One of the most disappointing teams in the 2015-2016 NBA season is the Los Angeles Clippers, who might be blaming lack of chemistry and weak bench play for their problems, opening to deal both Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson despite the two joining the team this offseason.
The 12-9 Clippers were supposed to be the main challengers along with the San Antonio Spurs and maybe the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Golden State Warriors. Meanwhile, they’re struggling in creating consistent offense and defense, and maybe too many changes, like adding Paul Pierce, Stephenson and Smith all in one summer, added to drama of re-signing DeAndre Jordan, wasn’t the right way of handling things, especially when all of the three new players have strong personalities.
The problem with moving both Stephenson and Smith is that it’s going to be difficult finding takers for them, especially for Stephenson, who is on the second year of his three-year, $27 million deal. Smith is on a veteran’s minimum contract which means he can’t be traded until December 15 because he came through free agency. His contract isn’t difficult to move, it’s Smith that’s hard to find a team willing to take him on, like the Houston Rockets did last season.
Stephenson is quickly on his way to finding himself out of the NBA. He’s averaging only 5.3 points in less than 19 minutes per game, starting half the time. His shooting isn’t atrocious like it was last season for the Hornets, who at some point preferred not playing him anymore, but the Clippers are usually worse off when he’s playing, be it shooting guard (where he’s more comfortable) or small forward, a position he plays 87% of the time.
Things are especially terrible when it comes to Smith, who had a good season with the Rockets in 2014-2015, including a strong series against the Clippers in the playoffs. The Clippers are losing by 9.4 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor, and are 15.4 points per 100 possessions better when he isn’t playing, averaging 5.5 points in 15.3 minutes per game. Playing badly and getting into shouting matches with Doc Rivers and Mike Woodson haven’t kept him off the roster, playing in all 21 games up to this point, usually backing up Jordan.
It seems that another attempt at creating something of a “super bench” for the Clippers is a miserable failure, with Doc Rivers somehow unable to upgrade the team in terms of personnel, or at least do a good enough of job of making the pieces brought in work together.