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The Clippers have a terrible bench, and it's Doc Rivers' fault

As general manager, Doc Rivers has built one of the league's worst second units, despite the names on the back of the jerseys.

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

During the broadcast of the Los Angeles Clippers' loss to the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night, NBA legend and TNT commentator Reggie Miller said that Los Angeles has the best bench in the league. That's obviously wrong, as quality depth is once again a huge problem for Los Angeles.

Outside of their top four players -- Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan -- only two other members of the team have been a net positive when they have been on the court: part-time starters Luc Mbah a Moute and Wesley Johnson. Everyone else has been a drain.

The curious thing is that the Clippers haven't neglected their bench when building their roster. Doc Rivers has tried to upgrade his second unit for the past couple of offseasons, but has failed despite using valuable assets in the process.

Signing Spencer Hawes was a bad decision

After making moves to get the full mid-level exception to spend in the summer of 2014 -- including dealing a 2017 first-round pick to wipe the solid Jared Dudley and his salary off their books -- the Clippers decided to use it to sign Spencer Hawes.

Hawes was coming off a career year playing for the Philadelphia 76ers and Cleveland Cavaliers, but his much-improved three-point shooting screamed "outlier" and his game didn't really fit well with their other big men. It was a strange decision at the time and one that proved to be a huge mistake.

Predictably, Hawes regressed as a shooter and paired poorly with both Griffin and Jordan. He eventually fell out of the rotation, and during the offseason, he was traded to Charlotte along with starting small forward Matt Barnes for Lance Stephenson. Ironically, he's now playing well for an excellent Hornets second unit.

The trade for Austin Rivers was unnecessary

Rivers traded for Austin, his son, before the trade deadline last season. The price was Reggie Bullock, a wing who has struggled to find a place in the NBA, so it's hard to say the Clippers lost the trade. Austin is by no means a great player but swapping a deep rotation piece for even a mediocre performer can't ever be considered a huge mistake.

The problem with the move is that it was unnecessary. The Clippers could have received similar production from a minimum-salary point guard while keeping a wing prospect who could have eventually been groomed to be a rotation player or moved in a different transaction. It was a lateral trade that may only have happened because the incoming player was Rivers' son.

The Stephenson gamble is not working out

Stephenson had only one great year on his resume before the Hornets decided to offer him a sizable deal. Then, he crashed and burned in a disastrous year in Charlotte. Yet because he was still young, the Clippers pulled the trigger on a trade that also helped them get rid of Hawes' contract.

As it turns out, Stephenson just isn't good after all. He has been a major downgrade from Barnes and has slipped to the fringes of the rotation. The Clippers reportedly tested the market to see if there's trade interest in both him and fellow summer acquisition Josh Smith. It hasn't even been six weeks!

The best thing about the Stephenson trade at this point is that his contract expires after this season.

Paul Pierce is either hibernating or done

The other big addition this offseason was Paul Pierce, fresh off a great playoff appearance for the Washington Wizards. Pierce brings championship experience and has a bond with Rivers, which explains why he received the mini mid-level exception. He's also 38 years old and averaging four points per game on 29 percent shooting from the floor this season.

It's entirely possible Pierce is just saving his energy for the playoffs, like he did in his time in Washington. The problem is the Clippers have a gaping hole at small forward and could have used the resources they spent on Pierce on someone who would be dependable.

Josh Smith is not a good enough third big man

Since Pierce received the full mini mid-level exception and the Clippers can't trade their first-round pick until the next draft, they had no good way of getting a solid third big man. They had to settle for Smith, who had been a disaster in Detroit before playing well in a smaller role in Houston.

Smith has played poorly so far, showing that at this point he's not suited to be the top backup big man on a contender. As if that wasn't bad enough, he's also clashed with the coaches 20 games into the season. Rivers left himself no choice but to take a risk on Smith simply because he was affordable. If those trade rumors are any indication, he's realizing his mistake.

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To recap: in order to get the under-performing bench unit of Rivers, Pierce, Smith and Stephenson, Doc Rivers had to use a first-round pick, Jared Dudley, the full mid-level exception (Hawes), the mini mid-level exception, Reggie Bullock and Matt Barnes. Those are a lot of assets to waste on a unit that stinks.

Rivers will have another shot at securing some depth at the trade deadline. The Clippers have a young player on a rookie contract in C.J. Wilcox and the expiring contracts of Stephenson and the declining Jamal Crawford (who arrived before Rivers became the GM) to deal. If the past is any indication, however, it's unlikely those assets actually return a good player.

Despite what Miller said, the Clippers actually have one of the worst benches in the league. That won't change as long as Rivers keeps misusing his resources.

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