NBA Offseason Grades: Pacific Division

gs warriors champs

Welcome to the final part of my 6 part series of NBA Offseason Grades! If you’ve been keeping up with series, I thank you for lending me your time and patience. If you’re just joining us now, well, better late than never!

For the newbies:

I’ve taken it upon myself to evaluate each team’s offseason transactions. I’ve given each team a letter grade based on whether or not I thought they made good moves considering their respective situations. This includes the draft, resigning period, free agency, trades, firings/hirings, and anything else I deem important. Most importantly, I answer the one pivotal question: Are they better?

I’ve unintentionally saved the most entertaining division for last, as today we discuss the Pacific Division. This division has given us so much in regards to entertainment value since June. We’ve seen a team make NBA history, free agency masquerading as a romantic comedy, the fall of an empire, and Vivek Ranadivé doing Vivek Ranadivé things!

This was awesome!

If you missed it:

Atlantic Division Grades

Southeast Division Grades

Central Division Grades

Northwest Division Grades

Southwest Division Grades

Key: 

  • (R): Rookie
  • (DnS): Draft-n-Stash – players drafted, but playing overseas next year
  • (D): Draft-n-Stash player joining the team
  • Bolded Names: Particularly notable players

And we start with our reigning Pacific Division/NBA Champions:

Golden State Warriors: A+

Re-signed: Leondro Barbosa, Draymond Green

Lost: Justin Holiday, Ognjen Kuzmic, David Lee

Acquired: Chris Babb, Jason Thompson, Gerald Wallace

Drafted: Kevon Looney

Other notable moves: N/A

What did they even do?

Exactly.

The disease of more* runs rampant through championship teams across all sports; and the presence of a salary cap keeps this concept a reality. Winning a championship was great, but the iron is hot. And once the team actually climbs the mountain, self goals often take over for team goals. Players want more money, more playing time, more recognition, a bigger role, etc. And so we see key cogs end up taking huge contracts from other teams and then they disappear, with their new money, into irrelevance; all while their former team struggles to defend their title.

*NOTE: “The disease of more” was coined by Don Pat Riley in his book “Showtime.”

Golden State’s team management were able to avoid the disease of more; at least during this offseason.

Of the 5 team free agents that Golden State needed to make a decision on, only 2 were regular rotation guys. Draymond Green may have gotten a huge raise (5-years/$82 million), but his value to the Warriors is actually fairly represented by his max contract; therefore, is exempt from this rule. And Leandro Barbosa (1-year/$2.5 million) is coming back on a very team-friendly deal.

The David Lee salary dump was a way for Golden State management to save money on the luxury tax. Lee is a solid player, but he really didn’t fit in Steve Kerr’s system anyway. He only played 904 minutes in 49 regular season games in 2014-15 (both career lows), and really only had a cup of coffee in the NBA Finals. Lee may be a good guy to have in your foxhole, but the Warriors certainly don’t need him to defend their title.

(Image from USA Today) Yup, the Warriors are bringing back everyone [who matters].

The drafting of Kevon Looney with the 30th pick sparked a little debate due to the prospect’s health issues (he had offseason hip surgery). This doesn’t worry the Warriors, though. They’re super deep and Looney is likely to ride the pine his rookie season anyway. However, he was expected to be a lottery pick before the report of his surgery surfaced the day of the draft. This makes Looney one of those low-risk/high-reward draft picks. And considering the personnel that the Warriors are boasting next season, they’ll have time to wait on Looney.

So management did their part in avoiding the disease of more. The Warriors will be bringing back just about everyone who mattered on an NBA championship team that boasted one of the 4 best regular seasons of all time. Golden State was right not to tinker with the roster. In this case, less is more. And now we’ll wait and see if Steve Kerr can keep the disease of more at bay during the regular season.

The Warriors may not have gotten better from a personnel standpoint; but they’re still a super deep team with championship experience and arguably the hardest home court for opponents to play on. The Spurs may have won the offseason, but the Warriors are still the champions. And like the Nature Boy Ric Flair once said, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.”

Are they better?: No (But dammit they’re still good).

Los Angeles Clippers:  F-   A

Re-signed: DeAndre Jordan, Austin Rivers

Lost: Matt Barnes, Glenn Davis, Jordan Hamilton, Spencer Hawes, Lester Hudson, Dahntay Jones, Hedo Turkoglu, Ekpe Udoh

Acquired: Cole Aldrich, Branden Dawson (R), Chuck Hayes, Wesley Johnson, Paul Pierce, Pablo Prigioni, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson

Drafted: N/A

Other notable moves: N/A

DeAndre Jordan was rumored to want a larger role than one he was receiving with the Clippers. Perhaps to finally have an offense built around him. ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz reported that DJ also grew tiresome of his relationship with Chris Paul , saying:

He [DJ] was tired of Paul’s constant barking and petty gestures, like distributing high-fives to the three other guys on the floor following a timeout but somehow freezing out Jordan.

And so on July 3rd, DJ agreed (in principle) to sign a 4-year/$80 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks.

A few days later in an interview with Bleacher Report Radio , JJ Redick gave the Los Angeles Clippers his own grade on how they handled their offseason to that point. Keep in mind JJ Redick is still under contract with the Clippers for 2 more years…

Is there an F-minus?

Listen, we had one priority this summer and that was to re-sign DJ and we missed out on that, so barring some miracle, [the] makeup of our team is completely different now. He’s such an integral part of what we did, not just defensively but offensively with his screening, his rolling, his offensive rebounds. His presence down low essentially made teams either commit to the three-point line when Blake [Griffin] or Chris [Paul] penetrated or commit to him, and that either opened up lobs for him or threes for guys like me and Jamal [Crawford] and Matt [Barnes].

So he was a huge part of what we did and missing out and having him leave for Dallas gives us a failing grade.

Yes JJ, I make up the rules for this article, so there is such thing as an ‘F-.’

But on the last day of the free agent moratorium, team owner Steve Balmer, Head Coach Doc Rivers, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, JJ Redick, and Paul Pierce organized a special ops mission to bring DJ back to the Clippers on a long-term deal. They literally infiltrated his house in Houston, Texas, with the intent of locking DJ inside his house until he agreed to sign a contract. They hashed out their differences, and then they played cards until midnight when DJ was able to officially sign a 4-year/$87 million deal to stay in Los Angeles.

