No front office (or entire organization) in the NBA has done such a massive renovation in recent years as the Clippers. When Donald Sterling was ejected as the owner of the team in 2014, new owner Steve Ballmer turned the team over to Doc Rivers. While Doc brought a great deal of gravitas to the role of President of Basketball Operations, and the organization as a whole, he was overwhelmed by the dual duties of POBO and Head Coach, and the Clippers’ lagged behind other top organizations. Then, in 2017, with the end of Lob City imminent, the Clippers’ front office underwent a revolution: Lawrence Frank took over as POBO, with Doc going back to coaching exclusively; Jerry West joined as a consultant; and, perhaps most underratedly, the Clippers brought in a trio of highly-respected executives from around the NBA. These were Michael Winger from the Thunder, Trent Redden from the Cavaliers, and Mark Hughes from the Knicks. Winger and Redden in particular were seen as two of the best young front office “prospects” in the entire NBA.
The job that they, Frank, and West have done in the past two years has been nothing short of extraordinary. The entire roster has been turned over and refreshed with young talent, all while the team has remained competitive. The Clippers have no onerous long-term contracts, and will have room for at least one max player this summer, with the flexibility to create more. And, most importantly, they’ve added players who could be franchise cornerstones for years to come in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet, as well as tough, gritty, respected vets such as Lou Williams and Pat Beverley. The Clippers have made brilliant moves time and again, and are now regarded as one of the best, smartest organizations in the NBA.
Having such great young minds comes at a cost, however: other teams want them too, and can offer them greater responsibilities, power, (and salary, presumably) to be in bigger roles elsewhere. To wit: Winger was reportedly given permission to interview with the Minnesota Timberwolves as President of Basketball Operations yesterday, while Redden has been reported to be the top choice of the Pelicans’ new POBO David Griffin to be GM in New Orleans.
Minnesota owner Glen Taylor has targeted a short list of potential candidates to oversee the Timberwolves operations --- with Winger emerging among them, league sources tell ESPN. https://t.co/TE5wWFvRLK— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 16, 2019
Now, this doesn’t mean either guy is gone. Winger is going up against a couple other top-tier candidates in Minnesota, while it’s still very early days for Griffin in New Orleans. However, they’re each being offered a step up in responsibility (Winger from GM to POBO, Redden from Assistant GM to full GM), and it would not be shocking to see one or both leave in the coming weeks. Such is the lifecycle of front office executives in the NBA.
It’s impossible to know how much each individual has contributed to the Clippers’ brain trust over the past couple years, but there’s no doubt that Winger and Redden will be real losses to the Clippers’ organization. They’re highly regarded for a reason, and have been in top roles during the Clippers’ phenomenal team-building and reshaping the past two seasons. It will hurt to lose them, even if fans and media aren’t able to see the effects of such departures on the surface. And, it’s certainly possible the Clippers take a step back without the services of one or both guys.
However, the Clippers are not going to lose their status as a top organization with the loss of Winger and Redden (if they do leave). Steve Ballmer is still the owner, Jerry West the consultant, and Doc Rivers the head coach, and there aren’t many more respected people at each level of role in the entire NBA. It’s also a mistake to underestimate Lawrence Frank, who is by all accounts one of the hardest-working execs in the league, and has done a ton of the scouting/recruiting legwork with Kawhi Leonard.
The Clippers’ still have one of the brightest futures in the NBA, and THEY would have their pick of replacements for Winger and Redden if they were to depart. The Clippers’ GM role and Assistant GM role would immediately be two of the best, most desired front office positions in the NBA, and it would not be shocking if both were filled by people as qualified as Winger and Redden were two years ago.
We will have more on this as things shake out, but while this could potentially be a big loss for the Clippers, it’s also a sign of how far they’ve come as an organization in recent years. Whatever happens, the Clippers’ braintrust has earned the benefit of the doubt, and should receive it until further notice.