The Los Angeles Clippers are entering another big season of basketball. After luckily being able to re-sign DeAndre Jordan last offseason, they’ll have some big decisions to make with stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, who are entering possible free agency at the end of the 2016-17 season. Both Griffin and Paul are under contract through the 2017-18 season, but the ’17-18 season is a player option for both players. Griffin will be making upwards of $21.3 million while Paul will be earning a little over $24 million.
While both of the Clippers stars will have an option to leave, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders states that Doc Rivers is not worried about either of them leaving.
Sources close to Griffin have been adamant that he is planning to re-sign in L.A. and that he’s not open to going anywhere. Clippers president and head coach Doc Rivers has mirrored that, saying he believes Griffin retires as a Clipper.
Both sides are saying all the right things. But are the Clippers good enough to really contend for a championship and what happens if they fall short again?
Sources close to the situation say win or lose, Rivers is not open to trade talks on Griffin or Paul and that he’s not worried about either walking away in July.
If that is genuinely true, then there is no point in speculating about Griffin. The Clippers can and likely will offer more money in free agency and with Griffin’s business interests in the L.A. market, the odds of him picking up and walking away are pretty slim.
The only scenario in which that becomes remotely plausible is if the Clippers just fall apart and even the harshest critics would struggle to make a case of that being likely.
While moving Griffin might be the best course of action if the Clippers want to re-load the team for the future, the truth is Rivers and owner Steve Ballmer do not seem at all interested, so it’s safe to say Griffin stays exactly where he’s at.
Griffin is coming off of a very frustrating season full of injuries with the Clippers, including the incident with equipment manager Matias Testi, who is no longer with the team. Griffin has a lot to prove to his team and the fans after struggling to stay healthy and contribute, so the 2016-17 season will be more of a redemption year for Griffin.
The duo of Griffin and Paul has developed into a strong one in Los Angeles, and the improvement of DeAndre Jordan has made them a legitimate Big Three. On top of that, the Clipper should have one less competitor to deal with at the top of the Western Conference. The Golden State Warriors are the Western Conference Champions and Kevin Durant leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder has likely taken the Thunder out of championship contention. That means the Warriors, Clippers, and Spurs will be among the top teams in the West once again.
It will be very important for the Clippers to succeed this season and at least reach the Western Conference Finals to give fans and the players hope that there isn’t a “Clipper curse” that’s keeping them from winning.