The Pride event will be taking place at Venice Beach, Calif. and runs today and tomorrow. As part of their involvement, both teams will be sponsoring a letter in the Venice sign that will be illuminated at 9 p.m. (PT) tonight — with the Chargers sponsoring the letter “N” and the Rams the letter “C,” respectively.
As America continues their public battling and bickering over sports, politics and other trivialities, it’s nice to know that the Chargers and Rams still have their eyes on the ball.
On December 8th, 2011, NBA Commissioner David Stern vetoed a multi-team trade between the L.A Lakers, Houston Rockets and New Orleans Hornets that would have dispatched Chris Paul to Los Angeles, sent Pau Gasol to Houston and delivered Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, Louis Scola and a first-round pick to New Orleans.
As a result of Stern’s unprecedented intervention, on December 14th, 2011, The Los Angeles Clippers and the New Orleans Hornets agreed upon a trade that sent Chris Paul and two first round picks to Los Angeles while simultaneously sending Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and a future draft pick in the 2012 NBA Draft to the New Orleans.
Clippers fans relished the arrival of a bonafide superstar, as well the complete overhaul of a rag-tag group of perennial losers, which fostered an optimistic aura that surrounded the team. The organization had recently experienced a fortuitous draft that saw them acquire two burgeoning high-flyers in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Chris Paul’s virtuosic ability to cast lobs into the air, coupled with the prodigious explosiveness of Griffin and Jordan led to the coinage of “Lob City.”
It didn’t take long for the newly formed trinity to monopolize NBA highlights as the power forward and center combination feasted on a myriad of bounce, no-look and lob passes courtesy of Cliff Paul’s twin brother.
However, if we fast-forward five seasons to the Clippers’ game 7 loss to the Utah Jazz in the second round, this Clippers team has yet to reach the conference finals and has been universally deemed a failure.
Some critics point to Chris Paul who has yet to reach the Western Conference Finals, others point to Blake Griffin and question his leadership abilities as well his toughness and durability. However, both of these players are elite at their respective positions as Paul and Griffin have both been in the top 20 for Box Plus Minus since the 2011-2012 season and Chris Paul ranks third all-time in Box Plus Minus second to only Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
This individual success of the Clippers’ two all-stars begs the question: Why have the Clippers failed to make the Western Conference Finals?
Since the inception of their “Big 3”, the two most glaring liabilities for the Clippers have been their lack of an offensively talented small forward and the lack of a formidable bench.
Since the Paul trade, the Clippers have deployed an elderly Caron Butler, a geriatric Paul Pierce, Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes, Wesley Johnson and Luc Mbah A Moute as their veritable revolving door of small forwards. While some these players provided a level of toughness, only Dudley and Butler were reliable shooter’s and both players struggled to create their own shots.
Although the instability at the small-forward position has been troublesome for the Clippers, the most glaring problem for the clippers has been their abysmal bench. Spearheaded by Jamal Crawford, an inefficient ISO player who is incapable of playing defense, the Clips’ bench has annually underperformed. J-Crossover joined the ‘Clips’ the year after the Chris Paul trade, and ever since his arrival it seems as though the ostentatious sixth man is more interested in accruing four-point-plays than contributing to winning basketball.
This bench conundrum has persisted since Chris Paul arrived, but was notoriously concerning this year. During the 2016-2017, the Clipper’s starting unit of Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan ranked second in Points Minus Opponents Points, trailing only the Golden State Warriors’ star-studded five. Additionally, the trio of Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul are the only set of teammates that rank in the top 35 in John Hollinger’s Value Added statistic.
However, before we examine the Clippers bench this past season, it’s imperative that we understand what decisions the Clippers front office has made over the past several seasons.
Trading for J.J. Redick
Trading for Austin Rivers, a young lottery pick who did not fit well in New Orleans.
Re-signing Chris Paul
Re-signing Blake Griffin
Re-signing DeAndre Jordan
Signing Luc Mbah a Moute to a multi-year contract
Orchestrating a trade would send future 20 PPG scorer Eric Bledsoe to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Jared Dudley
Signing C Byron Mullens to a multi-year contract (out of the NBA within a year.)
Signing Glen Davis to a multi-year contract (out of the NBA following Davis’ second year with the Clippers)
Signing Danny Granger to a multi-year contract (out of the NBA within a year)
Signing Jordan Farmar to a multi-year contract (out of the NBA within a year)
Signing, and then giving up on SF Joe Ingles who would go on to be an above average player.
