David Rosenthal , CBS Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The Los Angeles Clippers are at the end of yet another season in which they will reach the playoffs while simultaneously failing to meet fans’ lofty preseason expectations.
Before the year began after resigning DeAndre Jordan and signing Paul Pierce, the expectations for this 2015-2016 Clippers team were sky high.
The team had a bitter taste in their mouth after losing to the Houston Rockets in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals last year, and aside for the Golden State Warriors, had more momentum than anyone going into the year.
However, the Clippers have continued to underachieve against the top teams in the NBA, which continues to be their downfall.
They are 0-4 against the Golden State Warriors, 1-2 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, 0-3 against the Cleveland Cavaliers and 1-2 against the San Antonio Spurs.
An important note, the Clippers’ one win against the Spurs came when Spurs forward and reigning defensive player of the year Kawhi Leonard did not play.
Let’s not forget to mention the Blake Griffin fiasco either.
The team’s star player has not played since December after getting into a scuffle with a team manager that resulted in a broken hand.
The team’s head coach Doc Rivers thinks Griffin will be able to return for the playoffs but cannot say so with certainty.
Also don’t forget that Griffin must serve a four-game suspension for the incident once he is cleared to play.
The Clippers have basically locked up the fourth seed in the West and will almost certainly play the injury-riddled and fifth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs.
While that sounds great in theory, this is not a good thing for Clippers fans.
Yes, the Clippers will enjoy steamrolling the Grizzlies in the first round, but then what? Golden State is what.
They will probably be able to roll over the Grizzlies in no more than six games, but that just sets up a second-round match with the defending champion Warriors.
Let’s look at the four times the two teams have matched up this season.
Nov. 4: Warriors 112, Clippers 108 (both teams at full strength)
Nov. 19: Warriors 124, Clippers 117 (JJ Redick out, Warriors healthy)
Feb. 20: Warriors 115, Clippers 112 (Blake Griffin out, Andrew Bogut out)
March 23: Warriors 114, Clippers 98 (Blake Griffin 0ut, Andre Iguodala out)
Here’s the good news for the Clippers: Three of those four losses were at least close games.
Aside from the San Antonio Spurs, the Clippers are the team in the Western Conference that has the best chance to beat the Warriors in a seven-game series.
The Clippers play the Warriors well, and if they get back a healthy Blake Griffin, they have a chance to take the Warriors to seven games.
I am not predicting this will happen, because I think the Clippers are choke artists when it comes to the playoffs.
However, they have the roster to take down Golden State, despite all their struggles this year.
Especially if Paul Pierce. who has been more of a coach than a player in the regular season, can do what he did in the playoffs for the Wizards last year.
Jordan paired with Griffin can cause serious problems for Golden State.
Both big men can run the floor and can compete with the Warriors’ preferred “small-ball” lineup better than any other team in the NBA, other than the Spurs.
The road to the conference finals for the Clippers will go through Golden State, and the Clippers, barring any late-season adjustments, are on pace for yet another early playoff exit.
In 2012, they lost to the Spurs in the second round.
In 2013, the Clippers lost to the Grizzlies in the first round.
In 2014, they lost to the Thunder in the second round
And in 2015, they lost to the Rockets in the second round.
While the Clippers have been successful in the regular season, they just can’t seem to get over that hump in the playoffs, and unfortunately, it looks like they’re poised for a second-round exit for the fourth time in five years.
It’s time to make a change in Clipperland.
The Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan big three is extremely talented but clearly does not have what it takes to advance to the conference finals, let alone the NBA finals.
The team should heavily consider trading one of those assets, or they are doomed for mediocre playoff success until these players retire.
Don’t get me wrong, Paul, Griffin and Jordan are three excellent players, but the combination of the three simply hasn’t created a winning formula, that is, if you are trying to win a championship.
The Clippers have had moderate playoff success and that is a great thing for a franchise who has long been known as one of the worst in the NBA.
While we have seen the entire organization do a complete turnaround in the past four years, in order for the Clippers to bring back some hardware to match their Staples Center partners, a roster shakeup is necessary.
Doc Rivers is an excellent coach, Steve Ballmer is exactly what a team needs in an owner, and the team’s roster has plenty of assets to trade in order to improve themselves.
The Clippers could also target a Demar Derozan-type player this season in free agency. Or perhaps even Harrison Barnes to fill their gaping hole at small forward.
Bottom line: This Clippers team right now isn’t going to win anything. They are stuck in the abyss of mediocrity that is a second-round playoff exit.
I could see a Clippers-Cavaliers trade in the off season involving Kyrie Irving / Kevin Love and Chris Paul / DeAndre Jordan.
Imagine the package of players the team could get for Blake Griffin.
The Magic were offering a three-player package centered around Tobias Harris and possibly including Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton earlier in the season, an offer the Clippers quickly declined.
The team has been playing just fine without Griffin, and with Paul-Jordan and as a package of players you could get for Griffin, would put the Clippers in a much better position to compete for a title.
All that being said, Clippers fans, the Clippers are still in a much better position to compete for a title than the Lakers.
We’ll save the Lakers discussion for a different, much longer column.
Tweet (@TheReal_D_Rose) or email me your own possible trade suggestions for the Clippers, or any other thoughts you may have.
David Rosenthal is a web producer for CBS Los Angeles. David lives in Los Angeles and is a Dodgers, Kings, Lakers, and Rams fan. If you have any questions or comments for him, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @TheReal_D_Rose