If the Cavaliers can't win a title with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love at the helm, then the Clippers certainly can't compete for one with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and a severely fractured locker room.
Perhaps motivated by turning 30 and the dazzling play of his counterpart, Stephen Curry, the 2015-16 version of Paul continues to thrive as a premier point guard. While he hasn't shot it especially well thus far, the perennial First-Team All-NBA selection remains a measuring stick of any floor general, ranking in the top 10 for three crucial categories: player efficiency rating, offensive win shares and box score plus/minus.
Ultra willing to distribute the basketball -- his 9.6 assists per game slot him fourth in the league -- Paul remains a phenomenal pick-and-roll operator and is as committed as ever to his patented sticky defense and pesky hands.
What owner Steve Ballmer and the Clippers' front office must now decide is if they believe that he and Griffin can co-exist at a top level for the remainder of Paul's five-year, his $107 million contract which ends in 2017 -- when he can enter free agency if he wants -- and if not, whether they can they command top dollar in a trade.
Only Curry surpasses Paul's value as a lead guard. He is a legitimate superstar at one of pro basketball's most fungible, yet important positions. And, in the ever-changing style of the modern NBA game, what maybe makes the surefire future Hall of Famer most attractive for a suitor is his capacity to excel in every style of basketball: If you want to play small or big, fast or slow, Paul is elite across the board.
The Western Conference, however, is loaded, with Golden State and San Antonio both on pace for historically great seasons and Oklahoma City nipping at their heels. At best -- even with a healthy Griffin -- the 30-16 Clippers are a four seed without home court, tasked with going on the road against either the Warriors or Spurs, neither of whom have lost a single home game this season. And that's a best case scenario. This is a good team, but hardly a threat to the upper echelon of the league, given its inability to maintain a cohesive locker room and patchwork bench.
The reality for this franchise is that until the Paul and Griffin era, it was nothing but an afterthought in NBA circles, the ugly step-brother of the Lakers, whose only similarity was that they shared an arena.
Before Paul's tenure with the organization, the Clips had reached the playoffs just four times in nearly three decades since the 1984 move to Los Angeles. During his four years, Paul's teams reached the playoffs every season. So compiling 50-win seasons compounded by repeated postseason appearances -- albeit brief ones -- isn't the worst thing in the world. But simply put, the longer it waits to deal Paul, the more the Clippers ultimately risk sinking further in its quest for a first title.
A deal now would ensure that whomever acquires the soon-to-be nine-time All-Star would have his services guaranteed for at least the remainder of 2016 and another full season after that. And, more importantly for Ballmer and company, it would allow the team to extract maximum talent in return.
"We’re all like family," Paul told the team's website. "That's how we're going to deal with this, as a family."
That may be true, but families can break up. Painful as it may be to disband "Lob City," dealing Paul is really the only move left.
Email me at jordan.schultz@huffingtonpo
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