For fans of drama, the 2017 NBA offseason hasn’t disappointed with the amount of fireworks that have been exploded across the league. Entering the summer, the potential drama revolved around All-Stars Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Gordon Hayward and their respective futures with Chicago, Indiana and Utah.
All three of those players will enter next season in new destinations.
Butler and George were traded, headed to Minnesota and Oklahoma City, respectively, while Hayward elected to take his talents to asset-heavy Boston Celtics.
Chicago was looking to rebuild and shipped Butler to the emerging Timberwolves where he will reunite with former Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. Indiana, according to reports, were caught off guard by George’s desire to not re-sign with the team next summer in free agency, which put a trade in motion. Hayward reportedly chose Boston because of basketball fit and the earliest opportunity to jump into title contention.
But perhaps the biggest shocker this offseason doesn’t revolve around the aforementioned All-Star trio. This surprise came to us from the city of Los Angeles. This is where All-Star guard Chris Paul told the Los Angeles Clippers that he would opt-out of the final year of his deal and sign elsewhere this summer.
The Clippers promptly packaged the veteran floor general to the Houston Rockets in the following deal:
Clippers receive: Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins, Kyle Wiltjer, a 2018 protected first-round pick and cash considerations
Rockets receive: Chris Paul
Prior to Paul’s arrival in Los Angeles, the Clippers were woefully bad. Although there were a few years in the 1990s when the team competed for playoff berths, the franchise was viewed as a third-class organization and were the butt of many jokes around the association. You name it, from bad trades, draft busts, terrible free agency signings and a revolving door of head coaches, the Clippers were a team in desperate need of a perception makeover.
The arrival Paul prior to the start of the 2012 campaign, coupled with the emergence of All-Star-caliber players such as Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, propelled Los Angeles to multiple 50-plus win seasons and six straight playoff appearances.
But in typical Los Angeles fashion, the journey wasn’t without its share of Hollywood drama.
Over the years, there have been plenty of rumblings around the chemistry of the team’s core of Paul, Griffin and Jordan. There are reports that Griffin and Jordan, close friends, didn’t get along well with Paul. Since Paul’s departure, there have been reports he didn’t like the treatment head coach Doc Rivers’ son, Austin, received on the team. Former Clipper and NBA player Glen “Big Baby” Davis has gone on record in numerous interviews stating Paul was a big reason for friction in the Clippers locker room.
Even after all of the tell-all books come out 15 to 20 years from now, the truth may never be known about the relationships behind closed doors in Clipper land. But what isn’t up for argument is the fact this is a golden era of Clippers basketball – right now.
Once seemingly destined to be in the NBA lottery for eternity, the Clippers are now penciled in to be perennial playoff participants and still possess a strong core for the future. With the Paul era now officially in the rearview, the organization has done a respectable job, on paper, for a team that was put on their heels by Paul’s shocking decision to pursue other opportunities for his career.
The age-old adage in NBA trade circles is “lose the All-Star, lose the trade,” and it likely holds true in this scenario as well. But the Clippers were able to secure the services of two starting-caliber guards in Beverley and Williams while also receiving a serviceable wing in Dekker on a rookie contract. Throw in scrappy role players such as Harrell and Liggins and it’s easy to see the Clippers were able to scrap value out of an unplanned situation.
Immediately after losing Paul, the team also lost starting shooting guard J.J. Redick who opted to trust the process in Philadelphia on a one-year, $23 million deal. The team then responded by securing a five-year commitment from Griffin on a $173 million max deal. The team also received an agreement with veteran forward Danilo Gallinari, formerly of the Denver Nuggets. To complete the eventual Gallinari signing, the Clippers agreed to a three-team sign and trade where they’ll ship big man prospect Diamond Stone and former three-time Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford away in the process.
Losing a future Hall-of-Famer isn’t what any team wants to endure, especially a high caliber player with more game left in the tank. But the Clippers took the hit to the chin and have responded by putting together a pretty respectable haul, despite the unplanned duress.
There’s no reason to believe the Clippers current playoff streak won’t be extend next season.
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