If the Clippers hope to make a run at a championship next year, which spots should management upgrade?
Outside of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the seemingly formidable other starters of Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler and DeAndre Jordan were significantly underwhelming in postseason play. Combined, those three averaged just 18.4 points and 10.5 boards in 65.9 minutes of action per contest.
The Clips were not tough enough to compete with a very good Memphis Grizzlies team that they beat in the first round a year earlier. More worrisome, if the Clips could not even defeat Memphis with home-court advantage, then how would have Lob City fared in a rematch with the San Antonio Spurs or against a healthy Oklahoma City Thunder?
As it stands, the Clips are fringe contenders; a top-eight team that is yet to consistently look like a legitimate threat to play in June. By revamping these three positions and re-signing Paul, Los Angeles might be able to leapfrog some teams out West and come out as a dark horse contender for a championship by the time opening night rolls around.
Expecting Chauncey Billups to return to the Mr. Big Shot of old following his recovery from a torn achilles was a severe miscalculation by Clipper Nation.
Although Billups brought leadership and veteran savvy to the club, he was unable to get himself in a groove in the regular season due to nagging injuries. Billups played in just 22 games during the regular season, posting career lows in points and assists. His average PER of 15.0 was the worst since his 2000-01 stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
While Willie Green was a serviceable placeholder in the starting lineup, the Clips could benefit from a young defensive-minded guard that can drain the three-pointer. Perhaps the Clips next coach will evaluate Eric Bledsoe more as a two-guard than a point guard, and stick him in the starting lineup.
Regardless a “3-D” type player would work well with Paul in the backcourt. Upgrading will be key if the Clips hope to retain an edge on the perimeter.
Despite his reputation for toughness and stellar long-distance shooting, the Clips are overpaying for the services of veteran Caron Butler.
Tough Juice posted one of the worst PER’s of his career at just 12.4 last season. His 10.4 PPG was the second-worst of his career while he rebounded at a career low of just 2.3 boards per game. As a reference, the 6’0” Chris Paul pulled down 3.7 rebounds per game last season.
With one year and $8 million left on his contract, Butler is a valuable trading chip that could net a solid veteran. Butler should be a part of any trade packages this offseason.
Regardless of what happens with Butler, Lob City would be wise to re-sign backup small forward Matt Barnes. While Barnes is an option to start at small forward, the Clips could still use an upgrade that pulls down more rebounds. There are cheap guys out there that have found ways to contribute.
Clippers’ management will need to be clever to find a low-cost upgrade at small forward. San Antonio forward Danny Green and Chicago Bulls' swingman Jimmy Butler are affordable wings that could be possible targets.
For all of the untapped potential and flashes of brilliance displayed by young center DeAndre Jordan, his first-round performance against the Grizzlies grounded the high flyer and demonstrated to Lob City that he still has a ways to go before he becomes a two-way threat.
Should the Clippers consider demoting any of these players from the starting lineup?
Jordan was also a liability from the free-throw line, converting a discouraging 38.6 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe.
DJ still has value in this league, as evidenced by Team USA’s invitation to the young big man to participate in this summer’s camp in Las Vegas.
It is unclear what the Clips could get back from Jordan in a trade, or if Vinny Del Negro stymied his growth by limiting his minutes and fourth quarter reps. Nonetheless, last postseason proved that Lob City needs a dominant big to pair alongside budding superstar Blake Griffin.
All statistics used from ESPN.com, Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com/Stats.