NBA PM: Clippers Continue Front Office Restructuring

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The Los Angeles Clippers have had one of the most active offseason in recent memory. The Clippers hired Jerry West as an advisor, were informed by Chris Paul that he would be leaving L.A. to team up with James Harden and the Houston Rockets, landed several solid players from Houston in return for Paul, re-signed Blake Griffin to a max contract, acquired two second-round picks in this year’s draft (which they used to acquire Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell), completed a three-team sign-and-trade deal to acquire Danilo Gallinari and signed Willie Reed to a bargain contract, among other things.

In addition to bringing in West and significantly reshapring its roster, the Clippers also notably stripped head coach Doc Rivers of his former front office authority and duties. Rivers will reportedly still have a voice in discussions regarding the team’s roster, but this past week has made it clear that the Clippers are taking an aggressive approach to their front office rebuild. This week, the Clippers hired Michael Winger to be the team’s new general manager, along with Trent Redden and Mark Hughes, who will serve as assistant general managers. Former general manager Dave Wohl will reportedly remain with the team as a special advisor. Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ executive vice president of basketball operations, will lead the restructured front office.

Winger joins the Clippers after seven years with the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he served as an assistant general manager/team counsel. Winger also worked for five years in Cleveland under former general manager Danny Ferry. With the Thunder, Winger has significant experience balancing a strict budget, assembling a young and very talented roster through the draft and playing a role in negotiating favorable trades, such as the recent acquisition of Paul George. Winger has earned a reputation as one of the brightest young executives in the league and is known to have an advanced understanding of the collective bargaining agreement. Winger’s past experience and understanding of how to effectively build a roster should be a nice addition to a Clippers franchise that has bumbled several signings, trades and draft in recent years.

During the Doc Rivers tenure as the team’s president, the Clippers frequently made moves that, to varying degrees, mortgaged the team’s future. The team often traded away players and draft picks to either clear space, which could have been avoided, or acquire a veteran to bolster the roster. While Danny Ainge was hoarding draft picks in Boston, Rivers was handing them out in order to bring in players that ultimately failed to add the sort of impact or depth that was necessary to justify trading away so many future assets. The Clippers also struggled to add any young prospects that could strengthen the team’s depth. They now have a shortage of future draft picks and assets, which will need to be addressed moving forward.

Redden started his career as an intern with the Cleveland Cavaliers and worked his way up the ranks over his 11 years with the franchise. Redden was dismissed from Cleveland once David Griffin was unable to agree to terms with the franchise. Redden worked with Winger for some time in Cleveland, so his addition to the Clippers’ front office makes sense. He has developed a reputation as a solid talent evaluator, a skill that is much needed within the Clippers’ organization. Redden remained available after David Griffin insisted on bringing members of his staff from Cleveland with him to New York when he was negotiating with the Knicks to take over their front office. The Knicks resisted Griffin’s desire to bring his staff with him, which ended the possibility of Redden ending up in New York.

Hughes joins the Clippers’ front office after serving as the director of player personnel with the New York Knicks, which has maintained one of the most embattled front offices in the NBA for quite some time. Hughes also has experience as an assistant coach for the Orlando Magic and Sacramento Kings, though it has been roughly a decade since he has held a coaching position. Hughes brings in another perspective on evaluating players and constructing the team’s roster.

As of now, it’s not entirely clear how much influence each figure in the Clippers’ front office will maintain. By title, Frank is in charge of the front office and his new hires, along with Rivers, presumably, will answer to him. How advisors Jerry West and Dave Wohl fit into this new front office is also unclear. What is clear, however, is that the Clippers have taken a sharp change in direction by constrcuting a front office that features an interesting mix of experienced executives with a wide-range of background and skill sets.

The benefits of this new dynamic are clear. Like the best front offices, the Clippers now have a group of executives in place that can debate and work through developing the franchise’s roster effectively both in the short term and long term. The Clippers’ current roster features a lot of veteran talent and a growing core of young talent. However, like the Brooklyn Nets over the last few seasons, the Clippers will have to figure out how to recoup its future assets and set itself up for long term stability. Additionally, the Clippers still maintain one of the league’s largest payrolls, are paying a few players a huge portion of the team’s overall cap space and could lose DeAndre Jordan after this upcoming season in free agency.

As constructed, the Clippers have the potential to be a competitive team on most nights, though they lack the elite talent to be considered a contender. The loss of Paul unsurprisingly dropped the Clippers down a few pegs in terms of competitiveness, but the team did well in retooling the roster after passing on the option of going into a full rebuild. Whether passing on a rebuild was the right decision or not, the Clippers now have a mix of front office executives with the skills, experience and knowledge to balance the team’s long term and short term interests in a way it seemingly could not before.