Garage Sale at Staples

Updated: January 13, 2022
pg kawhi

Reports have broken out that the Los Angeles Clippers may be a main player on the trade market as a seller with the recent season-ending injury of Paul George. Suffering a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his shooting elbow and Kawhi’s return still in flux, Steve Balmer and the front office have indicated this may be a “gap year” for the Clips. There is now even a term being floated around the league known as the “Warriors Model,” where a contender utilizes their injured stars as an opportunity to reset a roster without bottoming out. It is somewhat of an inverted rebuild, where a portion of the roster is sent out for draft capital in combination with a tank job to get a top 10 pick, yet then coming back the next year locked and loaded with free agents and assets to spend.

It is an interesting concept, and on paper, the logic theoretically appears sound. Rushing Kawhi back, a player who has dealt with a constant array of lower-body injuries since his last days in San Antonio and expecting him to be the difference-maker in a playoff push would be a precarious decision, to say the least. Especially considering how dangerous the top 4 teams are in the West, even with both wings healthy there would be no guarantees the Clippers would be favored against any of the Dubs, Suns, Jazz, or Grizz who all would presumably have homecourt advantage in a 7-game series. Those hypothetical matchups though go out the door with this recent PG13 elbow injury and the enormous max-extension that has him as a 40+ million-dollar player till 2025 where he has a 48-million-dollar player option in his last year on the books.

The thing is though, no one, including anyone working for the Warriors, expected these types of results after the last two seasons. The hope and expectation for most optimists were that they would be a middle of the pack, feisty black horse contender until Klay’s return, and his health and abilities would dictate their ceiling. Instead, they were considered the best team in the league with or without Klay, and with his addition, most are calling them now the odds on favorite for the title.

However, the comparison between Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers really doesn’t have many overlapping variables where this so-called “Warriors Model” may be applicable to their future. Besides them both residing in sunny California, it’s really where the similarities end. First off, Golden State took 2 years off after the Kevin Durant exit, with the Klay and Steph injuries. Second, they had the DLO asset (from the KD sign & trade) that turned into Wiggins + Kuminga, not only giving them a young asset with upside but arguably one of the most coveted requirements for a title contender, that being a two-way-wing plus defender in Andrew Wiggins.

The Clips, on the other hand, sold all their draft capital to OKC for PG13 (to get Kawhi to sign), and really have no assets outside of Terannce Mann to move for any sort of upgrade. The thought is, instead of hoarding their young assets (like the Dubs have done with Kuminga, Wisemen, and Moody), the Clips will trade their lottery pick acquired by tanking this year. However, even if they deliberately attempted to lose every game from now on, it is nearly impossible they would get in the bottom 3 considering they’ve already won more games than the Rockets, Magic, Thunder, and Pistons will for the rest of the season. Even if they magically ended up with the 4th pick, this draft class is not top-heavy loaded the way the last one was, and they don’t have the additional picks to create a monster pick-heavy-package to acquire an All-Star, let alone a Super Star.

Possibly the main difference though is the essence of the rosters and the core construction of their top-tier talent. The Warriors, though at times the last two seasons had to have dealt with moments of doubt, knew that their big three in Curry, Klay, and Dray have proven to be one of the most dynamic and explosive 3-man units not only in the league but in the history of the NBA. With literally no depth and no starting level bigs, they conquered the Rockets in Houston, swept the Blazers, and took the Raptors nearly 7 games with Durant sidelined in the 2019 playoffs.

There was a completely reasonable belief in their homegrown talent and the chemistry of their title-tested unit. The Clippers’ big 2 in Kawhi and PG13 in a way are the antithesis of the Warriors. The Clips pair of 2-way wings are bought and paid for mercenaries who have yet to win a single big playoff series together. Since their arrival, the talent and supporting cast has never been the issue, but instead, it is the fact that they don’t appear to have an identity on either end of the floor.

Even with Pat Bev and Morris, supplementary pieces that had everyone believing this tandem would lead the best defensive in basketball, they have never even been a top 5 defensive unit. Offensively, unlike Klay, Curry, and Dray who all unlock each others’ ceilings, Paul George appears to play better as an Alpha without Kawhi in the rotation, and Kawhi’s main attribute is his ability to take over in 4th quarters as a pure Isolation weapon.

So, in the best-case scenario, the Clippers get good value on some of their current players in assets at the trade deadline, they get the 4th pick in the draft, and in the offseason, they package all of that for say Dame or Beal, or some other All-Star level player…The question though is that team even the 3rd best team in the West? Considering they would need to fill out their roster Lakers style with a stack of vet-min contracts and would heavily depend on the health of Kawhi and PG (two of the most injury-prone All-NBA talents of their era), it appears this “Warriors Model” theory doesn’t particularly apply in Southern California.

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