It was an emojional day…

with a few laughs…

and some hurt feelings.

It was the most entertaining offseason day in NBA history.

Getting DJ back puts the Clips in good standing grade-wise. I roasted the Mavericks for even trying to sign DJ; so why would I applaud the Clips for going to such lengths to woo their center back?

It’s simple, the Clippers needed DJ to stay.

DJ is actually a perfect fit with the Clippers, his overpaid price tag be damned. He’s the third best player on a contender (ideal role), CP3 and Blake Griffin are running the offense and are very good passers, DJ is the best pick-and-roll finisher in the NBA, and he anchors the defense.

Obviously I was alluding to the fact that I don’t think he’s worth the $21 million+ per year, but it’s not like the Clippers could parlay that money into other players. The Clippers were already over the salary cap before the DJ contract, and the only reason they could pay him big money in the first place was because they owned his Bird Rights. If they lost DJ, they’re not getting anyone else who can replicate what he does for this team; at least not in free agency.

Last post-season the Clippers beat the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs in a 7-game first round series, and were 1 win away from making it to the WCF. Their starting point guard/league’s best point guard turned 30 in May and is entering year 11 of his career (history suggests he will begin to drop off this year or next), and Blake Griffin is just entering his prime. It’s simple, the Clippers are in win-now mode, and the way they went after DJ during the moratorium confirms that notion. DJ walks, and the Clippers are wasting next season.

The Clippers’ Achilles heal in the playoffs last year was their lack of depth. As I mentioned earlier they didn’t have much in the way of cap room, either. General Manager Doc Rivers turned chicken crap into a half-way decent chicken salad by acquiring depth through means of trades, trade exceptions, and minimum contracts.

They traded Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes to the Charlotte Hornets for the notorious headache that is Lance Stephenson. Stephenson was a triple-double machine 2 years ago in Indiana, but played his way out of the starting line-up in Charlotte via his 38-17-63 shooting splits and just all around bad attitude. I don’t love the risk of bringing in Lance just because of his tendency to rub people the wrong way; but he’s coming into a situation where there’s strong leadership in both the locker room and organization, and he stands a better chance of being kept in check. I can justify the risk given these circumstances. Good move.

The Clippers will miss Matt Barnes’ toughness, his ability to defend multiple positions, and his ability to hit the 3; but the Clips were able to replace Barnes when they signed Paul Pierce to a 3-year/$10 million deal via the tax-payer’s mid-level exception. Pierce brings the same package to the table as Barnes did, plus a proven leadership presence. Pierce is also a native of Los Angeles and won a championship with Coach Rivers in Boston in 2008, so there’s also a little bit of a full circle narrative in relation to this signing. But hey, Pierce is a guy you want in your foxhole.

Doc also managed to pry Josh Smith away from a Western Conference rival despite only being able to offer a minimum contract. Smith is an 11 year veteran who showed a lot of value coming off the bench for the Rockets in the second half of last season; which instantly makes him an upgrade over the 87 year old Hedo Turkoglu. And I imagine the 14 4th quarter points that Smith threw down against the Clips in game 6 to save the Rockets’ season had a little something to do with this signing, as well. But that’s none of my business.

And the Clips also managed to bring in Cole Aldrich, Chuck Hayes, Wesley Johnson, and Pablo Prigioni to beef up the end of their bench. Solid role players at good prices.

Seems like Doc is getting better at this Coach/GM thing.

Are they better?: Yes.

Phoenix Suns: C-

Re-signed: Brandon Knight 

Lost: Earl Barron, Reggie Bullock, Gerald Green, Andrew Harrison (R), Jerel McNeal, Marcus Morris, Marcus Thornton, Brandan Wright

Acquired: Tyson Chandler, Jon Leuer, Ronnie Price, Mirza Teletovic, Sonny Weems

Drafted: Devin Booker

Other notable moves: N/A

I haven’t had a good grip on the Phoenix Suns’ game plan ever since they traded for Isaiah Thomas in 2014 when they already boasted a Goran Dragic/Eric Bledsoe back court; then essentially traded Dragic, Thomas, the Lakers’ top-5 (now top-3) protected first round pick + spare parts for Brandon Knight.

I can’t base this summer’s Suns grade on what happened in past years, but its worth noting I have no idea what’s going on in Phoenix.

Anyway…

The Suns kicked off free agency by signing Brandon Knight to a 5-year/$70 million deal. I personally like Brandon Knight as an all around player, and I think he gets unfairly lambasted based solely on the amount of times he’s landed on the wrong side of a YouTube clip . But he’s a versatile combo guard who does a lot of things well. For some reason his stats dropped after the trade to Phoenix. Granted the sample size was small (11 games in Phoenix compared to 52 in Milwaukee), so it is possible he may have struggled adjusting to a new system on the fly.

(Image from USA Today) With Phoenix committing to Brandon Knight long-term, could Eric Bledsoe be the next Sun to go?

That being said, the Suns went about this all wrong.

Knight was a restricted free agent and the Suns came in with a massive deal in hand without letting the market decide his value. That’s a big no-no when it comes to restricted free agency, unless the player’s name is Kawhi Leonard or Anthony Davis of course.

They would have been better off letting him find a deal in free agency and just matching it. Sure, they may have ended up overpaying him to stick around anyway, but it beats overpaying the guy when the only team you’re competing against is yourself.

The Suns also brought in Tyson Chandler on a 4-year/$52 million contract. He’s obviously being brought in to anchor the defense and serve as a positive veteran leader with championship pedigree; which is good. I imagine Dallas would bring him back if they had a mulligan on free agency. The drawback is that Chandler turns 33 in October, has 14 seasons under his belt, and has had trouble staying healthy his whole career. It’s an alright pick-up at a fairly steep price. I can’t imagine that contract ages well, either.

The Suns also traded Marcus Morris (the lesser twin), and let Brandan Wright and Gerald Green walk in free agency. Mirza Teletovic is a nice pick-up as a floor spacer on the cheap; but other than him, the Suns brought in a cast of role players to fill in the blanks.

I liked the decision to draft Devin Booker at number 13. Booker was arguably the best shooter in his draft class, and should develop nicely in Phoenix’s pace-and-space system.

It’s obvious LaMarcus Aldridge was the apple of Phoenix’s eye this offseason. But LMA chose the San Antonio Spurs, and it appears the Suns didn’t have a contingency plan in case that scenario occurred. So now they find themselves in a situation with no star player and no real direction to go in next season.