Signing C Spencer Hawes to the mid-level exception only to trade him the following year
Signing Paul Pierce to a multi-year contract
Signing Austin Rivers to a three-year 35 million dollar contract
Re-signing Jamal Crawford to a multi-year contract
Opting not to protect their future 2011 lottery pick in the trade that sent Baron Davis to Cleveland ( The Cavs’ ended up drafting Kyrie Irving).
Signing Marreese Speights to a multi-year contract
The aforementioned “good” signings secured a fantastic nucleus for the Clippers, but the “bad” signings contributed to years of post-season failure and have led to a perpetually poor bench.
This Clippers team did not have a good bench going into the 2016-2017 season, but this season was thought to be the year where that all would change. With the continued growth of Austin Rivers and Wesley Johnson, the addition of a proven point guard in Raymond Felton, instant offense in Marreese Speights and Brandon Bass who was coming off of the most efficient year of career with the Lakers, the Clippers bench appeared to be poised to be serviceable.
Unfortunately, The bench has not lived up to its expectations. The Clippers tended to play four guys off of the bench and none of their bench players provided a positive impact on their team, barring Marreese Speights who was only marginally a plus.
Box Plus Minus’ For The Clippers Bench:
Austin Rivers: -1.6
Raymond Felton: -0.9
Wesley Johnson: -1.8
Marreese Speights: 0.7
Brandon Bass: -0.7
Paul Pierce: -4.4
Alan Andersen: -4.9
Five of The Most Used Four-Man Bench Units For The Clippers Bench:
Bass, Crawford, Felton, Speights: -11.4 points per 48 minutes
Crawford, Rivers, Speights Felton: -3.2 points per 48 minutes
Felton, Johnson, Rivers, Speights: -2.9 points per 48 minutes
Crawford, Felton, Johnson,Rivers: -2.8 points per 48 minutes
Bass, Crawford, Rivers, Speights: -1.6 points per 48 minutes
This is not a formula for a deep postseason run. Paul, Griffin and Jordan routinely perform at an elite level, but it takes more than a prolific starting five to go far in the NBA playoffs.
Overall, when healthy, the starting five for the Los Angeles Clippers shows up, but is indubitably hindered by a lackluster bench. The narrative that Griffin and CP3 are “chokers” is as far from the truth as possible. Paul’s playoff PPG(18.7 vs. 21.2) and BPM(7.6 vs. 8.5) are higher in the playoffs than they are in the regular season and Griffin’s PPG (21.5 vs. 21.0) and BPM(4.1 vs. 3.7) are almost identical to his regular season statistics.
The Clippers front office must keep the “Big 3” intact this summer, while also beginning to construct a formidable bench if they want to have any legitimate chance at postseason success.
Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry might have been a second round pick in 2016, but he performed like a first round selection during his rookie campaign which led to Pro Football Focus’ Brett Whitefield ranking Henry as the top tight end in the NFL under the age of 25.
Despite seeing limited passing down snaps (254) as compared to his counterpart in Chargers tight end Antonio Gates (415), Henry still hauled in 478 receiving yards, eight touchdowns (one more than Gates) en route to posting an impressive 78.7 Pro Football Focus player grade.
The fact Henry accomplished what he did as a rookie is all-the-more impressive when considering how difficult it can be to transition from college to the NFL game as a tight end.
That’s a fact that Whitefield noted before going on to praise Henry for his “great positional flexibility, scoring five touchdowns while running routes out of the slot.”
Henry is quick enough in and out of his breaks that he is able to line up and win in the slot receiver position, while also being too big for smaller corners to hold him on the outside.
He is the type of tight end who will remain a matchup nightmare for opposing teams for many years to come. As such, expect for this to be the first of many honors to come for the second-year tight end.
After an impressive 2017 NFL draft, the Los Angeles Chargers did not seem to benefit in the most recent ESPN power rankings landing in the same spot as before their selections in Philadelphia at No. 25.
“Every other team in the AFC West is in the top 10,” Graziano began. “None of their quarterbacks is as good as this team’s is.
Philip Rivers needs help, and the Chargers got him some with Mike Williams and a couple of guards in the first three rounds of the draft. This team blew a lot of fourth-quarter leads last season; hold half of them and this ranking is way too low.”
Los Angeles still has likely future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Philip Rivers, drafted two excellent offensive guards and a playmaking wide receiver to assist him — and at some point, the Chargers have to avoid mass amounts of injuries setting them back.
This ESPN ranking is far too low, as the Bolts should be positioned no lower than middle of the pack based on talent alone.
The Los Angeles Chargers had no players in the top-50 of NFL jersey sales this past year (March 1, 2016 – Feb. 28, 2017), per the NFLPA.
Given the Chargers won just five games last season and likely alienated a good portion of their fanbase by moving to L.A., the news won’t surprise many.
