How big of a difference one man makes for an entire franchise. Christopher Emmanuel Paul, alongside Blake Austin Griffin, have double-handily turned the Clippers of Los Angeles from laughing stock to top destination.
It wasn't too long ago when Ron Harper infamously linked playing for the franchise as a jail sentence, nor Lamar Odom begging the Clippers not to match Miami's offer during his first stint. Can't forget the attitude of one Andre Miller when the Clippers acquired him in return for Darius Miles, one of the teams "Yung Gunz".
How times have changed, last year, Grant Hill didn't waste any time signing with the team. Chauncey Billups wanted to remain. Still does in fact. Let's focus on what the franchise has been doing, so far into this summer.
Wasting no time, the Clippers front office, led by Andy Roeser and Gary Sacks evaluated the previous season with Vinny Del Negro at the helms. Despite a franchise best in wins and a 17 game win streak spanning the entire month of December, it was clearly agreed that Del Negro was not the man for the job. His contract, was then, not renewed and he became a free agent head coach.
Timing could not have worked out better for the Clippers as the Boston Celtics had made it clear that they wanted to rebuild from the remaining members of what was once known as the Big Three. Doc Rivers, the head coach, made it clear that he didn't want to waste time leading a team that was not going to win many games.
Enter Sacks jumping on the opportunity to not only bring in Rivers to lead the Clippers, but also hoping to snag Kevin Garnett with the coach. After weeks of heavy negotiations, the two sides came to an agreement, which was rejected by the commissioner, David Stern. Going back to the drawing boards, Sacks decided to go ahead and give up a 2015 First Round Selection as compensation in order for Boston to let Rivers out of his contract, who then, almost immediately, signed with the Clippers.
Rivers, coming full circle as he was originally drafted by the Clippers as a player, brings in championship experience and a defensive mindset that should benefit the side. His belief in the skills of center, DeAndre Jordan, will also pay dividends in helping Jordan reach his potential of a defensive stopper.
Overall Grade: A+
"With the 25th pick, in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Clippers select, Reggie Bullock out of the University of North Carolina."
With a late pick, not many options arise, and while Bullock was not who I wanted at this slot (Archie Goodwin, James Ennis & Jamal Franklin rounded out my remaining list), I have warmed up to the selection. A legit 6'6, Bullock could play at either spot and is a sniper rifle from range, knocking down 2.5 a night on 43.6% shooting as a junior.
The option of purchasing a second round selection or two was there, but the team did not go ahead with those moves, which baffled me. Available options such as Ryan Kelly, Ray McCallum, Jeff Withey, Allan Crabbe and the aforementioned three were all available. Definitely cost the team some gravy points.
Overall Grade: B
Eric Bledsoe was highly coveted, and Sacks took his time to find a deal that worked for the Clippers. Out of left field it came as well, as the Clippers traded Bledsoe, veteran swing man Caron Butler and a 2nd round pick in a three-team trade while acquiring JJ Redick and Jared Dudley.
Redick has a reputation around the league for being one of the best sharpshooters, which will greatly benefit Griffin and be benefited by Paul. However, his all around game, including his defense and ball handling, are above the league average, and that will help thrust him into the starting rotation at the shooting guard position.
Dudley is a solid shooter himself as well, but the reason for his acquisition was his defensive intensity. He doesn't care who you are, what you have done. You can be LeBron James, or you can be Yaroslav Korolev, he will get in your face and stay in your head. Come post season, that will pay major dividends.
However, with how much Bledsoe was coveted, I was expecting a bigger return. In Sacks I trust though.
Overall Grade: B
The loss of Bledsoe left a huge gap as to who would spell Paul. So the Clippers brought Darren Collison back to his hometown. It would not have been possible, however, if it wasn't for a fellow Bruin alum and former Clipper, taking a paycut to allow the franchise to have enough to offer Collison.
Bringing Barnes back could be a vital move for the team as well. Sacks, however, did not stop for his love for Bruin players there, as he kept another former Clipper and Bruin alum to a one year deal as well in Ryan Hollins. Hollins provides some size up front, which the Clippers need more of.
Prior to all of these moves, however, the Clippers made a low key signing, which can end up paying in huge dividends, by giving Brandon Davies of Brigham Young University a two year, partially guaranteed, contract. Davies averaged a solid 18/8 for BYU in 29.3 minutes as a senior while shooting 52.2/35.7 from the field, before being suspended for having consensual sex with his girlfriend.
Clippers still need some size, and are reportedly close to signing a deal with Antawn Jamison and bringing back Ronny Turiaf. Neither of those two are going to fill in the much needed hole. With guys like Greg Steimsma, Byron Mullens and Samuel Dalembert available, it is baffling why Sacks doesn't go after the,
Overall Grade: A-
Acquiring high character guys, that can shoot, and know their role, is going to be huge. A summer filled with substance and not flash will pay out come June of 2014. As a result, Sacks, to this point, gets a nice A- for all the moves he made.