The Suns went 39-43 last season (10-17 post trade deadline). Given whom they let walk and whom they brought in, I can’t say that the Suns are better than where they were April 15th. Jeff Hornacek is an under-rated coach who’s been really good at bringing out the best in his players; but even he has his work cut out for him this year in the loaded Western Conference.

I don’t really know where the Suns go from here; but it’s certainly not up.

Are they better?: No.

Sacramento Kings: F

Re-signed:  Omri Casspi

Lost: Reggie Evans, Ryan Hollins, Carl Landry, Ray McCallum, Andre Miller, Eric Moreland, Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson, Derrick Williams

Acquired: Quincy Acy, James Anderson, Marco Belinelli, Caron Butler, Seth Curry, Duje Dukan (R), Kosta Koufos, Rajon Rondo

Drafted: Willie Cauley-Stein

Other notable moves: N/A

Congratulations, Sacramento Kings! You just took the Most Dysfunctional Organization in the NBA title belt away from the New York Knicks!

Where do I even start?

How about allowing your 3rd head coach in 1 calendar year the opportunity to alienate your franchise center? Then let said head coach keep his job after he publicly looked to trade said franchise center? Yes, DeMarcus Cousins has 3 years left on one of the best bargain contracts in the league; but there’s no chance in Hell he’s sticking around Sac-Town after the 2018 season.

Or how about paying the Philadelphia 76ers a package of Nik Stauskas (2014 – Round 1, Pick 8), a future 1st round pick, and the right to swap picks in 2 future drafts just to take on Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, and their combined $26 million+ salaries over the next 2-3 seasons?

Yes, this trade actually happened.

Forget the fact that they could have used the stretch provision to buy out Carl Landry. Why wouldn’t they just offer this trade to Denver for the right to Ty Lawson? After all, Denver basically ended giving away Lawson to the Houston Rockets following his 2nd DUI of the past year. This would have ultimately been a win-win for both the Kings and the Nuggets had it come to fruition. Instead, Denver dumped Lawson for spare parts and a late first round pick, the Rockets solidified their spot as a contender, the 76ers (briefly) looked like the smartest team in the room, and the Kings ended up tossing their future draft picks away and overpaying for a point guard who’s best years were left behind in 2013.

Speaking of which…

Go ahead and add a 1-year/$10 million contract for Rajon Rondo to Sacramento’s dumpster fire. In case you missed it, last season the Mavericks bet the farm on a Rondo resurgence in the hopes that he would be the missing link to a championship team. Instead, Rondo butt heads with Head Coach Rick Carlisle and played his way out of the rotation in the playoffs. Rondo threw away any leverage he had in a big money contract in free agency, and then the Kings gave him a $10 million deal when no one else even wanted him.

Yes, Boogie Cousins and Rondo will play for a team coached by George Karl. This instantly makes the Kings a must-watch NBA League Pass team. Not for the games themselves; rather for the comedy. Boogie, Rondo, and Karl could end up choking each other out on any given night! No seriously, its going to be Survivor: Sacramento Kings in 2015-16.

A couple other moves I’m not a huge fan of:
1.) Kosta Koufos – 4-years/$33 million. Bleh.
2.) Drafting Willie Cauley-Stein with the 6th overall pick; passing on Emmanuel Mudiay (7), Stanley Johnson (8), and Justise Winslow (10). I love WCS as a prospect; but the last thing the Kings needed was another center. There were better options at number 6, even if they planned on trading Boogie.

I’ll close with this. Pardon me while I borrow/touch-up a quote from Billy Madison that I think correctly reflects the Sacramento Kings’ offseason:

[Sacramento Kings], what you’ve just [done this offseason] is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever [seen]. At no point in your [embarrassing], [franchise debilitating moves] were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational [plan]. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having [witnessed] it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Original Version!

Are they better?: No.

Los Angeles Lakers: D

Re-signed: N/A

Lost: Vander Blue, Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis, Wayne Ellington, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson, Jeremy Lin, Ronnie Price

Acquired: Brandon Bass, Michael Frazier (R), Jonathan Holmes (R), Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams

Drafted: D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance, Jr., Anthony Brown,

Other notable moves: N/A

This summer we witnessed the end of an era. Sure, the Lakers haven’t won a championship since 2010, and they last made the playoffs in 2013. But I’m not talking about wins and losses. Down years happen to just about every franchise, and the presence of a salary cap has made it especially difficult to maintain dominance over consecutive years.

Instead, I’m referencing the aura and the mystique that once upon a time surrounded the Lakers franchise. 16 championships, a big market, an LA lifestyle, establishing a legacy; what star player wouldn’t be drawn to these elements? Especially if the money was equal.

After all, good things would just happen to the Lakers throughout NBA history. Stars like Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O’Neal would just fall onto their laps.

But not this time. There was no LaMarcus Aldridge; nor Greg Monroe. Instead their was Brandon Bass and Roy Hibbert.

It’s not just failing to get a star, it’s why they didn’t get a star. Aldridge sat down with the Lakers twice, where they pitched branding, young pieces, and the opportunity to play with Kobe Bryant; but LMA was turned off by LA’s old-fashioned style of play. And he had no interest in being the Pau Gasol to his Kobe Bryant.

Meanwhile Greg Monroe turned down both the Lakers and the Knicks to play for the small-market Milwaukee Bucks because he believed they had the best chance of winning.

It was a bigger loss for the Lakers than it was for the Knicks. The Knicks have sucked for the better part of the last 15 years, and have swung-and-missed on a number of premier free agents. The Lakers aren’t used to this. This uncharted waters.

This summer was one of the last chances for the Lakers to extend Kobe’s career by adding another star, and yet it ended horribly.

I mean, the sum of the parts gained is actually fairly better than the parts lost. Brandon Bass cancels out the loss of Ed Davis, but Roy Hibbert finally gives the Lakers a rim protector. Reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams is a good pick-up assuming the Lakers keep him in that role and not try to shoe-horn him into the starting line-up with Kobe.

I also LOVE D’Angelo Russell as a prospect. But even D’Angelo drew the ire of Lakers Nation when he had the cajones to call Tracy McGrady the GOAT when one Kobe Bryant is on his team. Take a lap, young fella.

