After an absurdly busy and emoji-filled off-season, the Clippers seemed primed and ready to for the war zone that was the Western Conference. Even after the crushing defeat in the Battle That Shall Not be Named (Pt. II), the team looked stronger than ever after reloading their roster with players like Wes Johnson, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson and Paul Pierce.
But things didn't go their way. Outside of Blake Griffin playing at an MVP level, the rest of the team couldn't produce for one reason or another. Chris Paul came into the season nagged by a fractured finger, and from there he got injured worse in the finals seconds of a heartbreaking loss. Redick started off on fire, but he too suffered from injuries which he hasn't fully recovered from. The proclaimed "Suicide Squad" was exactly what many fans feared would be the case, a group of guys with all the potential in the world that would never be reached. But arguably the most surprising and frustrating problem of all was Doc Rivers.
The highest paid head coach in the league, Doc Rivers, started to make rather suspect decisions regarding the rotations. Even after players started to find their groove, his lineups and criticisms of players were very questionable. Most recently, he threw Lance Stephenson under the bus after his best game, pointing out that his defense needed to improve, all the while never calling out other players for their 25% 3 point shooting, inability to rebound, and/or ill-advised shot selection.
Either way, word got around that Doc was unhappy with the roster itself and was exploring his trade options. At the time, many fans speculated that the most likely candidate was Jamal Crawford, as he has been on the trading block for quite sometime. And while he is available (just in case any GMs are reading this, yes, he IS still available!), the players that Doc was reportedly shopping around were actually Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson, two newcomers who have started to improve their play and gel with the team. According to Marc Spears:
The Los Angeles Clippers gauged trade interest in Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith last month, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Before I jump to any conclusions, maybe it is because those players potentially have the highest trade value on the team, outside of the core squad, right? Well, apparently not...
"There is not much of a market for them," one NBA executive said. "They are buyout candidates. Maybe Lance goes back to Indiana, you never know. You won't get back much for them."
So just when we thought Doc may actually see what we see, he proves otherwise once again. In fact, Doc is doing what many fans have been against, which is looking to trades our two new, versatile pieces, who we had hoped might take us to the next level.
Where do I even begin? For starters, trading Josh Smith on his minimum contract makes almost no sense.... at all. With the Clippers being over the cap, we would be trading Smith for someone of similar value. Heres the big problem, Josh Smith at the minimum is incredible value. You won't get many players with his defensive ability and versatility at such a low price. Lance on the other hand has a bigger contract to move around, but his return would simply not be close to his potential. True, there is a big chance that Lance never reaches his former Indiana self, but he has absolutely shown that he is capable of being a steady wing, especially off the bench. Frankly, Lance's value to other teams would almost strictly be that he isn't a guaranteed deal next year, so he can be used as an expiring deal.
Overall, it seems like Doc is simply pointing the finger at the wrong players once again. Lance and Smith have not been the problem, and while they may not live up to their potential, they absolutely have a spot on this team, and very few trades would likely give us similar production. Hopefully this is nothing, because if Doc truly believes that his diagnosis is correct, his cure can cause more bad than good. Only time will tell what Doc has in store, but let's hope it all works out for the better, because "In Doc We Trust," right?