With over a week having past since the Clippers’ season sputtered out, the 213 Hoops staff got together to give thoughts on whether the Clippers should run it back, re-tool, or blow it up.

Lucas Hann: Re-Tool

I think the Clippers are frankly in too deep to simply give up, but it’s clear that this core group has gotten stale.  Even if they never win a championship with Kawhi Leonard, blowing it up now would mean moving him at a low point in his value, with a murky injury and 3 years/$150 million left on his deal.  Even if they take a step back and lose in the play-in next year, if the picture around his health is clearer and he only has 2/$100 left on his contract, he’ll be a more attractive piece for a number of other teams in a trade.  The Clippers are so asset-barren that I don’t really see a downside to riding the Kawhi train one more time–if it ends the same sad way, things aren’t really going to be any worse than the dark ages we’d be facing if we fully blew it up with none of our future picks going forward.  I do think that retooling, likely involving moving on from Paul George, gives you the opportunity to have some more flexibility in how you build a younger, more athletic supporting cast to see if this team can get some new energy moving into next season.

Shapan Debnath: Re-Tool

Clippers signed Kawhi Leonard for guaranteed years this past season, so they simply have no choice –  as long as you have him (and with his sunk value fresh off another playoff injury) you have to push your chips in to a degree, especially with how the Clippers immediate draft future looks. You imagine James Harden returns and he lines up a bit with Kawhi’s window. Does that involve Paul George? If not, how do you try to replace his touches? Can this team actually hit on the margins to lift the team with some youth and athleticism? With the weight of Kawhi’s contract, they’re kind of stuck trying to do a new look.

Randi Geffner: Run It Back/Re-Tool

I am loyal to a fault and sometimes blindly optimistic (the perks of being a season ticket holder since 1984) so in my heart I want to run it back and ignore all the anti-Paul George noise out there.  Intellectually, I know the Clippers need a re-tool.  As everyone has said, we are committed to Kawhi in the near future so the team needs to build pieces around him that can be competitive in what has become an extremely young, athletic, and fast-paced Western Conference.  It is no longer a winning formula to put two, three, or four big stars in their mid 30s in the game and hope for the best.  This hasn’t worked for the Clippers (or the Warriors, Lakers, Suns…) so given that Kawhi, likely Harden, and likely Westbrook will be back (and TBD on PG13), there is a significant need for some aggressive, fast, athletic pieces around the existing core.  Of course, keeping Zu is a priority and I think that Mann, Powell, and Coffey can continue to be very important players here.  Also, even though I have appreciated the energy Westbrook has brought in every game he has played, I’m not sure I have the strength for another season of screaming “don’t shoot!!” every time he has the ball.  And of course there is zero chance that a business person as smart and accomplished as Ballmer would open Intuit with a blown up team.  Bottom line?  Re-tool, and as always, it really will come down to keeping everyone healthy. 

Erik Olsgaard: Re-Tool

The Clippers don’t have a lot of options. Running it back is just something I can’t stomach at this point.  Fully blowing it up means that they’d be opening up Intuit with, at best, a scrappy but not remotely contending team, and will have sold very low on Kawhi Leonard. But this group needs some changes badly. First, I’m done with the Paul George ride. He has some value right now, at least on paper, so I’d hope that he’d help facilitate a sign-and-trade. And if he’d rather go to Philadelphia or Orlando, who can sign him outright, then so be it—at least we can then add a young/athletic full MLE player. Out of the second apron now, I’d then look into a Norman Powell trade package, possibly packaging him with PJ Tucker’s expiring contract. It’s tough to think we could ever play Norman much next to James Harden defensively, but more than that I just need something fresh (and to get rid of PJ’s dumpster vibes). And finally, Russell Westbrook clearly wants a starting role, and the best stretch of Clippers basketball we’ve ever seen came with Harden at the helm, not Russ. Time to move on. Oh, and no more Plumlee.

That’d leave us with a lineup of Harden, Mann, Kawhi, Zubac, Coffey, Bones, Theis, Kai Jones, whoever they can get in a Norm trade, and whoever they can get in a PG S&T (or a full MLE player). With those last two question mark slots, youth, athleticism, and motor need to be prioritized. Give Kobe Brown and Jordan Miller legitimate shots. The Clippers wouldn’t be elite, but they also wouldn’t be as prone to making me want to turn the game off. 

Robert Flom: Re-Tool/Blow It Up

If “run it back” is bringing back the Big 3, I think I’m out. Paul George is the guy I’d move on from, as he seems to want a deal way, way beyond what he’s worth at this point in his career. And, personally, I’m sick of his vibes. The Clippers can’t “replace” him, but if he walks for nothing, the Clippers would go well under the second apron and open up some much needed flexibility. Letting Russ walk, Mason walk, and cutting or dumping PJ Tucker are the other moves I’d like to see. You can then sign a true power forward with the now-open MLE, move guys like Bones Hyland and Kobe Brown into bigger roles, and maybe even get looks at Jordan Miller, Kai Jones, and Moussa Diabate. That is what I’d call a re-tool.

This is all, however, dependent on James Harden not having a real market in free agency and returning to the Clippers on what I’d consider a reasonable deal: a 3 year contract (to align with Kawhi) that is at most $40M annual average value (AAV) and hopefully somewhat less. However, if Harden wants more than that – and could somehow find a team that would give it to him (I’m very skeptical) – I would be fine letting him walk, too, and going full-fledged “young guys around Kawhi”. If that makes Kawhi unhappy, well, I’m sorry, you’re under contract and keep not playing in the playoffs. So while my ideal is a re-tool, I think I’d probably rather go more into a blow it up then run it back if those extremes are the only options even if such an option is unpalatable to the Clippers in Intuit’s first year.

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