The Los Angeles Lakers now find themselves (temporarirly) stripped of their competitive advantages. Now they are forced to rebuild the old fashioned way like the rest of the teams in NBA: through draft picks and smart business decisions. Truth be told, it’s not the worst way to rebuild in this league. But this was not the gameplan GM Mitch Kupchak drew up. So this is going to cost them.

Are they better?: Yes.


 

 

6 divisions and 30 NBA teams later, and we’ve have completed the NBA Offseason Grades series! I’ll revisit these grades somewhere around the all-star break just to see where each team stands and see how accurate each representation was. Only 7 more weeks until opening night!

Thank you very much to basketball-reference.com , espn.go.com/nba , and hoopshype.com for the stats and information used in this article.

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What to Watch For With Trade Deadline Approaching

With the NBA Trade deadline approaching, teams are undoubtedly looking at their roster and contemplating possible moves both for this year and possibly more importantly for the future. For those teams making the playoffs or hoping to make the playoffs, the right move or two might push them in the right direction, while those completely out of it are looking towards next year.

With so many teams in the East in the playoff mix this year, most of the trade rumors involve teams from the Eastern Conference. The Western Conference on the other hand, might end up seeing most of their changes occur in the offseason, once free agency officially begins.

Will the Celtics Get Their Superstar?

For awhile now, the Celtics have been linked with almost every possible trade involving a big man as the popular consensus has been that Boston is in need of that one big name to bring them over the top in the Eastern Conference. Whether it was Demarcus Cousins or Kevin Love, the Celtics were apparently after them.

Since it seems for now, at least, the Cavs will keep Kevin Love (David Blatt obviously sacrificed instead) and Demarcus Cousins still in Sacramento after the whole will they or won’t they with George Karl, the Celtics might have to wait till free agency to get their big man.

Unless of course, those other rumors about Dwight Howard and the Rockets come to fruition. Before rumblings began about the Celtics being interested in Howard, I wondered what Dwight might look like with the Celtics given his apparent discontentment with Harden and the Rockets.

Like the Kings, it seems the Rockets would prefer to keep Dwight around, at least for now. Which in the end, might end up working best for the Celtics as David Lee didn’t exactly end up contributing much after they acquired him for the Warriors.

Will the Hawks Help the Knicks?

Not too long ago, I wrote about how it seemed the Knicks were finally on the right track, heading towards a possible fight for the last spot in the playoffs. Fast forward a month or so later, and the Knicks have since fired their head coach Derek Fisher, thanks to the Knicks losing nine out of their last ten games.

While definitely a shock to most, given the talent of the team, it was definitely understandable. With rookie sensation, Kristaps Porzingis, to go along with Carmelo Anthony and other quality players such as Robin Lopez and Aaron Afflalo, there really is no reason for the Knicks not to be in the playoff hunt.

Though Carmelo Anthony has had to miss a few games due to lingering injuries, the Knicks are talented enough to at least compete for the last playoff spot in the East with the likes of the Pistons and the Hornets. Of course, most people still think they need a quality point guard to truly compete, so in comes Jeff Teague and the Atlanta Hawks.

Since it appears the Hawks are looking to move Teague since Schroder is a younger and cheaper version of Teague, the Knicks are definitely towards the top of the list of those interested. With a new coach and hopefully an all-star point guard, New York might actually end up an enticing place for one of the biggest free agents this summer, Kevin Durant.

Durant and Griffin: Offseason Rumors Heat Up

With Blake Griffin out with both an injury and suspension (due to his altercation with a staff member), rumors have begun about the Clippers possibly trading Blake Griffin this offseason. If that ends up being the case because the Clippers aren’t able to compete with the top teams in the West in the playoffs, it seems the Celtics once again will be one of the teams most interested.

Since Griffin will become a free agent after next season, it might make sense to try get something for him before he possibly decides to move on himself. Whether Durant stays in OKC this offseason, might also have an impact on where Griffin ends up as Blake is from Oklahoma so returning home might be end up being enticing for him.

And speaking of KD, no rumor has caused as much controversy as the one that has Durant heading to the Warriors should he decide to leave OKC this summer. It almost seems preposterous for that to even be a real possibility, but it seems some want us to believe it is indeed a likely scenario.

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/sources–warriors-serious-threat-to-sign-kevin-durant-182559375.html

As a fan of Durant from his days at Texas, I can’t see Durant choosing to leave OKC to join a team that wouldn’t really need him should Golden State win another championship this year. I think he likes a challenge so unless OKC fails to compete in the playoffs, I think he remains in OKC since the only other team I thought he might leave for, his hometown Washington Wizards, have completely blown their chance to show that they could be a team to compete for a title this year.

OKC Thunder Tickets

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Clippers’ Blake Griffin Suspended 4 Games

Los Angeles Clippers’ forward Blake Griffin was suspended four games without pay for punching a team staff member late last month. The Clippers will also dock Griffin’s pay for an additional game because he broke his shooting hand.

The suspension means Griffin will lose $859,442 from his season salary of $18,907,725.

A team spokesman said the suspension will begin when Griffin is healthy, cleared to play and active. Griffin was originally expected to be out four to six weeks while his hand heals from the January 23rd  incident in Toronto.

The spokesman also said the fine was issued by the Clippers, with the NBA assisting in the investigation of the incident and in the disciplinary process. No other punishment from the league is expected to be levied on Griffin.

Clippers’ head coach Doc Rivers said the team is ready to move on from the incident.

“It’s just nice to have it over with, and now we can kind of move on,” Rivers said. “Obviously, we don’t get Blake back yet — we have a lot of games before that — and we have to keep trying to get through that. But that [punishment] part of it is over with, and now we can get back to kind of repairing our team.”

The team will donate Griffin’s salary from the five games to charities that help disadvantaged youth in Los Angeles. The Clippers said Griffin asked to donate his time to the organizations.

“We have made it clear that this conduct has no place in the Clippers organization,” team owner Steve Ballmer and Rivers said in a joint statement Tuesday. “Blake is remorseful and has apologized for his actions. He is a valued member of our Clippers family and we support him as he rejoins the team.”

Clippers point guard Chris Paul said he “can’t wait” for Griffin’s return.

