I know that we're going to need a new post just to handle the comments that will be pouring in overnight, so here's that post. I'm going to address ten questions that seem to be flying around Clips Nation regarding the acquisition of Chris Paul.
Did the Clippers give up too much?
No. Next question.
Did the Clippers give up more than they had to?
We'll never know. They seemed to have some leverage in the situation, and there was hope they could get a better deal, but they didn't, and I'm over it. It's a great trade for the Clippers, so why worry about what might have been?
What could possibly go wrong?
Lots and lots of things. For instance, Chris Paul could get injured. Paul missed 37 games two seasons ago with a bad knee. But then again, he played 80 games last year. There may well be an injury risk with Paul, but there's injury risk with everybody. If you believe he's going to get hurt, then it was a bad trade no matter what the Clippers gave up. He played 80 games last year, and you have to make the trade assuming that he's going to play. Also, Paul could leave after two seasons. As part of the trade he agreed to not opt out of his current contract in the 2012-2013 season. But if Paul leaves the Clippers via free agency in 2013, it will have been a very expensive two years for the club. So they've got two years to convince Paul to stay with the team. This is not a risk free transaction by any means, but it's worth the risk.
Has he been slowed post injury? Is he on the decline?
Well, he hasn't been as productive the last two seasons as he was the two before that. But he's still wildly productive. Not to mention that he was at his best in the playoffs last year. Even if he's slowed, he's still plenty great.
Will the Clippers make the playoffs this year?
They'd better. With only two years during which to convince Paul that he wants to remain a Clipper for the foreseeable future, they can't really afford any lottery trips in that time. This is clearly a playoff worthy roster at this point. This also comes at a time when many Western Conference teams are on the decline. New Orleans just sent their best player to the Clippers and also lost the second best player this summer. Denver, another playoff team, has half their roster in China. If they don't make the playoffs with this group, given the importance of getting Paul to stay, it would be a disaster. Portland has seen Brandon Roy retire and is actively talking about rebuilding. That's three playoff teams from last season right there. Houston finished ahead of the Clippers last season, but has struck out on all of their free agency plans, while Phoenix is on it's last legs. The Clippers are good enough now to make the playoffs for sure, and it definitely helps that the door is wide open.
How far can this team go in the playoffs?
That's a much tougher question. Because although the bottom three Western Conference playoff teams from last season definitely look vulnerable, the top five are a different story. The Lakers should definitely be weaker with the loss of Lamar Odom and another year on their aging lineup, but that was a powerful team before and will remain dangerous. Ditto for aging powers Dallas and San Antonio - even if they're not as good this year as last, they'll still be very, very good. Meanwhile both Oklahoma City and Memphis are on the rise. As it stands now, the Clippers will have a battle on their hands to get out of the first round. But the talent is certainly there, and with a season to come together before the playoffs, they certainly could make a decent run.
Who plays shooting guard?
Well, it's not my decision, but I'm guessing it will be Chauncey Billups. Yes, he's mostly played the point in the NBA, but he's a greater shooter and perfectly capable of playing off the ball. He's also big and strong enough to defend most two guards. The Clippers guard rotation is deep at this point, with Paul, Billups, Mo Williams, Randy Foye and Eric Bledsoe (who'll miss the start of the season after knee surgery). And while none of those are prototypical shooting guards, several of them can play the position. And I assure you, it's a lot worse to have two shooting guards and no point guard than to have two point guards and no shooting guard.
What happens next?
The Clippers have left themselves very thin in the front court, with basically starters Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and nothing proven behind them. They will need to find some bigs to provide depth, either by trade (Foye's expiring deal may be their best chip there) or using the new $2.5M cap exception for teams that start an off-season under the cap and then go over it. Amnestying Williams and his $8.5M contract with two years left is an option, but it doesn't get them that far under the cap, so it seems a little extreme.
Are Paul and Griffin the best point guard/power forward combination since Stockton and Malone?
Well, they haven't actually played a game together yet, so it's way too early to say anything like that, but they certainly could be. Chemistry remains to be seen, but Paul is the best point guard of this generation, and Griffin has a chance to be the best power forward of his. Provided the pieces fit together well (and it's hard to imagine they wouldn't) they have a chance to be a combo for the ages.
Will this be the best Clippers team of all time?
Yes. Welcome to the new era.