Why Chris Paul Is Pushing for LA Clippers to Land Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJune 20, 2013

The deal that won't die continues to chug along, as the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers have re-engaged in talks that would send Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett across the country. This time, it's at the behest of superstar point guard Chris Paul

According to the Boston Globe's Gary Washburn and Baxter Holmes, CP3 has emerged as one of the most powerful people in the NBA, with the ability to completely change a franchise's direction as it seeks to appease and keep the free agent in the fold: 

According to the sources, the Clippers, acting on the wishes of All-Star point guard Chris Paul, called the Celtics Wednesday to reignite talks after they broke down when the Clippers refused to include two first-round picks as part of the deal.

The talks were put on hold Wednesday evening and were expected to resume Thursday morning.

An NBA source said Paul considers Rivers his No. 1 option to fill the team’s coaching vacancy, and another NBA source said Paul’s camp feels that two first-round draft picks along with Jordan was a fairly small price to pay to have Rivers and Garnett join the Clippers.

Paul is an unrestricted free agent July 1 and the Clippers consider re-signing him (and appeasing him) as their top priority. He is widely considered perhaps the most powerful player within any single organization throughout the NBA, given those circumstances.

The proposed deal has the Celtics receiving DeAndre Jordan and two first-round picks while giving up Rivers and KG, except the teams will have to be careful. The moves must be made separately, or else the league office is going to have some problems with the deal. 

Let's turn to ESPN's Marc Stein here: 

Let's assume that all rules are met. First, the Clippers trade Jordan for KG, then they swap the draft picks for Rivers and successfully prove that the deals were made separately. Well, technically, the second part wouldn't be a trade. 

Coaches can't be traded, but the C's would be within their rights to release Rivers from his contract and waive his non-compete clause. NBA rules allow teams to compensate other organizations for doing exactly that, so that's how the second move works. 

Paul has had a trade blocked by David Stern before, though not by Stern the commissioner, just Stern the owner. It also involved an L.A.-based team, but for the sake of the argument, let's say that CP3 gets his way. 

Why exactly is he so dead-set on the Clippers making this move?

What Doc Rivers Brings

Here's one more quote from Washburn and Holmes: 

An NBA source added that the Clippers view hiring Rivers as an opportunity to not only upstage the troubled Lakers but also compete for an NBA championship with a top-level coach.

Upstaging the Los Angeles Lakers aside, Rivers would give the Clippers a much more stable presence on the sideline than the one employed last year. Vinny Del Negro often held the Clips back, as he wasn't particularly creative with his strategies and failed to prevent the half-court offense from stalling on a regular basis. 

It's not too much of a stretch to say that at times, CP3 was almost serving as a player-coach. 

That wouldn't be the case with this gravelly voiced head coach holding a clipboard. Rivers is one of the more respected names in the business, and for good reason. He doesn't do much in the way of developing young players, but he's a great strategist and is even better at managing personalities on the court and in the locker room. 

Rivers brings the ability to maximize the talent of his established players, but more importantly, he brings a championship pedigree. 

If you're curious as to why CP3 wants Rivers on the sidelines, look no further than the 2007-08 season.

The year before, the Boston Celtics had gone 24-58, finishing dead last in the Eastern Conference. During the offseason, the team acquired both Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, pairing them with Paul Pierce to form the league's newest Big Three. 

Despite the overwhelming jump in the talent department, the C's weren't supposed to vault to the forefront of the NBA. There wasn't much precedent for such a massive leap in the standings, and as later teams like the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers proved, chemistry matters. 

Rivers, even without putting on a lab coat and protective goggles, was able to mix all the parts together and win in Year 1. That, more than anything else, is what he brings to the table in this situation. 

What Kevin Garnett Brings

KG's contributions to the Clippers would be significantly more tangible. 

Not only is Garnett one of the few players whose intensity is on the same level as Paul's, but he also has a few productive years in the tank. His jump-shooting would help space the floor, but the bigger impact would come on the defensive end of the court. 

Even in his advancing age, KG is still a premier rim-protector capable of anchoring a defense. He'd be replacing Jordan, whose lack of instincts often turned him into a liability on defense. Jordan's ineptitude at the free-throw line also kept him from spending much time on the court down the stretch in close games. 