“Both of those guys were a part of our family, and we can’t wait to get them back, get some things back to normalcy,” Paul said at the shootaround.

http://SportsRants.com

Spurs and Warriors Heading Towards Epic Showdown and Other New Year Musings

With the new year finally upon us, teams are undoubtedly reflecting back on the 2015 season while also looking forward to what lies ahead in 2016. For teams in the Eastern Conference, the good fortune most teams have enjoyed in the season thus far looks to continue in the new year. The Western Conference, on the other hand, is still looking for some improvement, at least for those teams hoping to capture the last spot or two in the playoffs.

Spurs and Warriors Setting Records

A couple of teams in the Western Conference that couldn’t really improve much more if they tried are the defending NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors and the 5 time NBA champs, the San Antonio Spurs. Week after week, these two teams are setting records, and unfortunately for the rest of the league, they show no signs of slowing down.

With the Spurs aiming for a 20-0 record at home this weekend and the Warriors with only two losses in the season so far, the matchups between these two juggernauts can’t get here fast enough. When these teams do finally meet for the first time this season in late January, it will hopefully be a preview of things to come in the Western Conference Finals.

Until that first matchup between the two arrives though, both the Warriors and Spurs will continue to make headlines. The Warriors just recently lost their second game of the season as Steph Curry sat out with a leg injury. They were blown out by the Mavs thus proving Steph Curry was indeed the Real MVP last year. Curry, however, should be back long before the Warriors meet the Spurs as he was sat out more as a precaution during a back-to-back.

The Spurs, meanwhile, just recently notched their 11th win by 20 or more points. While impressive in it’s own right, more than a couple of those lopsided wins occurred without Duncan and/or Ginobili, who sat out for “rest”. With LaMarcus Aldridge, David West, and Boban Marjanovic, the 7-3 giant from Serbia that is the Spurs’ newest international find, Popovich is able to afford to give Duncan and Ginobili all the days off he wants.

http://deadspin.com/gregg-popovich-on-boban-marjanovic-hes-not-some-sort-1750446195

Clippers Rebound While Rockets Remain Unpredictable

As the Spurs and Warriors continue to impress, other teams in the Western Conference are still trying to find their way. While the Clippers seem to have finally turned it around after a bumpy start, the Rockets continue to disappoint, taking one step forward and then two step backs. After finally posting a winning record with a win over the Spurs on Christmas, the Rockets have since fallen below .500 once again.

Irving Finally Returns But Cavs Still Fail to Impress

Though the Eastern Conference as a whole continues to impress, one team that, given expectations, has been a bit disappointing, is the Cleveland Cavaliers. While true they currently hold the top spot in the Eastern Conference, compared to the two top teams in the West, their 21-9 record hasn’t been that impressive. Especially not when you consider that they believed, if healthy last year, they could’ve beaten the Warriors in the Finals.

In fairness to the Cavs though, Kyrie Irving probably will need some time to integrate himself back on the team as it’s been a long lay off for him since he injured himself in the playoffs last year. Until then, David Blatt might consider taking a page out of Pop’s book and resting Lebron some as he looked gassed during the Finals rematch vs the Warriors on Christmas Day which subsequently led to them being blown out by the Blazers the following day.

 

Dallas Mavericks Tickets

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From the Rockets to the Clippers, the West Not So Invincible Anymore

With a month in the books, the NBA has already provided more than a few surprises this early in the season. One of the most interesting developments that not many could’ve foreseen was the Eastern Conference making quite the improvement while the Western Conference heads in the opposite direction.

Though the Western Conference still has three of the best teams in the NBA, the West is definitely not quite as strong as most expected it to be when the season began. Despite the Warriors proving their championship was certainly no fluke with an undefeated record that’ll probably be held intact when Golden State meets the Cavs and the Spurs still the Spurs, the other teams in last year’s playoffs aren’t faring quite as well.

The Pelicans are still struggling to get back to the team they were last year with a 4-11 record while the Rockets and Clippers are proving sometimes adding a bunch of stars doesn’t always translate into a bunch of wins.

Houston We Have a Problem

After starting the season 0-4, the Rockets certainly didn’t seem like the same team that went to the Western Conference Finals last year. It seemed though after a win against the talented OKC Thunder, Harden and the Rockets might have overcome their slow start. Unfortunately though, it was a short lived celebration as the Rockets went on to lose three more consecutive games which eventually lead to the firing of Coach McHale.

Though Coach McHale obviously wasn’t the answer in Houston, the team’s struggles lie way beyond the coach. Until James Harden and company learn to play defense individually and as a team, not much will change with this team. Also might help if a certain star or two learned how to keep their egos in check. When you commit as many turnovers as the Rockets do and lose as badly as a result, no one should feel they deserved to be MVP.

So other than the players changing their personalities, finding the right coach to help in that process should be the Rockets main priority right now. Wonder what Rudy Tomjanovich is up to these days.

Trouble in the City of Angels

Like the Rockets, the Los Angeles Clippers haven’t quite lived up to the expectations placed on them after a successful offseason. With so many big new additions, the Clippers undoubtedly never thought they’d have a losing record, especially not after they kept Deandre Jordan from going to Dallas.

And therein lies the biggest irony of all for the Clippers. The fact that the Dallas Mavericks have actually fared better so far in the season even though they didn’t get Deandre Jordan. Seems so far losing out on him might have been a blessing in disguise for the Mavs.

But though the Clippers might currently be struggling, they still have what many consider to be one of the NBA’s better coaches. So if anyone can manage the dysfunction that currently plagues the Clippers, it’d probably be Doc Rivers. That plus, it could always be worse, they could be that other team from LA, the Los Angeles Lakers.

 

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Is All Forgiven With DeAndre Jordan?

DeAndre Jordan played like he had something to prove last night. How could anyone forget the fiasco during free agency? One day he was with the Los Angeles Clippers, the next day he agreed to become a part of the Dallas Mavericks and in the end he decided to stay in Los Angeles.

The Clippers are now 2-0 as they beat the Dallas Mavericks at home 104-88. Jordan played for 26 minutes and finished with 15 rebounds. He only scored six points but he still had an impact on the game.

There were times when it seemed like some of the Mavericks players were testing Jordan. At one point Jordan and Dallas’ Dirk Notwitzki were going back and forth with one another. Their little situation resulted in three technical fouls.

Was that some type of payback?

With the start of the NBA season that also means the start of Hack-A-Jordan. It was almost as if the Mavericks were desperate and at times they barely let Jordan walk up the court before he was fouled.

