Why a Chris Paul-Kyrie Irving swap doesn’t work for this Clippers team


All respect to Clipperholics sister site in Sir Charles in Charge. An excellent site (peep their content ASAP), but I find myself disagreeing strongly with their latest idea to help improve the Clippers: a swapping of point guards for the Cavaliers and Clippers, sending Chris Paul to play with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving out West to join Blake Griffin.

Here’s some of what they had to say on the matter (to be specific, the complete deal is moving Paul and shooting guard Jamal Crawford for Irving and backup center Anderson Varejao, who’s fresh off an Achilles injury:

"For the Los Angeles Clippers, they solve several problems with this deal. Yes, they lose the league’s best PG for an injury-prone PG, but look a little deeper. Irving is seven years younger than Paul, is a three-time all-star, and has consistently shown that he can return to all-nba level after each setback. While Paul would be the Present, Irving would be the Present and Future. The loss of Crawford isn’t that bad when you consider he’s already in trade rumours, and the Pierce/Stephenson acquisitions make him expendable."

If the Clippers were a middle of the pack team, I’d see why a Kyrie Irving-Chris Paul swap would make sense: Irving, only 23 years old, would give the Clippers a two-star tandem of Irving-Griffin for as long as the two 1) stayed in top-10 player form — or close — and 2) wanted to stay in Los Angeles together; add DeAndre Jordan to the equation and there’s your ‘Big 3’ for the next five to eight years.

But this Clippers group has one goal right now and that particular goal is winning a championship — between Irving and Paul, Paul brings them closer to said goal than Irving would NOW.

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  • Scoring points? That isn’t and hasn’t been the Clippers’ issue in the seasons with Doc Rivers as head coach — in the last two seasons, the Clippers have led the NBA (regular season) in offensive rating, hitting the 109 mark both years. What is Kyrie Irving’s best attribute right now? Scoring points, as few do it better than the 23-year-old.

    But what Irving doesn’t specialize in are the things the Clippers need from Paul the most: creating shots for the supporting cast (J.J. Redick, DeAndre Jordan, etc.), making life easier for Blake Griffin via playmaking, defense, controlling the flow of the offense, and leadership (insert your DeAndre Jordan joke). Could all of such be in Irving’s future? Sure — he still has room to grow, even in LeBron James’ shadows.

    And less we forget how good Chris Paul was in last years playoffs, even with the nagging hamstring injury occurring mid-way through. In 12 games played (missed first two games vs. Houston), Paul averaged 22.1 points on 50% shooting, 8.8 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game. The end results of this particular playoff run clouds whatever Paul — and his teammates — did because we’ll remember the 2015 playoffs as the year the Clippers choked again instead of the year Blake Griffin and Chris Paul finally figured it out as teammates before the demise. Paul was better than non-injured playoff Kyrie, and if healthy plays in his favor, could continue to be so for the next two-something years.

    And in reality, if the offseason additions pan out as expected (Lance Stephenson, Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, Cole Aldrich), that’ll move them much closer to a ring than any point guard swap would.

    Josh Smith shifts into Draymond Green-lite.

    Paul Pierce replicates his 2014-15 playoff performance.

    Lance Stephenson returns to his 2013-14 self, when he was a do-everything-and-do-most-of-it-well player for the Indiana Pacers.

    Cole Aldrich, Pablo Prigioni, and Wesley Johnson — and returnees Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford — do ‘just enough’ in their roles.

    Hasn’t that been the issue with the Clippers outside of untimely missteps along the ay? As they failed the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith were instrumental in the Cavaliers’ making it through the Eastern Conference as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love dealt with injury. As Stephen Curry “struggled” early in the NBA Finals (word to Matthew Dellavedova), Andre Iguodala came to Golden State’s brief rescue, while continuing to provide support to the teams’ stars throughout the series. The examples are plenty, and if the Clippers get it — think what the bench did for LAC in 2011 against MEM — their chances improve.

    What could happen that’d blanket how good Chris Paul and this Clippers team is? They trade for Kyrie Irving, the role players play the best basketball of their lives, the Clippers win a championship, and we all turn to say “man, we knew Chris Paul wasn’t built for delivering his team a championship.” Because that’s probably the luck Chris Paul has going for him right now.

    “But what Irving doesn’t specialize in are the things the Clippers need from Paul the most…”

    And then there’s the inverse of the situation that I haven’t spoken on — so I’ll do so briefly: Chris Paul in Cleveland isn’t necessarily the best fit; you pit together two ball-dominant players (Paul, LeBron), and with Paul in the picture, you increase the need for James to be a scorer (it should be noted, one way CP3 helps is he makes life 10x better for Kevin Love). It was greatly assumed when the decision to return to Cleveland was announced that James didn’t want to carry an offense any longer, hence relying on Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, two of the best scorers at their best position, to do so. And in between, James can focus on the ‘little things’: wing defense, playmaking, and seldom-coasting, especially through the regular season. Paul in the picture pushes James back into scorer mode, and with the two being ‘older’, he’d have to remain in that role for year. With Kyrie? It’s the opposite: ditching traditional positions, James is essentially Cleveland’s point guard while Kyrie is the shooting guard. We saw last postseason this model works, with and without Kevin Love, and thanks to Irving’s young age, allows this model to remain until James decides to hang it up.

    All-in-all, the keyword in this particular discussion is ‘now’. Moving young pieces for Chris Paul. Trading picks for Doc Rivers. Moving Eric Bledsoe for veterans. Trading draft picks for ‘now’ pieces? Not putting stock in the NBA draft. These are all signs the Clippers are invested in the now. And as long as Doc Rivers is in town, they’ll be pushing for a ship.

    So no, the CP3-Kyrie isn’t the move that pushes the Clippers over the proverbial speed bump to win it all. Extend the ceiling? Yes. But push them closer? I just can’t agree.

    Next: What the Clippers' rotation might look like without Jamal Crawford