5 Questions Entering the Los Angeles Clippers Offseason
The Los Angeles Clippers displayed great courage Sunday night. In a losing effort, they showed they would not bow down without a fight. This credits the players' resolve, not a positive attribute to the coaching staff. What the Clippers accomplished this season was to spite their inept person manning the sideline helm. Vinny Del Negro is known for his ability to motivate his young players, but he is nothing more than a coaching stepping stone to the next level.
While coaching Chicago's young and impressive talent led by Derek Rose, Del Negro led the Bulls to two straight playoff appearances, however was unable to find a path outside the first round. He was able to put his talented players in the limelight and give his team a chance to win, however, nothing beyond that.
His in-game adjustments have failed him and his inability to counter a great coaching scheme is his downfall. Vinny is a fine coach who will inevitably find success in his career, however, for a team with impressive talents like the Clippers, he is too new to the impressively competitive profession to lead this team to the height they are attempting to achieve.
Here are the five most crucial questions facing the Los Angeles Clippers offseason:
Chris Paul's Extended Presence
Chris Paul had a sparkling season, finishing third in MVP voting, and led a team a year removed from a 39 percent winning percentage to the team's most successful season in their history, however, set the stage for something greater. He is only under contract for his player option next season and has yet to enter into long-term commitment discussions.
Paul is the only reason the Clippers reached the success level they achieved. They won a first-round playoff series for only the second time in their history where he averaged over 20 points, seven assists and three steals in an epic seven-game series. He came up flat in the first three games of the series against the Spurs, however, most can be attributed to fatigue, injury and terrific coaching on the San Antonio sideline.
Paul realizes the potential his team possesses and knows his legacy will be defined by the success he creates in Clipperland. Whether he likes it or not, however it appears he enjoys the West Coast, Chris is the future of the Clippers. He will not attempt to flea, but he will be given a hefty sum—Donald Sterling enjoys counting profits at season's end and Chris Paul highlights a list of players this squad needs to rival their co-tenants.
For the foreseeable future, CP3 will be subject to many articles, however, he firmly believes the young and experienced supporting cast surrounding him has enormous potential and they will only build upon their current success.
DeAndre's Continued Development
DeAndre Jordan has shown glimpses of brilliance. Moments of impressive athleticism and unrelenting help defense has shown the Clippers faithful what he can truly bring to the table. What everyone is secretly praying for is a combination of Tyson Chandler and Dwight Howard. A developed 12-15 foot jumper will do extraordinary wonders for Jordan's game as he possesses the skill with both hands to throw it down from beyond a five-foot leap to the rim.
His on-ball defense needs to improve drastically as his lapses in judgement allow for more experienced players to eat him up on the block. We saw this in many ways this series as Duncan sat Deandre down at a desk and took him to school. It's a good thing he'll only be turning 24 come July, when the Clippers future roster will most likely become more clear with free agency and the draft approaching.
Perhaps a summer tutelage under none other than Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon will add a dimension to Jordan's game we are all dying to see him develop.
A Suitable Replacement
As I mentioned earlier, Del Negro is known for his motivation skills, however, his inability to teach his incredibly talented youth how to harness their talent and maximize their athletic gifts holds this team back from truly excelling.
The shortcomings of the Clippers this season does not solely rest upon Del Negro's shoulders, the team was devastated with crucial injuries as well as integrating new pieces in a grind it out, condensed season without the benefit of extended practice time. However, in order to reach the next level, the next move is to hire a true teacher, one who is battle tested and has proven to lead gifted teams into postseason glory.
The two most suitable replacements for Vinny are all three currently out of work:
1) Nate McMillan, recently let go from his position with the Portland Trailblazers, has shown that he preaches effort and intensity with a sound offensive plan. In order for this Clippers team to be successful, the players talents need to be maximized and McMillan understands how to lead.