I wasn’t expecting Jordan to hit every shot from the free throw line, but it would’ve been nice to see him hit most of them. It’s only the first home game so I won’t hold it against him.

Maybe all is well in Clippers land and fans forgive him for his attempt to move on from the team. Even Jordan acknowledged how if he could go back he would’ve gone about it differently.

When the Clippers play the Mavericks on their home court on November 11, there will be a different atmosphere. The loud boos from the crowd will knock the roof off the American Airlines Center.

Mavericks’ owner, Mark Cuban still hasn’t forgot about how Jordan handled himself. Without naming him specifically Cuban had some strong words.

“You can change the players, you can change the owner, but the Clippers are who they’ve been for the last 30 years,” Cuban said to the media before the start of the game.

It’s ok to change your mind because we’re human we all do it. Just make sure you tell someone about it.

Apparently Jordan didn’t bother mentioning anything to the guy that was going to pay him $80 million over four years. I don’t see Dallas being as nice and welcoming Jordan anytime soon.

Overall the Clippers looked good on the court and led the entire game against the Dallas Mavericks. This seemed like an easy win thanks to Blake Griffin who finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and 2 assists.

The Clippers shared the ball when they needed to and seemed to have played with a chip on their shoulder. Remember, it was just last year when they blew a 3-1 lead against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Clippers have so much potential; they still have Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Adding Lance Stephenson and Paul Pierce and a few ex-Rockets players such as Josh Smith and Pablo Prigioni may finally get them to the NBA Finals.

First, they’ll have to get through the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets, once again.

After all that’s happened, the Clippers and Mavericks may be the new rivalry in the Western Conference.

 

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Six Predictions For The Top-Six Western Conference Teams

A lopsided dispersal of talent between conferences is no modern nuance of the NBA. The league crowned just one champion from the West from 1955 to 1970 (the St. Louis Hawks in 1958). Since 1999, the Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat are the only Eastern Conference franchises to attain the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy.

As 30 NBA teams embark on a new season next month, it appears the Western Conference will be the most competitive sect of basketball on earth. Even if Tristan Thompson settles for a $6.9 million qualifying offer, the Eastern Conference still belongs to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Six Western teams boast sufficient talent to go the distance: the defending champion Golden State Warriors, the new and improved San Antonio Spurs, the ever-predictable Memphis Grizzlies, a Houston Rockets squad with an electric backcourt addition, the reloaded Los Angeles Clippers, and the fierce dynamic duo for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Although unproven in the postseason, even the New Orleans Pelicans may look to close the gap with Anthony Davis secured on a max contract.

All in all, it is difficult to make predictions for the cutthroat, star-studded lineup in the West. Like last season’s San Antonio Spurs, at least two elite teams won’t make it out of the first round. Below are six expectations for each of the top-six teams in the Western Conference.


1. The Warriors will modify their offense mid-season.

It worked for Steve Kerr and the Warriors last season, but team defenses adapt and recover faster than offenses on a year-to-year basis. Coaches will probe every available tape of Golden State, seek hidden flaws, and mimic useful strategies. In the process, teams entering Oracle Arena will better defend the three-pointer and force Stephen Curry to work inside-out.

Curry and Thompson’s willingness to hoist momentum-killer long balls irritates Steve Kerr. He prefers a systematic, unselfish approach in the half court. I predict a collective shift to a more conservative offense mid-season.


2. The Spurs will start slow, but peak at the right time.

Signing four-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge was the most significant move of the summer. Not only did Gregg Popovich snag the superstar on a reasonable, four-year, $80 million deal, but he gave veterans Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili a reason to stick around.

Nevertheless, the Spurs rarely dominate early in the year. Much like Phil Jackson’s approach in the early 2000’s, Pop prefers to rest his starters during the regular season. In doing so, role players gain confidence and perform sanguinely in pressure situations.

Expect a modest start to the year, a flurry of critical exploits from the media, and a few spectacular win streaks down the stretch en route to the playoffs.


3. Mike Conley will surpass Zach Randolph as the second most important Grizzly.

Fans in the “Grind House” take pride in the Grizzlies’ old school, punishing style. It has worked for the most part, but against the Warriors in last season’s semifinal round, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green embarrassed Zach Randolph on the block.

Overpowering and out-manning defenders are no longer options for Z-Bo. He’s simply too old, too slow, and too immobile to play effectively on both sides of the ball. He will always deliver 15 points and 8 rebounds, but playing defense against teams with four three-point shooters has proved challenging.

Luckily for Memphis, they possess a quick, intelligent backcourt led by Mike Conley. Entering his ninth professional season, Conley will surpass Randolph as the second most important player on the Grizzlies’ roster – behind Marc Gasol of course.

Conley orchestrates a stellar pick-and-roll with Gasol at the top of key. The problem for Memphis is that they still lack the shooters to make this play truly effective on a consistent basis.


4. Patrick Beverly will be displeased with his decline in minutes.

Ty Lawson has endured his fair share of obstacles in the last eight months, but he never really let it affect his performance on the court. Only two other point guards averaged more that 15 points and 9 assists per game last season (John Wall and Chris Paul), which places Lawson in an elite category of creators.

Once Kevin McHale decides how touches will be distributed, Lawson will become an integral component of the Rockets’ offense. Unfortunately for point guard Patrick Beverly, the acquisition means fewer available minutes for a major contributor from last year.

Beverly is a fiery, competitive guard who wears down the opposing team’s fastest player. However, with a speedier, well-rounded talent in Ty Lawson on the roster, Beverly will most definitely lose playing time and his displeasure will be well known in the organization.


5. The Lance Stephenson, Jamal Crawford, and Josh Smith experiment may implode the Clippers’ second unit.

Clippers’ head coach Doc Rivers tried valiantly to reconcile his reputation as a poor team president. Acquiring Stephenson, Smith, and Cole Aldrich were confident steps in that direction. But were they the right players for the job?

Jamal Crawford is a legendary sixth man, which can be attributed to his prowess off the dribble. The problem is that neither Stephenson nor Smith play well alongside this type of player.

In Indiana, Stephenson was a crucial cog on a roster with few creators in the half court. Likewise, Smith flourished off the bench for Houston last season because he attacked the basket and set up Dwight Howard on the block.

