Can you trust the Clippers' 'process' in fantasy?

How will the fantasy value of Clippers players be impacted by the team's process of revamping its roster? Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Last Monday, I wrote about "the process" of the Philadelphia 76ers, based upon a panel that I saw at the recent MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference (SSAC) entitled "Trust the Process? Team building and rebuilding in the NBA" that featured former 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie, Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca, LA Clippers GM Lawrence Frank, former Cleveland Cavaliers GM David Griffin and former NBA player Chris Bosh, with Howard Beck as the moderator.

There was a clear disagreement among the panelists as to what "the process" actually is and whether it's the best route to rebuild. Hinkie was the architect who brought about the current state of the 76ers. He explained that he felt there are only a small number of ways that teams can really get better, and this was his philosophy as a GM:

Griffin thought that what Hinkie had accomplished in Philadelphia was pretty darn good; enough to argue against Pagliuca's stance that "tanking" to build through the draft wasn't a good way to rebuild:

However, there also was another team in a current rebuilding stage that was represented on that stage. Since last summer, the Clippers (who had been styled as contenders for the Western Conference crown for the past handful of seasons) have traded away both of their franchise players in Chris Paul (to Houston, offseason) and Blake Griffin (to Detroit, just before the trade deadline). Frank had some thoughts about his rebuild in Los Angeles versus what Hinkie had done in Philadelphia:

This answer flies in the face of the idea that mediocrity is a purgatory that is almost impossible to escape from. Frank went on to suggest how he believes the Clippers will be able to build from their current base of solid players to the next level:

All jokes set aside, the Clippers would either have to hit on one of those 15th-pick-caliber future superstars and have him develop into that superstardom relatively quickly or hit a home run in free agency to bring in the upper-level talent to lead their quality depth back to contention. So ... where does this "Clippers Process" leave the fantasy prospects of the Clips, both this season and next?

Current fantasy value of key players in the Clippers' "process"

After the dust settled this season, the three best players on the Clippers are DeAndre Jordan, Lou Williams and Tobias Harris. Jordan was the third member of their core pieces from last season and the only one who remains in L.A. Williams was the best player they received back from Houston in the Paul trade, while Harris is the best of what they got in the Pistons trade.

Later, I'll discuss what this actually means as far as the Clippers' future team-building possibilities, but for now, let's look at the fantasy output of their three best players, according to the ESPN Fantasy Player Rater:


Williams: +9.34

Harris: +6.63

Jordan +6.44

Last month (essentially since the trade deadline):

Harris: +11.79

Jordan: +9.23

Williams +5.19

There are few interesting things here. First, Williams has been the most valuable roto producer on the Clippers over the course of the season. However, Griffin missed a large chunk of the early season before the trade due to injury, and several of the secondary players on the team (including Austin Rivers, Danilo Gallinari and Patrick Beverley) missed a lot of time, as well. Thus, for a good chunk of the season, Williams was the lone, consistent offensive force for the Clippers, and he put up some of the best numbers of his career.

Since the trade, though, it is clear that Harris has been the most valuable fantasy producer on the Clippers, with Jordan a close second and Williams a more distant third. When you factor the injuries into the equation, the Griffin trade actually improved the Clippers' team. Harris gives them a consistent front-line scorer in the starting lineup, and Jordan has more room to dominate in the middle without having to worry about conflicts of interest with Griffin.

The Clippers are playing very well as a team now, having won 13 of their past 18 games, and are right in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. As such, they are likely to keep playing the roles that have worked for them thus far, so the fantasy pecking order for the past month should be solid moving forward.

Fantasy value for the rest of the Clippers this season

The common issue with the Clippers all season has been injuries. Beverley (knee, done for year) and Gallinari (hand) are still out, and recently acquired Avery Bradley is down with a sports hernia.

Thus, the best of the healthy support pieces are Rivers and Montrezl Harrell. Rivers has always been a scoring guard/lead guard, and during his past 20 games, he has averaged 16.4 points (46.5 FG%, 63.8 FT%) with 4.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 2.7 3-pointers per game (Player Rater value +3.03 during past 30 days).

Harrell had seemed to be a throw-in player in the trade that sent Paul to the Rockets, but with Griffin gone, he has stepped up as a consistent big-forward threat to the tune of 16.2 points (68.4 FG%, 76.2 FT%), 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.0 blocks during his past 10 games (Player Rater value +5.92 during last 30 days).

There have been other injury subs and players seeing action, but for the most part, these are the only two other Clippers with consistent fantasy value moving forward, unless Gallinari or Bradley get healthy.

Fantasy dynasty value for Clippers

One interesting element in the Clippers' rebuild strategy is that Williams and Harris both played well enough this season to be borderline All-Star candidates, and their impact stats reflect that. Williams is almost certainly going to be the NBA Sixth Man of the Year, and Real Plus Minus (RPM) paints him as the biggest positive offensive impact at the shooting guard position in the NBA (+4.36 ORPM). And Harris actually has a higher offensive (+2,58 ORPM) and overall (+2.06 RPM) RPM score as compared to Griffin (+1.61 ORPM, +0.83 RPM) this season. He's also younger, on a more affordable contract and less injury prone.

Thus, it can very reasonably be argued that Frank and the Clippers already jump-started their rebuild with the Griffin trade, improving their team both now and in the long run. This is key, because it changes the dynamics of their offseason needs and the tools that they have to work with.

If the Clippers don't trade them, Jordan, Harris and Williams are good foundation-type talents on a good team. They'd still need to bring in a superstar-level talent as an offense generator, but each of their primary current pieces play a game that would fit around another talent.

The fantasy takeaway here is, whether the Clippers' new talent is brought in by free agency or by a lucky-pick/No. 15-caliber home run, the rest of the Clips' main guys shouldn't have to greatly adjust their games to fit around that talent. Because of this, each of Harris, Williams and Jordan should reasonably be expected to produce next season on the level of what they are currently producing for the team. Rivers is more questionable, because a strong perimeter performer could push him to the bench, so his dynasty value is more at the mercy of their offseason moves.

Bottom line

In NBA terms, the Clippers' rebuild looks diametrically opposite from what we've seen in Philadelphia. However, the trade that sent Griffin out for Harris looks like a huge move in the right direction to speed up their rebuild. And the talent that they brought in with both of their big trades was enough to keep them competitive (and fantasy relevant now) while still allowing for the possibility of them making a leap (but remaining fantasy relevant) moving forward.