It’s fair to say the last few years haven’t been too kind on the Los Angeles Clippers. Although they’ve continuously claimed a playoff berth for the past handful of seasons, usually finishing as one of the higher seeds at that, the franchise is yet to experience a postseason past the second round.
Claiming the third/fourth seed in the Western Conference year in, year out is all well and good but when you fail to step up and elevate to the next level like so many great teams do in the postseason, that’s when you encounter some problems.
Ultimately, the Clippers are starting to run into these problems, which include potentially losing some of their franchise players through free agency. Both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have the ability to opt out of their player options and test the free agency waters, whether they do so is a completely different question.
— James (@JCraggSport) May 9, 2017
If Griffin were to opt out of his contract, one team has emerged as a serious front-runner to secure the power forward’s services, hometown club the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Oklahoma had what you would call a rollercoaster season, experiencing scintillating highs and crushing lows. Their star Russell Westbrook became only the second player in NBA history to average a triple-double over the regular season, however they bowed out of the playoffs after defeat in the first-round to the Houston Rockets.
If this season has proven anything, it’s that Westbrook, despite being the stunning physical specimen that he is, simply cannot do it alone. Signing another player capable of taking the scoring responsibilities off of Westbrook’s weary shoulders could really propel the franchise to the next required level to get them back to where they used to be.
So here are the on/off numbers for some of the top guys through the entire playoffs. That Westbrook number is still so insane pic.twitter.com/O2OjCw6pPx
— Full Court Prez (@fullcourtprez) June 13, 2017
Griffin would be a superb fit in Oklahoma, as not only would he be going back to his roots in his hometown, he would be filling a position the Thunder haven’t really solidified since Serge Ibaka left for the Orlando Magic. During the back-end of this past season, Oklahoma opted to alternate between rookie Domantas Sabonis (5.9 points, 3.6 rebounds per contest) and eight-year vet Taj Gibson (nine points and 4.5 rebounds with the Thunder) as the starting four, a considerable weakness in their roster.
The 2009 1st pick has become a desirable commodity to any team now more than ever having evolved and expanded his game to include a dependable 3-point shot. Griffin attempted a career-high 1.9 threes a game this season on average, to go with a 33.6-percent completion rate. A power forward that can both stretch the floor and work the post is a prized asset, and Griffin would open up space for Westbrook to drive into the paint, forming a near-deadly partnership.
The 28-year-old forward averaged 21.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 4.9 assists over 61 games this season, and while the big-man does seemingly struggle on the injury front, he would still be undeniably invaluable to the Thunder.
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) June 14, 2017
With Griffin likely losing patience in the ‘Big 3’ in LA, he could soon be on the out, and by avoiding triggering his player option to test free agency, this will mean he can go hunting for a bumper pay package sooner rather than later. The Thunder should do everything in their power to try and lure Griffin to Oklahoma, as with little presence in the impending draft, free agency is the only real way for them to improve their roster this year.