Clippers primed to make moves during ‘do or die’ offseason

During what will be the Clippers' most significant offseason since 2019, the team must drastically retool its front office and roster.

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers have no choice but to shake things up organizationally during arguably their most crucial offseason. Considering LA is an aging team dealing with Kawhi Leonard’s torn meniscus, a void at general manager and another first-round exit, the Clippers cannot run it back. Simply put, the Clippers aren’t good enough to contend as is, healthy or not, and only have one Western Conference Finals appearance to show for four years of their supposed title window.

“We have to be honest with ourselves, and we have to look in the mirror,” Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank told reporters during exit interviews.

Injuries have been largely to blame for the Clippers’ shortcomings since the birth of “213.” 

However, key players being out for the biggest games is unpredictable and shouldn’t keep owner Steve Ballmer and co. from being all-in on continuing to further the franchise. Besides, the team has issues beyond just sidelined players – it also has to replace new Wizards president Michael Winger in the front office.

There’s no better time for the Clippers to address their issues than during the offseason. With the 2023-24 season months away, the team can plug some holes this summer while everyone is focused on whoever wins the title and Lebron’s looming retirement decision.

For Starters, the Clippers can use a GM. Perhaps rumors surrounding Warriors’ Bob Myers arrive to fruition.

Winger’s departure was quietly monumental for LA. Winger was part of Frank’s front office that built the Leonard-George combination, and he also has a storied resume that features experience with Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Before Winger’s move to D.C., the Clippers had ties to Myers. In January, The Athletic reported that Myers could be enticed to leave the Bay Area for a more expensive contract and or position, and the steep arrangement that Ballmer can offer in addition to his team’s soon-to-be home in the $2 billion Intuit Dome can be enough for the Clippers to poach him.

Nonetheless, the Clippers need a general manager. Whether Myers is that guy or not is undetermined, but someone will have to fill the shoes of a very successful Winger.

On the floor, the Clippers should find a way to support Leonard and George with more youth.

The Clippers play like a team that is old and rusty, well, because they are. When the Clippers are matched with lively teams like the Pelicans and Grizzlies, their poor athleticism is evident, as is their depressing energy.

Behind the Bucks, whose average age of players is 30, the Clippers have the second-oldest team with a mean roster age of 29. In the rotation, the Clippers only have three players younger than 30 – Terance Mann, Ivica Zubac and Bones Hyland. 

Having older, more experienced players isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But having 34-year-old Eric Gordon and 33-year-old Marcus Morris starting in the playoffs against Devin Booker and Kevin Durant isn’t ideal. 

Moreover, the Clippers should be motivated to add younger players because of their willingness to load-manage George and Leonard. To fill in the blanks on nights with low expectations, high-flyers with something to prove should be atop the list of needs heading into next year. 

The Clippers can look internally, with Brandon Boston Jr. waiting over two years to play meaningful minutes. 

If the Clippers want to deliver a better product overall, they must demonstrate more urgency, beginning in the offseason.

Trying to preserve Leonard and George makes sense because they’re must-haves on the court during the playoffs. Though, the Clippers’ stars missing a surplus of regular season games each year makes it harder for head coach Ty Lue and the rest of the team to know what sets and lineups work better than others. It also stings when Leonard and George aren’t available anyway.

Beginning in the offseason, the Clippers should set a goal of being a top-three seed out west, while also aiming for 50-plus wins.

Frank has emphasized a similar sentiment, telling reporters, “We have to get back to honoring and respecting the regular season.”

During the George-Leonard era, the Clippers have treated the regular season as something they wish they could skip. Everyone wants to get to the postseason, but the regular season reps matter.

Historically, the lowest-seeded NBA champion was the 1994-95 Rockets, who owned the West’s sixth spot. This season, the cruising Clippers were also sixth in the West but missed the happy ending.

For what it’s worth, the Clippers were the second seed behind the Lakers in the bubble. Although the Disney-Orlando Clippers went out sad, they took the regular season seriously and proved that this unit can succeed when they try.

The Clippers, frustratingly, are a good basketball team. They’ve just been incapable of clicking on all cylinders when the lights are brightest. 

While many speculate that the upcoming year is the Leonard-George duo’s last hoorah, it’s safe to assume that the Clippers as a whole are feeling the heat.

Whether the Clippers have real title aspirations or desires to just keep their star players, the organization will have new faces this upcoming season.

Expect major Clippers news this summer.