Clippers: Happy Chris Paul trade four-year anniversary day!


Four years ago on December 14, 2011, the Los Angeles Clippers made a trade for Chris Paul which completely changed the entire franchise.

No matter how you feel about the last four years of Los Angeles Clippers basketball — excited because of the team’s success, trumping what the franchise had done in years past, or underwhelmed from the lack of playoff success, relative to the hype surrounding the star-studded franchise — none of it would have been possible without the trade from four years ago that altered the trajectory of the once poor franchise: trading for then-disgruntled New Orleans Hornets superstar Chris Paul.

The price for Paul? Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, and the Clippers’ 2012 first-round draft pick, who turned out to be Paul’s eventual teammate in Austin Rivers. It’s not bad considering how Eric Gordon’s career was deterred by injury and Aminu didn’t necessarily live up to his draft spot, even if turning into a good role player as the league emphasized space and he was pushed down into the power forward spot.

In return, the Clippers got what they wanted: to be good. Since Paul’s arrival, the Clippers have been one of the league’s best from a win-loss standpoint, winning at least 60% of their games in each season, winning 50+ games for the first time in 2012-13 (lockout prevented such in the previous season), posting three consecutive 50+ win seasons since 2012-13, and winning a franchise-best 57 games in 2013-14.

They did all this while Paul remained one of the best point guards — and players in general — in the NBA, making the All-Star game in each season with the Clippers (was named All-Star MVP in ’12-13), being top-5 in assists each season, and being named to All-Defense and All-NBA in each season (marks no Clipper before him has achieved) though Blake Griffin is close in regards to accolades.

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Of course, with any mention of acquiring Paul, it must be stated that none of such would have been possible with the team’s drafting of Griffin three years prior. It’s a mold similar teams hope to follow as they venture from lottery-destined to playoff team to semi-contender, drafting a superstar and collecting the proper assets to flip for a star on the trade block.

And my favorite Chris Paul trade-related mention of them all: how the dominoes fell because Chris Paul… wasn’t a Laker. Kobe Bryant was still bitter about the trade last time I checked, and for good reason. With Paul, the Lakers would’ve been a contender in the seasons up until Kobe’s Father-Time or injury-forced decline, and would have had the foundation in place to pursue a free agent superstar and actually have chances of landing him.

Instead, they traded for Steve Nash, whose Lakers career never got off the ground because of injury. They also traded for Dwight Howard, who’d leave L.A. and $30 million behind him for “greater” pastures in Houston, joining James HardenPau Gasol, instead of being traded, was kept way past him having actual trade value, and Los Angeles’ front office completely botched the coaching searching, from Phil Jackson to Mike Brown to Bernie Bickerstaff to Mike D’Antonio to the albatross Byron Scott.

While the Lakers struggled, the Clippers took “claim” of the city of Los Angeles from a basketball standpoint for the first time, well, ever. It was Lob City who’d be in the playoffs, be on national television, be mentioned alongside the best teams in the league as a possible contender, the opposite of everything Los Angeles natives and viewers were familiar with.

They didn’t necessarily make the city theirs as many close to the organization hoped (it’ll forever be a Lakers town unless the Lakers become the Clippers of old and the Clippers become the Lakers of old) but it was the step needed from a barren franchise.

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And make no mistake, the work isn’t done. To compete with the Lakers, regardless of the gap in win-losses between the two teams, means to win championships, and the Clippers, with Paul, Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Doc Rivers leading the way, have yet to do so, and haven’t come close either, with their latest attempt being foiled by the Dwight Howard-led Rockets in the 2015 Western Conference semi-finals.

Who knows what happens after this season.

Maybe Doc is fired; maybe Chris is traded; etc. etc. Without a fortune ball, we don’t know. But what we do know is this foundation, the success, the wins, the dunks, the highlights, etc., none of it is possible if four years ago today doesn’t happen.

Happy Chris Paul trade anniversary day!