CBSSports.com's Eye On Basketball is taking a team-by-team look at the 2014 NBA offseason. We continue with the new Pacific powerhouse, the Los Angeles Clippers. Check out the rest of the offseason reports here.
How they finished 2014: Things... got a little crazy.
In many ways, the Clippers of last year weren't all that different from the year before in Doc Rivers' first season at the helm, they were just tweaked in certain key ways. They weren't the best team in the league at any point, but wound up separating themselves from the pack of Western Conference sub-contenders behind the Thunder and Spurs. They held the spot of "most likely to succeed if San Antonio and OKC have disaster befall them," but at least they had the potential to make the leap to true contender. Their defense slowly improved throughout the season and they finally got J.J. Redick back healthy.
They were at least going to have the opportunity to show what they could do in a playoff setting against the big boys. They dropped Game 1 to the Warriors but it was pretty clearly attributable to questionable foul trouble for Blake Griffin and some other hijinx. The Clippers right themselves in Games 2 and 3 and looked to be headed for the knockout punch.
Then Sterling happened. Or rather, who Sterling had always been finally came to light in a way that was inescapable for the team, the league, and its fans. The emotional fallout forced the series to go longer than necessary and took its toll on the team.
Even then, the Clippers were right there with OKC. There was a call that went disastrously bad but in the end, the Clippers didn't have enough in the tank to come back from everything that had gone on. Whether it was talent or mental exhaustion, their season was compromised.
They entered the offseason not knowing who their owner would be, if they would have to take drastic measures to get away from Sterling, or how to improve a team that finally had seemed ready to compete for a championship.
One thing that should be noted, the Clippers truly grew closer last season. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan grew up, and Chris Paul learned to trust them more. Chemistry wise, the Clippers, ironically, have never been better.
Offseason needs: Well, getting rid of their racist owner seemed pretty important right at the top of the list.
Other than that, the Clippers had the same issues they've had. They had a bevy of wing shooters but few who can create or defend, and they were perilously short on frontcourt defense. The band-aids have been ragtag through the years. Ryan Hollins. Glen Davis. Byron Mullens. But the Clippers have kept hammering away at swing and backup guard positions, trying to overwhelm with offense.
They did have a backup point guard issue to resolve, with Darren Collison, who was once again decent behind Chris Paul up for free agency.
Also, getting an owner that's not blatantly racist. That also, seemed key.
The draft: The Clippers went shooter again, adding C.J. Wilcox out of Washington. A versatile 3-and-D candidate, Wilcox is another pure shooter to add to the list of players to it that profile through the years for the Clippers. Jamal Crawford, Redick, Willie Green, Trey Thompkins, Reggie Bullock, and now Wilcox.
But it's actually a smart move on the Clippers' part. They need new blood to fill in and Jamal Crawford becomes more and more a viable trade commodity. There wasn't a slam-dunk pick for their frontcourt at that spot, so it's not a bad selection.
Free agency and trades: The Clippers brought back Glen Davis, despite his struggles, and despite clashes with Doc Rivers. Their other frontcourt addition was Spencer Hawes. Hawes can function as a rebounder and can spread the floor as a stretch 4/5 but isn't a rim protector, meaning it's still just DeAndre Jordan back there, trying to stem the tide.
The other major addition was replacing Darren Collison (who signed with Sacramento) with Jordan Farmar. Farmar is a terrific shooter and can run the offense. He's a great fit with the roster and should work fine as both a backup point and combo guard to work with Paul in certain lineups.
Overall grade and accomplishments -- C-plus: I can't actually credit the team with getting rid of Sterling, though Doc Rivers and Chris Paul certainly did their part in letting the league office know that under no circumstances could Sterling be tolerated. Still, that also doesn't actually impact the on-court stuff, so...
The Clippers did fine. They probably added a slight upgrade in backup point guard and a veteran big who can provide scoring balance off the bench in Hawes. So that's that.