I forecast a whirlwind of conflict in the second unit. In the absence of deep shooters and guards that can capitalize off the ball, a stagnant offense will ensue. Of course, Stephenson and Crawford will have their moments on the highlight reel, and Josh Smith will eventually find DeAndre Jordan for a thunderous dunk, but that’s not the kind of depth that wins championships.


6. Enes Kanter will be a major difference maker for the Thunder frontcourt.

The Portland Trail Blazers unsuccessfully tried to snag Kanter in free agency, but Sam Presti and the Thunder front office members were confident in his ability to score near the rim and crash the boards. In fact, the Oklahoma City brass shelled out $70 million over four years to retain the 23-year-old big man.

Although NBA experts are quite critical of Kanter’s interior defense, I believe Serge Ibaka will make up for lost ground. His role won’t predicate on defense, but rather his massive stature in the paint.

Let’s not forget, in 26 games for Oklahoma City last season, Kanter managed 18.7 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. Those are impressive marks for any player alongside a reeling Russell Westbrook. Regardless, Kanter will be a significant upgrade over both Steven Adams and Kendrick Perkins.


 

 

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2015-2016 NBA Season’s Most Intriguing Games

With the 2015-2016 NBA season tipping off next month (preseason begins early October with the regular season beginning October 27th), it is never too soon to start talking big games. With so much change and drama happening over the summer, this upcoming season promises to be one of the more intriguing seasons yet. Here are just a few of the must watch games of the upcoming season.

Los Angeles Clippers @ Dallas Mavericks 

Unless you were living under a rock this past summer, you know one of the biggest headlines to come out of the offseason was Deandre Jordan’s last minute decision to stick with the Los Angeles Clippers instead of agreeing to sign with the Dallas Mavericks, the team he had, in college recruiting terms, verbally committed to previously. Given the drama that arose from the apparent change of heart, which included Deandre Jordan apparently ignoring Mark Cuban’s calls, there really is little doubt Deandre Jordan will have quite the “homecoming” when the Clippers come to Dallas on November 11th. I expect the fans will not soon forget how Deandre spurned the Mavericks and the city of Dallas.

Deandre Jordan not listening

Photo by USA Today

A preview of Deandre Jordan playing at American Airlines Center on November 11th?

San Antonio Spurs vs …… pick your team

The 5-time NBA champion Spurs undoubtedly won the offseason with the acquisition of the biggest name on the 2015 free agent market, All Star Power Forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Next year’s Spurs team looks to be greater than ever, which given their history, is hard to imagine.

New Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge

Photo by Spurs.com

Besides Aldridge, the Spurs also got veteran David West to agree to a 11 million pay cut to play alongside Spurs stars Parker and Kawhi and not yet ready to retire, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. So whomever the Spurs play will really be a game worth watching, but some of the more intriguing match-ups I’m looking forward to are the Cleveland Cavaliers (preview of the 2016 NBA Finals?), Los Angeles Clippers (last year’s NBA playoff series looked more like a WCF series), Golden State Warriors (in order for the Spurs to get back to the Finals, they have to get past the defending champs), and the OKC Thunder (most expect them to rebound from their injuries last year and once again be one of the teams to beat in the West).

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors 

Rematch of the 2015 NBA Finals. Christmas Day game. Enough said.

Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Clippers (November 7)

Another entertaining playoff series from last year. After the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead, the Rockets appeared to have brought back that Clutch City magic from the 90s. Josh Smith had a big impact in this series for the Rockets so it was surprising to see Houston let him go sign with the Clippers this offseason. Other big signees like Paul Pierce and Lance Stephenson for the Clippers and Ty Lawson for the Rockets should make this an even more entertaining series. Now only if we could somehow forget that whole Hack-a-Jordan/Howard free-throw nightmare.

OKC Thunder vs the best of the West and the Cavs

As mentioned earlier, injuries plagued the young stars of the Thunder so it should be interesting to see if they are able to bounce back and regain their place in the top tier of the West. With Durant and Ibaka hopefully back healthy, the Thunder will have some much improved teams to deal with in the West.

So besides the Cleveland Cavaliers, it seems the East didn’t even need to apply. Da Bulls who?

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DiMoro’s Call: Landing Spot Predictions for 5 Top Free Agents

(Bruce Ely/The Oregonian)

As we inch closer to the official start of 2015 NBA Free Agency and rumors are swirling, I wanted to take a look at 5 of the Top Free Agents and where I project them to end up signing. I based my predictions on what I have gathered from reading reports, my gut feeling and how I perceive the free agent landscape panning out once Wednesday arrives.

For each free agent I’ll provide a darkhorse team to watch. So, just in case you haven’t had your fill of NBA free agent speculation (is there ever enough?) here are a few more tidbits to help feed the appetite for more free agency talk.

For those looking for LeBron James on this list, he isn’t. Why? Because I don’t think for one minute he won’t re-sign in Cleveland.

 

LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge’s schedule of visits reads like a band’s national tour.

According to reports he is scheduled to meet with the Los Angeles Lakers first. After he meets with the Lakers he’ll then meet with the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks (in that order).

Many people have Aldridge signing with San Antonio but I’m not completely sold that it’s pretty much a “lock” he ends up in silver and black. Yahoo Sports is reporting that Tim Duncan will reportedly join Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich when they meet with LaMarcus Aldridge in Los Angeles on Wednesday so it appears San Antonio is preparing their full court press.

But I don’t think the Spurs are interested in anything dragged out in terms of Aldridge’s decision process. So, if Aldridge leaves the meeting without a deal with the Spurs ironed out, I think it’s more likely he ends up in another uniform.

So who could that team be?

Although many would think the Mavericks or Lakers would be my choice, I think the Phoenix Suns could be a team to watch here. They have a young roster and a big need (no pun intended) for a low-post presence like Aldridge. This move would make a lot of sense and the style the Suns play could appeal to the offensive-minded Aldridge.

This is if, and a big if, he leaves his meetings with the Lakers and Spurs without deals.

Signs with: San Antonio Spurs

Darkhorse: Phoenix Suns

 

Kevin Love

Cavalier fans may not be too high on Kevin Love but he certainly is in their long-term plans.

I don’t anticipate anything dramatic happening unless the negotiations drag out a bit. The only team I would think could put a wrench in the Cavs’ plans to re-sign Love would be the Los Angeles Lakers, but I think with LeBron James putting pressure on the organization to improve the quality of talent of their roster the Cavs will get this nipped in the bud.

I anticipate Love being signed on Day 1 of free agency.