2) The next candidate is Jerry Sloan. Former Utah Jazz savior and unbelievably respected coach within the NBA, Sloan molded Karl Malone into one of the most proficient power forwards in the history of the game. Blake Griffin has the same talented repertoire and drive to be successful Malone once held. Sloan has the ability to bring the perennial All-Star out of Griffin that no one else can. He may be the best option.
3) Phil Jackson: Yeah, the Master of Zen. It was rumored recently that he has received "the itch" to get back on the sideline, however, most franchises have not been receptive. If there is any truth within that rumor, the Clippers job has the attractive attributes no other job allows: It is in Los Angeles where his long time girlfriend, Jeanie Buss, resides, and it is in a familiar setting: Staples Center.
Either way, the Clippers shall make a change, and it will undoubtedly be with one of the above. All are a considerable upgrade and will allow for the steady progression of the Clippers in years to come.
Resigning Key Free Agents
The Clippers enter this offseason with five free agents. All have been key contributors to this seasons incredible rise. The decisions of general manager Neil Olshey will be on full display come July as he will need to convince "The Donald" to open his wallet and re-sign key contributors in order to put the best product on the court.
There are five key players facing uncertainty come the end of June as they are set to enter free agency: Nick Young, Randy Foye, Chauncey Billups (rehabbing torn Achilles), Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans.
So who are they to keep and who are they to let roam?
Nick Young: Not only did he waive his Bird Rights and approve a move to his hometown Los Angeles Clippers at the trade deadline, he was a key contributor for a team that desperately lacked consistent perimeter scoring. He keyed the NBA Classic 27-point comeback in Game One versus the Memphis Grizzlies, nailing three straight long distance treys down the stretch. He is the No. 1 key free agent re-sign the Clippers need.
Kenyon Martin: Not only was his defense the main reason the Clippers were able to match the intensity of the Memphis Grizzlies, he played the offensive glass perfectly and came up with key offensive possessions for the Clippers when they so desperately required a shot in the arm.
Chauncey Billups: Even is he is a mere shell of himself coming off of surgery to repair his torn Achilles, his veteran, championship pedigree and experience is invaluable to this young and hungry Clippers squad. His off-court presence is almost as important as his ability to labor through 20-25 minutes for the next few seasons.
Let God Decide:
Reggie Evans: He quickly became a fan favorite with his unmatched effort and defensive enthusiasm. His knack for the key rebounds down the stretch allowed for the Clippers to match the intensity level of their opponents. In limited minutes in the first round of the playoffs, Reggie put up nine rebounds per game, leading the team. He willed this team to many victories, and his desire to return will depend solely upon his monetary demands.
Let Roam Free:
Randy Foye: It'll be a painful split, however, in order to re-sign Foye, the Clipper will have to again sacrifice their ability to match their opponents height, always undersized at the two guard. With Mo Williams still under contract for next season, expect Foye to be allowed to explore his options. That is unless they decide his future presence is more valuable than that of Chauncey.
Blake Griffin Evolution
Already very well-known for his natural leaping ability and numerous posterizing slams over opponents, Griffin's most glaring deficiencies lie in his inability to hit the outside shot consistently. His free-throw shooting and outside shooting are the most notable parts of his game that need work, however, most give him a pass for his porous help defense.
For a man with such incredible leaping ability, he truly lacks the heart and desire to be a great off-ball defender. He averages only 0.6 blocks per game over his first two seasons and he continuously allows for players to drive from the top of the arc into the lane unpunished.
He will need to become known for his ferocious defense as well as his fantastic slams at the offensive end in order to become a two-way player and one of the most dominant power forwards to ever play.
But the media needs to allow him some time to progress his game. At only 23 years of age and no true role model to show him the ropes on the Clippers roster or coaching staff, he has been left to fen for himself. A coach who has mentored previous star power forwards will prove worthy of the head coaching job In Los Angeles. Sloan helped mold Malone, McMillan helped shape LaMarcus Aldridge's complete game.
Blake Griffin making waves sooner rather than later will allow the Clippers to make their leap within one or two seasons. Again, all up to the stingy Donald who's awful reputation precedes him.
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