The same can't be said for "The Big Ticket," a lifetime 79 percent shooter from the foul stripe who drilled 78.6 percent of his attempts during the 2012-13 season. 

Throughout last season, the Clippers were a good team on both ends of the court. They finished the season ranked fourth in offensive rating and eighth in defensive rating, though it was often the defense that prevented them from taking the next step. Finding an interior defensive anchor is the easiest way to push them into the realm of the truly elite defenses. 

Enter Garnett. 

The level of impact that he had on the Boston defense during the 2012-13 campaign is just remarkable, and it's a clear sign that Garnett isn't washed up quite yet. When he took a seat, the Celtics allowed 104.6 points per 100 possessions. But when he played, the number dropped all the way to 96.2. 

If the latter was the only number that mattered, Boston would have had the best defense in the league, outpacing the Indiana Pacers by 3.6 points per 100 possessions. And if the former was the only one that counted, the Celtics would have fallen to No. 11 in the defensive rankings, nestled in between the Atlanta Hawks and Denver Nuggets

That's a pretty sizable difference. 

For those of you concerned that having Blake Griffin and Garnett on the same team would be redundant, seeing as they're both power forwards, let me alleviate that worry. KG hasn't consistently played at the 4 for a while now, and he's very much a center at this stage of his career. 

According to 82games.com, Garnett played 48 percent of the available minutes at the 5 during his most recent season, and he spent just two percent playing power forward. The year before that, the split was slightly more even, but still heavily in favor of him holding down the fort at center. 

Garnett and Griffin wouldn't be redundant; they'd complement each other nicely while creating one of the most skilled passing frontcourts the NBA has ever seen. 

The Paul Pierce Situation

Why get one veteran when you can get two? 

This wouldn't be part of the deal, but it's a fairly safe assumption that Paul Pierce could join the team as well. Once Garnett and Rivers are gone, "The Truth" will be left alone in Beantown, and it's highly likely that the team will either trade him or buy out his contract to further promote the rebuilding process. 

If that's the case, Pierce would be able to join the Clippers.

That's something you can put smart money on. Garnett wants to play out his career alongside Pierce, and there may be some sort of tacit agreement between the two teams. In any case, were I a betting man, I'd wager that should a KG/Rivers trade be the first domino to fall, the chain would end with Pierce in a Clippers uniform. 

The following chart, courtesy of 82games.com, shows the positional PERs for the Clippers during the 2012-13 season: 

Clippers 23.8 15.1 14.6 18.0 17.1
Opponents 13.2 12.7 14.8 15.5 15.9
Net 10.6 2.5 -0.2 2.5 1.2

If you were wondering why all these moves made sense, wonder no longer. Small forward and center were the weakest positions for the team, and those happen to be the two spots where Pierce and Garnett line up. 

Pierce, even at 35 years old, is still a reliable No. 1 scoring option, and that's the role he'd immediately play for the Clippers. His perimeter defense remains one of the most underrated entities in the NBA as well. 

"The Truth" of the matter is that he'd have an incredibly positive impact on this L.A. squad. 

How the Team Would Look

Assuming that all these moves come to fruition and the Clippers acquire Garnett, Rivers and Pierce before re-signing Chris Paul, the team would be looking at the following rotation: 

  • Point guard: Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe, Maalik Wayns
  • Shooting guard: Jamal Crawford, Willie Green
  • Small forward: Paul Pierce, Caron Butler, DaJuan Summers
  • Power forward: Blake Griffin
  • Center: Kevin Garnett

The Clippers would need to add some depth, particularly in the frontcourt. But veterans would come flocking, and L.A. would have the ability to re-sign its own free agents like Chauncey Billups, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom, Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf. 

Even without much depth, this team looks incredibly potent, especially in the starting lineup. It's not hard to see it adding the right final pieces and competing for a championship right away. Having a hoarse voice shouting from the sidelines will only help. 

CP3 wants to win games, and this squad would do exactly that. 

It's no wonder he wants this deal to happen.


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