no-brainer with the number one pick. Chris Paul is a top 3 point guard, he was available, and after the trade with the Lakers was vetoed and Lamar Odom was traded to Dallas, the Clips were the team that could offer the most assets for Paul. Getting to this point was relatively easy for them, and while it required some perseverance, it didn’t take too much intelligence. Of course, they drafted well when they selected Gordon and Aminu, but that’s pretty much it. The rest has been mostly luck and making easy decisions. Because of that, I don’t trust that their front office will be able to work around the limitations of the new CBA and make this a real championship-caliber roster. The only realistic hope I see for them is that they fire Del Negro after failing to reach the WCF for the first two or three years of the CP3 era and sign a good coach that fits the team’s personnel and has a reliable defensive system. For the time being, though, the Clippers will remain the second-best team in LA. They’ll be very competitive, but not elite. And it could be that way for the rest of Paul's prime.