To state the obvious, the LA Clippers find themselves in a bit of a hole right now. They still have two superstars in their prime so expect NBA trade rumors to surface in the coming days suggesting improvements that the franchise could make for competing again. But the early elimination from the playoffs this season changes everything.
Whether head coach Doc Rivers will stay or not is a discussion for another day but we must look at the things that didn't work out for the LA Clippers. Their second unit is offense heavy but also leaks points far too regularly for the team management to be happy. Paul George's streaky shooting can really kill all momentum while Kawhi Leonard can become too predictable down the stretch.
It's clear that the LA Clippers need some internal adjustments in addition to a few reinforcements. But how do they achieve it?
NBA Trade Rumors: Can LA Clippers improve next season?
One thing's clear, the LA Clippers will most certainly want to challenge for a ring next season as well. But trading for key pieces will be difficult unless they keep hold of their soon-to-be free agents in Montrezl Harrell and Marcus Morris. LA Clippers' trades for the latter and Paul George in 2019-20 means that they don't have control of any of their first-round picks till 2026.
As reported by ESPN's Brian Windhorst, the LA Clippers want the out-of-contract players back next season.
"The Clippers will likely try to re-sign free agents Harrell, Morris and JaMychal Green (if he opts out). With the George trade, they are in deep now, and they need all the supporting characters they can keep -- if not to totally run it back, then to at least retain the possibility for trades."
The LA Clippers won't really improve on paper if they just re-sign their players. From a trade perspective, Morris will not carry a huge value for a rebuilding team that could offer the Clippers an immediate impact player.
The same goes for Harrell who would most likely yield players with upside and future draft stock. It won't suit the team's win-now needs. So the LA Clippers could be looking at a possible stalemate in terms of roster depth here.
What happens if LA Clippers don't win it all next season?
When LA Clippers made their moves this season, they put in all their chips and understandably so. The franchise that has been overshadowed by its Purple and Gold counterpart for so many years was finally a contender. But the front office never expected things to come crashing down in such an unforgiving fashion.
As a result, LA Clippers now also need to be wary of the potential exits of their superstars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Both of them have a player option for 2021-22. If things don't work out next season, the duo is likely to chase a ring somewhere else instead of trying to be messiahs for a unit that would obviously not be functioning well enough for such a situation to exist. That's when the gravity of trading away all future draft stock would also hit the most.
The LA Clippers knew it was a high-risk high-reward game all along. But as things stand, it could all be for naught if the franchise doesn't win it all next year. And with little to rebuild on, the future of this frachise would be in serious jeopardy.
Published 16 Sep 2020, 21:22 IST