The storyline of the week in the NBA: Is it time to break up the Clippers?
And if it is – if president/coach Doc Rivers and owner Steve Ballmer decide not to bring back a team intact that for the fifth consecutive season was unable to reach the conference final after winning at least 50 games – can the Heat benefit?
The immediate future of the Clippers – who lost in seven games to the Utah Jazz in the opening round of the playoffs – centers around three primary players that are expected to become free agents this summer: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick.
Griffin and Paul both have early termination clauses in their contracts, meaning they can become unrestricted free agents. Both are expected to exercise that option but reportedly they are in different places with the organization.
Paul, who would make $24.3 million next season if he did not opt out, remains among the league’s elite point guards. Reports have circulated for months a deal is in place for him to return to L.A., one that would pay him about $205 million for five years. The Heat – and any other team – could offer Paul a maximum four-year deal for about $158 million.
But even at that price, Paul would start at about $36 million. Goran Dragic is returning next season for $17 million. Although Paul would be an upgrade, is he worth twice the money than Dragic next season and a lot more over the duration of the contract? Here are their numbers from 2016-17 for two players born on the same day (May 6) with Paul turning 32 on Saturday and Dragic turning 31:
Paul averaged 18.1 points, 9.2 assists while shooting .476, .411 on 3 pointers. His player efficiency rating according to NBA.com was 24.8
Dragic averaged 20.3 points, 5.8 assists while shooting .476, .406 on 3 pointers. His player efficiency rating according to NBA.com was 19.3.
Even if deals could be worked out where the Heat could trade Dragic along with shedding more salary, don’t look for Paul in a Heat uniform. In fact, with these reports out there for months, it would be very surprising if Paul does not return to the Clippers.
Griffin’s future in L.A. is much more uncertain. Although just 28, he has had his last two postseason’s cut short because of injuries and has missed a full season’s worth of games (83) over the last three years because of various injuries.
Griffin will opt out of his $21.4 contract for 2016-17 with the hopes of signing a max deal. If it is with the Clippers, is would be for about $175 million over five years. If the Clippers decide to move on from Griffin, his max deal would be four years for about $130 million.
Both would start at $31 million. If the Heat got involved it would basically mean adding Griffin and one or two more low level free agents but losing Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Willie Reed and likely Wayne Ellington.
Anthony Chiang broke down the pros and cons of Griffin joining the Heat here.
J.J. Redick who is coming off his worst postseason performance in many years (9.1 points on .380 shooting including .346 on threes) will be an unrestricted free agent. He earned $7.3 million this season and will receive a nice raise.
Redick will be overpaid this summer. The speculation is he’ll receive somewhere from $17 million to $20 million a year. At that price, the Heat will stay far away, especially if they can bring back Waiters at an equal or slightly lower price. Last season Redick averaged 15.0 points and shot 44.5 percent, 42.9 on threes. Waiters averaged 15.8 points and shot 42.3 percent, 39.4 on threes.
At 25, Waiters is seven years younger than Redick and his drive-and-kick game is far superior to Redick’s
One Clippers player who could interest the Heat is small forward Luc Mbah a Moute, who is expected to decline his player option of $2.3 million and become a free agent.
The 6-foot-8 Mbah a Moute is defensive oriented with very little offensive game (6.1 points in 22.3 minutes). He would not cost much, possibly an exception. The question is with the makeup of their team, would the Heat need more offense or defense coming off the bench?