The Bolts have a boatload of talent on the roster, including a still impactful quarterback Philip Rivers and reigning rookie defensive player of the year in defensive end Joey Bosa.
Look for Bosa to land on the list after showing fans in the City of Angels what he can do on a football field.
In addition, former Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams should be a big help to Rivers in the red zone. If that new combination translates into more victories, both Williams and Bosa could crack the list next season.
After all, the quickest way to gain fans in a large market is to stack wins on Sundays.
For whatever reason, the Clippers can’t get over the hump. It isn’t the championship hump, but a hump to just win enough playoff series to make at least to the Western Conference Finals.
Nonetheless, it is time for this team to be broken up. They are a good team, who will win 50 plus games in the regular season, but they won’t ever win an NBA championship.
They can’t get by teams in the first few rounds, so there is no chance they would ever get by a San Antonio or a Golden State.
Los Angeles would forever be stuck in purgatory. Not good enough to win a championship, but not bad enough to get a meaningful draft pick.
The Clippers should immediately re-sign guard Chris Paul. He is the identity and the makeup of the team. He provides immense toughness and is still one of the best players in all of the NBA. There is not much of a question here.
In addition, they should keep DeAndre Jordan. He is a game-changing center with immense talent on the defensive end. There are still many issues on offense, like free throws, but he and CP3 have great chemistry that shouldn’t be broken up.
Nevertheless, they should look to get rid of forward Blake Griffin. Yes, he improved this year shooting the basketball and had better assist numbers, but the man has not helped them win basketball games. Whenever he gets hurt the team doesn’t lose any more games, but the same can’t be said for when Paul gets hurt.
They shouldn’t let him walk in free agency, but they should look to trade him. Trade him for some high draft picks and then use the money that would have gone to Griffin to attract another free agent.
The team would get better by using Griffin’s max contract on someone else. In 2018, there are many big name free agents. Therefore, they should re-sign Griffin, but look to trade him over next season to then cash in big time on the 2018 free agent class.
Maybe, things will work out next season and magically get better. If they do, then keep Griffin, but if they don’t, as expected, it will be time to trade Griffin.
With the trade, they can bring in a talented draft pick and another max player. The team will automatically be better. If the draft pick becomes a star, then they can compete with the Warriors and Spurs come June.
In addition, coach Doc Rivers has to be on his last legs. If not this season, but definitely by next season, it will be time to move on from Rivers. He was overrated during his time in Boston because he got lucky to coach three future Hall of Famers.
Now with the talent of the Clippers, he can’t even get by the Utah Jazz.
Los Angeles should also take a look at getting rid of guard Jamal Crawford. He provides a nice spark on offense, but his defensive production is lacking, which shows itself during the playoffs.
As far as guard JJ Reddick is concerned, LAC should look to keep him. He fills a nice role for the Clippers and is a solid player. Every team needs their knock down three-point shooter to advance in the playoffs.
Ultimately, it is time for the Clippers to think hard about Doc Rivers and Blake Griffin. It might not be the time to get rid of them, yet, but the window is closing. Remember, the Warriors seemed to make a crazy move to fire Mark Jackson and hire Steve Kerr, but look at them now.
If NFL mock drafts were truly a good predictor, former Ohio State safety Malik Hooker would be guaranteed to become a member of the Los Angeles Chargers this Thursday. However, lingering concerns about his health have caused some analysts to reevaluate.
Hooker had surgery prior to the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine to repair a torn labrum and hernia after playing the entire season with both injuries.
The Los Angeles Chargers only won five games last season and have many holes to fill on the roster to become competitive again.
In order for the Bolts to make a playoff push in 2017, they are likely going to have to put together a dream draft April 27-29 at the 2017 NFL draft in Philadelphia.
As such, here is our “perfect” mock draft for L.A. through the first three rounds of this week’s draft.
No. 7 overall: Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
While one would be hard-pressed to find a mock draft that has him going to the Chargers in the first round, Alabama defensive linemen Jonathan Allen is the better selection over (the experts consensus pick) Ohio State safety Malik Hooker.
It isn’t that Hooker would not make a major impact on the defense, rather, it’s the fact that Los Angeles simply has more pressing needs on the interior of the defensive line.
That fact can be evidenced by their two projected interior starters in defensive tackle Corey Luiget and fellow DT Damion Square posting abysmal Pro Football Focus grades in 2016 (49.3 and 61.4 respectively). At safety, however, the defense fares much better with Jahleel Addae (85.2 PFF grade) and Dwight Lowry (79 PFF Grade).
Allen is one of the best players in the draft and can do everything at his position.
