Since Chris Paul became a Los Angeles Clipper in 2011, the Los Angeles Lakers have failed to finish above their city rivals, something that rarely happened during the Clippers stay in L.A. up to that point. And with Paul leaving the Clippers to the Houston Rockets while the Lakers seem to be trending upwards, it won’t be much of a surprise to see the old order restored in the city of Angels.
The trade that sends Paul to the Rockets doesn’t just change the dynamics of power in the city; it pretty much ends the current run of the Clippers as faux contenders. Blake Griffin, even with Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams and Sam Dekker joining the Clippers, is likely to leave; J.J. Redick is on his way out too; DeAndre Jordan might ask to leave. The Clippers built something and it never got past a certain point. Lob city was fun, but it’s probably done. And remember: The Clippers haven’t made the playoffs without Chris Paul since 2006.
So what about the Lakers? They’ve gotten better, and there’s still room to improve. Lonzo Ball might have a pain in the a$$ of a father, but he’s not that much of a drop off compared to D’Angelo Russell, and probably has more of an upside. Brook Lopez is huge improvement compared to Timofey Mozgov. Assuming the Clippers do fall apart, it’s not going to be difficult for the Lakers to put up more wins. Playoffs? That’s not out of the question any more. And there’s the whole conspiracy theory about stars trying to get together there in 2018…
For the Lakers, ruling the city has never been a goal, just something that happens while they win championships too. Moving back to their natural place on top of the L.A. pecking order is one part of the plan, but the final destination is all about becoming NBA champions again.