In the 2017 postseason, the Los Angles Clippers fell to the Utah Jazz. Despite having an elite point guard in Chris Paul and two strong support players in DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, “Lob City” had failed to progress past the 2nd round in their six years playing together. That summer, NBA Legend and architect of the Golden State Warriors dynasty, Jerry West, joined the front office of the Clippers.
Seeing that his current roster was not equipped to compete in the postseason, he dissembled the core of the Clippers team in exchange for young players, draft picks and other supporting players.
Chris Paul was sent to Houston in a sign-and-trade for Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley and a draft pick, among other things. These two players have created an important part of the core over the past two seasons. The draft pick was used to acquire Danilo Gallinari, who averages 20 points/game, in a 3-team trade. Gallinari was a big part of their game five-win against the Warriors.
Blake Griffin was dealt for Tobias Harris, a first-round pick and other pieces. Tobias Harris was later sent to the Clippers in exchange for Landry Shamet, who has impressed many in the recent series against the Warriors. Other draft picks were included in this trade. In addition, Griffin’s huge contract, given to him by the previous regime, came off the books for the expiring deals of Avery Bradley and Boban Majanovic. The Clippers cleared more space by allowing DeAndre Jordan to walk in free agency.
So what did all these moves do?
While trading away their star players was not the perfect publicity move, West and the Clippers were able to accomplish several things by it. First, they stockpiled draft picks that allowed them to acquire both solid role players and good young players. In doing so, they created tons of cap space to sign big-name free agents, such as Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard. Both of them have been linked to the Clippers. Next season, they will be serious title contenders only two seasons after trading Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
The Clippers strategy did not involve tanking.
They liquidated their assets, made good draft picks and are poised to sign a big-name free agent this summer. I suppose the Cavs do the same. While this season was an exception, I hope that they do not choose to throw away next season as well. The best way for young guys like Sexton, Osman and the Cavs’ top pick this year is for them to compete and play in meaningful games. The Clippers have their veterans in Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, and Danilo Gallinari and the Cavs have guys like Kevin Love and Tristan Thomspon. They should focus on winning and try to make the playoffs while using the draft picks they acquired this season to continue to add depth. They will have three strong young guys in Sexton, Osman and whoever they pick in the draft. The next step is to start building a winning culture.
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