It’s that time of the year folks! With free agency two months in and things having slowed to a crawl, writers across the spectrum are beginning to grade what has occurred the last three months. The batter up to play today is NBA.com writer David Aldridge.
Separating the league into three tiers: the Top 10, Middle 10, and Bottom 10, Aldridge has placed the Clippers’ off-season into the bottom tier alongside Golden State, New Orleans, Los Angeles (L), Utah, Indiana, Houston, Miami, Portland, and Minnesota. Here is his reasoning behind the placement.
The Sterling Affair drained the team of its ardor during the playoffs. Donald Sterling will certainly continue his legal fights in one court or another, but if the NBA approves the sale of the team to Ballmer by its Sept. 15 deadline, a huge emotional Rubicon will be crossed. In the interim, Doc Rivers tinkered around the margins, bringing Hawes from Cleveland to give Chris Paul and Blake Griffin more room to operate, and Farmer from across the hallway at Staples Center to back up Paul and replace Collison. Wilcox and second-year guard Reggie Bullock figure to fight it out for a late rotation spot behind J.J. Redick. But Rivers couldn’t conjure up a deal that got Paul Pierce out to Cali to play the three. The ranking suffers accordingly.
Aldridge’s basketball knowledge is far and wide amongst the best in sports journalism today, but it seems he’s holding too much weight in the Clippers missed opportunity with Paul Pierce.
While Doc Rivers’ tenure as team president hasn’t been excellent in regards to team personnel, the Clippers inability to acquire Pierce had less to do with Rivers being unable to conjure up a trade package to secure Pierce and more to do with the Brooklyn Nets digging a bit too deep. In the off-season, Los Angeles made it known that four players were on the trade market barring a superstar being attainable: Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford and Reggie Bullock–prior to the draft, the 28th overall pick was on the block also. By doing so, the Clippers told suitors to 1) take it or 2) leave it. Instead of sifting through what was available, Nets general manager Billy King stepped out of his lane and asked for what wasn’t available–at least in regards to obtaining Pierce: J.J. Redick or the 2017 first-round pick.
In regards to Pierce, while he had a solid year as a Brooklyn Net, his presence isn’t the end-all, be-all for Los Angeles. Sure, he’s a massive upgrade from Matt Barnes and Jared Dudley. Sure, Pierce gives the Clippers a second shot-creator from the perimeter in the starting lineup. Trevor Ariza moves the needle. Luol Deng moves the needle. LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony take the needle a shove it in the faces of San Antonio and Oklahoma City. But Pierce? For the price of Redick or a 1st, you take what’s available on the market and run with it.
And that’s what Rivers did.
Opposite of letting Hedo Turkoglu (FA), Danny Granger (MIA), and Darren Collison (SAC) walk, the Clippers added C.J. Wilcox via NBA draft and Spencer Hawes/Jordan Farmar via free agency. Are those moves top-10 worthy? No, but with the tools at hand, the Clippers managed to improve the team and that’s all you could really ask for.