Signs with: Cleveland Cavaliers

Darkhorse: Los Angeles Lakers

 

Marc Gasol

This might be the most boring of the list.

All report are indicating the the Memphis Grizzlies are re-signing Gasol and Gasol has no visits scheduled outside of his meetings with Memphis.

I think of all the names on this list, Gasol re-signing with the Grizzlies is the closest to being a “lock”

Signs with: Memphis Grizzlies

 

DeAndre Jordan

According to ESPN, Jordan is 50/50 split between returning to the Los Angeles Clippers or signing with the Dallas Mavericks. Bottom line; he is likely staying in Los Angeles. How’s that for a headline?

At the end of the day I think Jordan will ink with the Lakers. The fact that he is even 50/50 on a decision to stay or leave isn’t a good sign for the Clippers in my opinion and I don’t think many Clipper fans are going to be heartbroken over his departure (judging from your reactions on social media)

There isn’t really a ‘darkhorse’ here since it’s pretty much a three team race, but I think the allure of a fresh start with the Lakers will be too good for Jordan to pass up.

Signs with: Los Angeles Lakers

Darkhorse: Dallas Mavericks/ Los Angeles Clippers

Greg Monroe

Detroit is likely to lose the services of Monroe, who will be seeking a lucrative short-term deal to test life outside of the Pistons’ organization.

A lot of reports link Monroe to the New York Knicks and it makes plenty of sense, but I think team’s like the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers could come calling if they lose out on LaMarcus Aldridge.

Don’t count out the Los Angeles Clippers or the Portland Trailblazers either, but something tells me the biggest threat to a union of Monroe and the Knicks are the Toronto Raptors.

Signs with: New York Knicks

Darkhorse: Toronto Raptors

 

 

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Why the Clippers need to let DeAndre Jordan go

(Credit: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

After falling to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals, it became evident that the Los Angeles Clippers need to undergo some serious changes this offseason if the team hopes to compete for a championship. While point guard Chris Paul and forward Blake Griffin both had spectacular postseasons, it was the supporting cast, led by guards J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford and forward Matt Barnes, that failed to show up.

The Clippers’ lack of depth was something that held the team back all season long. Los Angeles ranked 24th in the NBA in bench points per game, and the team’s reserves ranked 27th in field goal percentage and 29th in efficiency (according to HoopsStats ).

There were moments where the Clippers appeared to have enough depth to reach the NBA Finals. Guard Austin Rivers, son of head coach Doc Rivers, had a series of breakout performances against both the Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs. His 16-point outing on 7-of-8 shooting in Game 4 against the Spurs was a huge reason Los Angeles was able to even the series 2-2 with a 114-105 victory in San Antonio. He also helped L.A. take a 3-1 series lead over the Rockets by averaging 16 points per game through the first four games of the series.

But Rivers reverted back to his old self the final three games, going 6-for-23 from the field and scoring just 15 points. Forward Glen Davis had some moments in the San Antonio series, but he was basically a nonfactor in the Houston series. Forward Spencer Hawes, who was acquired last season from the Philadelphia 76ers, was supposed to have a much larger role on the team, but saw virtually no playing time when the playoffs arrived.

The Clippers’ only scoring threat off the bench has been Crawford, but the team’s lack of depth put a great amount of pressure on him to score. While he averaged 15.8 points per game in the regular season, he was unable to find his stroke in the playoffs, averaging 11.7 points on 38.4 percent shooting against the Spurs and 13.7 points on 34.0 percent shooting against the Rockets.

Simply put, Rivers needs to upgrade his bench if his team has any hope of competing for a title.

Enter DeAndre Jordan.

The 7-foot center has been arguably the most impressive big man over the past two seasons. While his offensive game is still a work in progress, he’s led the league in rebounding two years in a row, posting averages of 13.6 and 15.0 per game, respectively. He’s also been among the league leaders in blocks per game, and his 21.09 PER ranks ninth among NBA centers (according to ESPN’s John Hollinger ). His athleticism and size are almost unparalleled, and at age 26, he’s just entering his prime.

But Jordan will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, meaning he can sign with any team he chooses. Rivers stated that he plans on offering Jordan a max contract , and if he were to sign the deal, he would remain with Paul and Griffin for the foreseeable future.

However, this would make things very complicated for the Clippers, financially. Both Paul and Griffin are under max contracts until the 2016-17 seasons with player options for 2017-18, and Los Angeles currently has $59.7 million committed to next season’s salary cap (according to HoopsHype ), which is projected to be $67.1 million according to ESPN senior writer Marc Stein . Giving Jordan a max contract would launch L.A. over the salary cap and put the team in serious danger of exceeding the luxury cap, which would result in a luxury tax.

Oh, and that $59.7 million? Not only does that exclude Jordan, but that leaves out Crawford (who has a $5.7 million team option), the Clippers’ best reserve scorer.

If Rivers stays committed to his statement and gives Jordan a max contract, L.A. will almost certainly have to decline Crawford’s option and persuade him to sign for a lot less money. That would be foolish for him to accept, as he could fetch much more money on the open market. Secondly, offering Jordan the max would leave Rivers and the Clippers with little to no money to fill out the remainder of the roster. Ultimately, Rivers is putting his bench in a position to be even worse than it was this season if he stays true to his word.

But if Los Angeles allowed Jordan to sign elsewhere, the team would not only be able to pick up Crawford’s option, but it could bring in higher-quality free agents to fortify an abysmal reserve unit. Paul and Griffin showed this postseason that they are capable of leading their team to victory, but their efforts can only take the rest of the group so far.

The Portland Trail Blazers faced a similar situation last season. While their starting unit was one of the most effective in the league, their bench was one of the worst. So the team brought in former Los Angeles Lakers Steve Blake and Chris Kaman in the offseason and acquired former Denver Nuggets and Orlando Magic wing Aaron Afflalo at the trade deadline. Unfortunately, injuries to a handful of players including guard Wesley Matthews derailed the team’s playoff push.

DeAndre Jordan will be a hot commodity this summer. Teams like the Lakers and the New York Knicks have tons of cap space to unload, while the Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks could also make a push to sign Jordan if they strike out on Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge and Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol. In sum, Jordan could easily fetch a max contract from another team if he decides to leave the Clippers.

For L.A., it may be best to let him walk if Rivers is serious about rebuilding his bench.

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