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NBA Daily: It’s Time For The Clippers To Trade DeAndre Jordan

All good things come to an end. Chris Paul realized it. It’s time for the Clippers front office to.

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All good things come to an end, but just as Doc Rivers had trouble recognizing when the end had arrived for the Boston Celtics, he may also need some help seeing that the end has arrived for his Los Angeles Clippers.

With respect to professional athletes—individuals who both enjoy a limited existence and know that everything can change for them in an instant—there’s only so many times that one can wait until next year.

Ray Allen figured it out, then Kevin Durant did and so did Chris Paul.

From the moment Paul communicated to Rivers his desire to try something new in Houston, the Clippers’ days as a contender were over. While the players returned in exchange for Paul included some talented pieces, even with the acquisition of Danilo Gallinari, nobody thought that the Clippers had what it takes to challenge even Paul’s new team in the Houston Rockets, much less the mighty Golden State Warriors.

Although one shouldn’t blame Rivers for his defiance, at this point, it’s become abundantly clear that the team has run its course.

Here and now, it’s finally time to trade DeAndre Jordan.

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Since being selected with the 35th overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, Jordan has become one of the NBA’s more dominant centers. In the era marked by open floors, pick and rolls and three point shots, Jordan possesses a rare combination of traits. He’s a true seven footer who both has the ability to dominate games on the interior while guarding smaller, more nimble players on the perimeter. Sure, he can’t make free throws worth a lick, but on the right team, in the right situation, he can impact a game and be the final piece of some team’s championship puzzle.

That’s why the Clippers have to trade him.

A fringe contender at best, the Clippers will have an important decision to make on Jordan this summer. In a way, they face a worse predicament than the New York Knicks did with Carmelo Anthony back when the club signed him to a a five-year, $124 million contract back in July 2014. With the re-signed Anthony, the Knicks were able to convince themselves that with another piece or two, they’d be able to contend with the contenders in the weaker Eastern Conference.

Back then, at his best, Anthony still had the ability to elevate an entire team.

The same can’t be said for Jordan.

Despite his wishes to be considered more of a lynchpin, the truth of the matter is that Jordan’s limitations on the offensive end—and his historically poor free throw shooting—limits him from ever becoming the day-in, day-out primary post option that Tim Duncan or Shaquille O’Neal ever were.

Without being flanked by a true superstar—a player like Chris Paul, LeBron James or even Giannis Antetokounmpo—Jordan will become a big fish in a small pond. He’ll become a player whose championship caliber potential will never be realized because he both lacks the traits necessary to become one himself and won’t have one beside him.

Sure, Blake Griffin has some incredible talents, but his failure to develop a sound back-to-basket game and his over reliance on his athleticism limits his maximum effectiveness. The best thing Griffin has done in his career was jump over a Kia. The second-best thing he’s ever done was figure out new ways to get hurt.

The thought of a Griffin-Jordan duo bringing the Clippers to contention is a joke that’s even funnier than the thought of Blake lasting a full 82 games.

Let’s take a step back and be honest about something, though. Generally, as a culture, we are too quick to advocate for a team to “tear it down” and start all over. Legal scholars and sociologists for years have yielded studies that provide substantial evidence that most people only have the ability to remember examples and situations that help the point they’re trying to make.

In other words, if you’re advocating that a team should sell off its assets and rebuild, you’re likely to reference teams like the Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers as teams that did so and ended up with franchise-caliber talents.

While that is generally true, pointing to the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Russell Westbrook, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are good reasons to pull the plug on a fringe contender simply wreaks of selective memory. For every Curry, there are at least 1,000 players who never amount to anything. For every Joel Embiid, there are at least 100 Nerlens Noels.

Noel, in all fairness, is a very useful player, but nobody—not even the woeful Dallas Mavericks—are willing to bet the farm on his becoming a franchise cornerstone.

Rebuilding is difficult. It’s a long process that requires luck, patience, endurance and keen decision making. There are some front offices that are totally content with building a roster that it knows will win 50 games every season and, at best, win one playoff series. In fact, one could make the argument that this will be the fate for 95 percent of the NBA’s teams.

Without LeBron, Durant, Curry or a player like Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard or Kyrie Irving, there simply isn’t much opportunity to win everything.

Jordan isn’t in that class of player, and honestly, neither is Griffin.

At this point in time, what the Clippers would be wise to do is what most other NBA teams stuck in the middle do—hope to find a diamond in the draft and build around him.

Of course, if the Clippers get lucky, they could walk away from the 2018 draft with a franchise-caliber player, but the problem is simple: Jordan is playing in the final year of his contract and could sign with another team this summer. In all likelihood, at 29 years old, he will end up taking his talents to the highest bidder.

With Griffin on the books for an average of $35 million per year over each of the next four and Danilo Gallinari and Austin Rivers sitting on $55 million of guaranteed money over the next two years, signing Jordan to a maximum contract would sentence the Clippers to mediocrity for the next several years.

While mediocrity isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world, Jordan leaving the club for nothing would be. Another important factor to be considered is this: as a part of the agreement between the Clippers and the Boston Celtics that saw the Celtics release Doc Rivers from his contract to sign on in Los Angeles, the Clippers agreed to give the Celtics a future first round pick.

If the Clippers fail to make the playoffs in the 2018-19 season and the 2019-20 season, they’ll get to keep each of the lottery picks that will result. In such a scenario, they’d send their 2022 second round pick to the Celtics to complete the transaction.

If, on the other hand, the Clippers do qualify for the playoffs in either 2019 or 2020, they’ll have to surrender their first rounder to the Celtics.

In the end, re-signing Jordan could make all the difference in the world—he could help make the Clippers just good enough to not fully reap the benefits of being a bad team. He could also cost them a first round pick in the process.

* * * * * *

In the end, even a blind man can see that it’s time for the Clippers to embrace rebuilding. The team owns its own pick in this year’s draft and could easily acquire another first round pick from either the Cavaliers or the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Jordan.

Without Jordan, it’s likely that the Clips miss the playoffs for each of the next two seasons, meaning that the team could very well have four first round picks in the next three drafts, and that doesn’t count what they might be able to get in return for trading Blake Griffin.

Yes, it’s time to say goodbye to Blake, also, but we’ll save that discussion for another time.

All good things come to an end. Chris Paul realized it, and it’s time for Doc Rivers to follow suit.

No, DeAndre Jordan isn’t the problem with the Clippers—it’s everyone around him.

Still, that doesn’t mean that he can’t help to be a part of the solution.

Let’s just hope that the team’s brass and Doc Rivers—who still plays a major role in the team’s day-to-day decisions—realize that, too.

Moke Hamilton is a Deputy Editor and Columnist for Basketball Insiders.

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