According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Clippers and Chris Paul have verbally agreed to a five-year, $107 million extension. This comes mere days after Chris Broussard of ESPN reported that CP3's representatives have told other teams to "not even bother" pursuing him.
The question is, how can the Clippers build a title contender around their star point guard?
Paul cannot officially sign the contract until July 10, but a verbal agreement can be reached prior to that point. It's no surprise that CP3 would be interested in re-signing, as the Clippers recently acquired the high-profile head coach that Paul has long wanted.
To make it all but official, the Clippers have already introduced Doc Rivers as their head coach.
That's the type of high-profile acquisition that Paul and the Clippers have been searching for.
The Clippers now have a franchise player in place and a head coach that owns an NBA championship and two NBA Finals appearances. They also have a perennial All-Star at power forward in Blake Griffin.
The question is, what are the next measures for the Clippers to take in order to make the leap to elite?
Eric Bledsoe: Move to the 2 or Another Team
Perhaps no player has seen his trade value skyrocket over the past year as much as Los Angeles Clippers backup point guard Eric Bledsoe. Once known as John Wall's backup at the University of Kentucky, Bledsoe has now become a star in his own right as Paul's reserve.
Unfortunately for the Clippers, they only have two options—they either move him to shooting guard or trade him to another squad.
Bledsoe stands at 6'1", but the Clippers have played two point guards during the entirety of CP3's tenure. Chauncey Billups and hybrid guard Willie Green have played that role, which beckons the question.
Why can't Bledsoe, arguably the most explosive guard not named Russell Westbrook, do the same with his defensive prowess?
If Bledsoe is unable to play shooting guard, then the only option for the Clippers is to trade him.
According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors have all expressed interest in acquiring Bledsoe. Of the players that the Clippers could require in exchange for Bledsoe are DeMar DeRozan and Arron Afflalo.
Sometimes, trading a great player for multiple assets is the painful, but logical, route to take.
Space the Floor
During the 2012-13 NBA regular season, the Los Angeles Clippers were 16th in three-point-field-goal percentage. While this may not be too concerning, it's important to know that the Clippers were also ninth in three-point-field-goal attempts per game.
When you rely on the three ball as much as the Clippers do, it's criminal to lack any three-point specialists.
The Clippers took a major step in the right direction when they drafted swingman Reggie Bullock out of North Carolina. Bullock is a 6'7" perimeter player that shot 43.6 percent from beyond the arc with 2.5 three-point field goals made per game.
With that being said, the Clippers must target the top marksmen on the open market.
Players such as Kyle Korver and J.J. Redick are prime examples of players that can help the Clippers improve upon their current weaknesses. Not only are they elite shooters with three-point range, but they each have postseason experience.
Keep in mind, the Clippers live and die by the pick-and-roll, which is a play that is only as effective as the opportunity to kick it out to jump shooters enables it to be.
Create Interior Depth
The Los Angeles Clippers have an All-Star power forward in Blake Griffin and a rapidly developing center in DeAndre Jordan. Behind those two players, however, is inconsistency and an underwhelming effort on the glass.
Their perimeter may be elite, but until their interior improves, the Clippers will not make the leap to elite.
Jordan has upside in this regard, but the Clippers must find a veteran that can protect the rim and crash the boards while coming off of the bench. Without the cap space to land a high-profile name, that means the Clippers will need to dig deep in free agency.
Don't think it stops there.
Both Griffin and Jordan haven't received the credit they deserve for their improvement as low-post scorers. With that being said, the Clippers lack a go-to option out of the post, which is a primary reason for their half-court woes.
The question is, do the Clippers believe in their rising stars' ability to take the next step towards greatness? Or will they look to free agency and the trade market to improve in that regard?
The answer to that question is the key to their title legitimacy.
During the 2012-13 NBA regular season, the Los Angeles Clippers experimented with multiple fourth-quarter rotations. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Caron Butler were regulars on the floor in said situations, with Jamal Crawford often stepping in at the 2.
During the 2013-14 season, the word often simply isn't acceptable—the Clippers need consistency.
Paul, Crawford, Butler and Griffin appear to be a strong lineup to put forth, as it provides L.A. with a fair blend of athleticism, shooting ability and on-ball playmaking. The major question mark, however, is at center, where DeAndre Jordan has been unable to receive consistent minutes.
When you shoot 38.6 percent from the free-throw line, it's not hard to see why.
Until the Clippers figure out whom they will put on the floor during the fourth quarter, they will not win a title.
CP3 is one of the game's great closers, leading the NBA in clutch points per game. But the postseason exposed the Clippers for what they are: a borderline elite team that needs to fill holes in order to make the leap.
And it all starts with surrounding CP3 with the proper personnel.
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