Unfortunately for Los Angeles Clipper fans, the season is over and many questions need to be answered.
Vinny Del Negro will not be retained as head coach, which means the team will be in the hunt for a new strategist this summer. Meanwhile, Chauncey Billups, Lamar Odom and Matt Barnes are all scheduled to hit free agency.
The questions surrounding the Clippers are important not only to the success of the team for next season, but for the future of the franchise as well.
Following is a look at the Clippers' five biggest concerns heading into the summer.
This is where things get tricky.
Re-signing Chris Paul means that the Los Angeles Clippers would have no cap space and would only be armed with the mid-level exception—roughly $5 million—to spend outside of minimum contracts.
Matt Barnes played extremely well and one would assume the Clippers would attempt to re-sign him. Still, the Clippers are unlikely to offer the entire mid-level exception and would try to bring him back at a deal starting at $2-3 million.
That would allow the team around $2.5 million to offer other free agents. Depending if the team trades Eric Bledsoe and what the return package consists of, expect that money to go towards a swingman who can knock down open shots and play defense.
With Vinny Del Negro being informed he will not be brought back next season, the coaching search is officially underway for the Los Angeles Clippers. But who should the Clippers target?
Some might not recognize the name, but Mike Budenholzer has been a staple of the San Antonio Spurs’ coaching staff the past 16 seasons. For the past five seasons, Budenholzer has been Gregg Popovich’s primary assistant.
The main reason the Clippers need to target Budenholzer is that he is well known for being a strong strategist, and often develops plays with Pop during timeouts. He would also install a system that has proven to be effective and he adapts to his team’s personnel.
Both of those factors are traits the Clippers have severely lacked the past few seasons.
Watching the Los Angeles Clippers this season, it is fairly obvious what areas need upgrading.
First, the team needs to find a starting shooting guard. Jamal Crawford proved he is far more lethal off the bench with the ball in his hands than playing with the starters. Willie Green filled in admirably while Chauncey Billups was out, but he definitely is not the long-term answer.
The Los Angeles Clippers should target California’s Allan Crabbe with their first-round pick. He might not be able to start from opening night, but his length and shooting would be a great fit at shooting guard next to Chris Paul.
Next, small forward is a must-fix. The Clippers might look to bring back Matt Barnes, but after playing with a minimum contract, Barnes is due a raise. How much he will demand could impact his return to L.A. The Clippers need to target a long, athletic and defensive swingman.
Finally, the team desperately needs a stretch forward and a defensive center. Chris Paul is at his best when he can operate in pick-and-pop situations. This opens the paint for Paul’s drives and would also mean more single coverage for Blake Griffin.
For as much as DeAndre Jordan improved this season, he was still unreliable on defense late in games and his offense was disastrous. The Clippers need a defensive anchor, even if he comes off the bench. Jordan was expected to be that guy, but it is painfully clear he just is not ready to assume that role yet.
Let me make a not-so-far-out prediction: Chris Paul will re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers.
There is very little another team could offer that would trump the talent the Clippers have or the clout that Paul holds in the organization. There are also the bright lights of Los Angeles and, oh yeah, the $27.6 million more the Clippers can offer.
Paul basically has been given the power to give his input in a coaching search, suggest the players the Clippers should target in free agency and even change the team name and colors if it came down to it.
Paul would be giving up far too much, especially considering his lack of cartilage in his left knee, to sign elsewhere. Turning down a five-year maximum deal with the Clippers would be too risky. The Clippers are young, athletic and talented—and Paul has the keys to the sports car.
Deciding to keep or trade Eric Bledsoe might be the most difficult decision the Los Angeles Clippers will face this summer.
Although the Clippers are in no rush to trade Bledsoe, as they can make him a restricted free agent next summer, the team might be better off packaging him for help at other positions. Bledsoe should be traded, as long as the return can upgrade an area of need, such as at small forward or a big man who can score.
The Utah Jazz are in desperate need of a point guard and could have interest in Bledsoe. A Bledsoe deal revolving around the expiring contracts of Grant Hill and Caron Butler for Al Jefferson and the 21st pick could interest both teams.
The Clippers should be looking to improve their frontcourt and acquiring a big man who can shoot should be a priority. It is unlikely the New Orleans Pelicans would part with Ryan Anderson, but they have been interested in Bledsoe in the past. A deal revolving around the two players would definitely interest the Clippers.