He can set the edge if asked to play in a “30” front on the end, or he can manhandle offensive lineman as a DT on the interior. From either position, he can (and will) rush the passer and be a disruptive force every down for the Bolts.
One of the NBA’s most storied franchises, the Los Angeles Lakers, has fallen into an era of darkness plagued by uncharacteristic losing.
The Lakers began a move to the future on April 12, 2013, a day in which the entire sports world would witness the conclusion of retired legendary guard Kobe Bryant’s dominance.
Bryant tore his Achilles’ tendon at the age of 34 making a return to his former self impossible. The Lakers would also lose recently acquired, star center Dwight Howard in free agency following the 2012-2013 season.
The Lakers were forced to start anew in 2014 as it appeared eminently, that without their beloved superstar guard, the team would not compete for a playoff spot. They began the year with nine losses in their first 10 outings.
The purple and gold would ultimately finish the 2014 season with a record of 27-55, miles out of the eight seed in the Western Conference. This would force the Lakers to turn their attention to the 2014 NBA Draft, in which they were slotted to select no. 7 overall. This pick would become Julius Randle, the freshman power forward from Kentucky who had turned heads with his physically imposing style of play.
Lakers fans felt rejoiced and believed Randle had the talent to become a worthy predecessor to Kobe. However, this enthusiasm was short-lived, as seven minutes into his NBA debut, Randle would suffer a broken leg that would sideline him for the entirety of his rookie campaign.
Soon after, Kobe was once again placed on the inactive list for the rest of the season with a torn rotator cuff. With a mediocre roster to begin with, Los Angeles lost their two integral pieces and were headed to the lottery for the second straight season.
The Lakers saw the ping-pong balls bounce their way, as they jumped two spots and wound up with the no. 2 overall pick. The 2015 NBA Draft featured two big men, Duke star Jahlil Okafor, and Kentucky standout Karl-Anthony Towns, who were touted as the gems of the draft. Los Angeles would venture in another direction and decide to draft Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell, who was considered to have immense star-potential in today’s pace-and-space NBA.
At an all-time-high state of delusion, the Lakers truly believed that with the offseason additions of D’Angelo Russell, an 18-year-old who had yet to learn the nuances of playing in the NBA, Roy Hibbert, a 7-foot-2, 280 pound disappointment, and Lou Williams, a high-volume scoring guard who can’t spell defense, they would punch a ticket to the 2016 playoffs.
Yet again, Laker Nation’s optimism would be stomped on by reality in flamboyant fashion. With Kobe’s Farewell Tour supplanting D’Angelo’s development as the main focus of the season, and former coach, Byron Scott, implementing no offensive philosophy and going out of his away to berate the Lakers’ future building blocks in Russell and Randle, the Lakers stunk it up on their way to a franchise-low 17-win season.
Los Angeles would receive the no. 2 overall pick once more, and with Bryant having lived out his NBA career and calling it quits, they felt they needed a star wing with the tools necessary to thrive in Bryant’s old role.
Enter former Duke Blue Devil Brandon Ingram. He was a prospect who seemed to have it all; he had the length (7-foot-3 wingspan), size (6-foot-9), a jump-shot (41 percent from three-point range in college), and a gym-rat work ethic.
However, it was clear from his first moments in the NBA Summer League, that Ingram was still a kid who had not grown into his body. At 190 pounds, Ingram became a long-term project, who was clearly not physically strong enough to compete with supreme talent or support the load of a struggling franchise.
In the 2016-2017 season, the Lakers encountered success for the first time in years. They hired a coach who fits perfectly with the young core, in Luke Walton, and they fired the ever-failing President, Jim Buss. They brought in new management in the form of showtime icon Magic Johnson and saw steady improvement from both of their two young stars, as well as the other pieces of their rebuild. While they finished with the third-worst record in the league, the Lakers’ future seems bright.
Ingram struggled early but began to acclimate himself to the NBA game evidenced in his major improvements in scoring and efficiency after the all-star break (pre-all-star: 8.0ppg on 36.4FG%, post-all-star: 13.2ppg on 47.5FG%).
Russell who was dealing with an ailing knee after a promising start to his sophomore tilt looked rejuvenated following the all-star break; he averaged an impressive 18.5 points per game along with five assists per game.
The rest of the “Baby Lakers”, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr., also took considerable steps forward.
Along with the noticeable development in their already solid young core, Los Angeles has almost a 50 percent chance of adding another top 3 prospect in the 2017 NBA Draft. Whether the lottery ball Gods smile upon prized franchise of Tinsel Town will determine what the Lakers offseason will hold.
Part one of a three-part series on the Lakers’ offseason: