Although the 2012-13 regular season has been one of the most successful in Los Angeles Clippers’ history, there will be no shortage of difficult decisions to be made in the offseason.
The Clippers will be up against the luxury tax, key players’ contracts expiring and decisions to make about aging veterans and potential star players. The front office will definitely earn its salary this summer. First up on the docket will be attempting to re-sign Chris Paul.
Should Paul return to the Clippers, the decisions become extremely interesting, but overwhelmingly challenging.
Chauncey Billups was an integral part of the Los Angeles Clippers' success early last season. However, Billups has been out nearly all of the 2012-13 season, and it remains to be seen how effective he can be in the playoffs.
Recovery from a torn Achilles has significantly hampered the veteran guard this year. The Clippers will face a decision this summer on whether to bring back Billups or move on. The decision will also revolve around how much money Billups is willing to accept in order to sign and what his thoughts are on returning to the New York Knicks to play with his good friend Carmelo Anthony.
Billups might be needed, depending on what the Clippers decide to do with Willie Green and Eric Bledsoe this summer. Although, it is questionable the Clippers offer him more than the veteran minimum.
Small forward is a very unique position. The ideal candidate for a small forward is a player who is around 6’8, long, athletic and can attack the basket. While that used to be the scouting report on Caron Butler, his game has begun to tail off.
It is debatable if Butler’s game is suffering from the Los Angeles Clippers’ system or the abundance of talent around him. However, the numbers do not lie. Butler recorded the second-lowest PER of his career last season at 11.77. Unfortunately, this season has not been much better at 12.24.
While there will be rumblings all summer of Butler, and possibly DeAndre Jordan, being packaged with Eric Bledsoe, the simple fact is that the Clippers need an upgrade at small forward. Butler is still an adequate defender, but with one year remaining on his contract, it is unlikely Butler is around once his contract expires.
The Clippers need to find a small forward who can help Jordan and Blake Griffin on the glass. However, they also need one that can match up with the elite small forwards in the league.
Additionally, Matt Barnes will likely have a team offer him more than the veteran’s minimum this season, and Grant Hill looks to be at the end of the road in his career.
Entering this summer, the Los Angeles Clippers are going to have a lot of decisions to make on personnel. The main concern will revolve around if Donald Sterling is willing to spend over the luxury tax level, which should be near $70 million again.
One problem the Clippers are going to face is the addition of Blake Griffin’s max contract. Griffin’s salary is scheduled to increase from $7.26 million to $13.66 million.
While Blake is certainly worth that much next season, do not forget the Clippers will be hoping that Chris Paul also accepts a maximum contract offer to remain in Los Angeles.
Let’s assume Paul signs a new maximum contract with the Clippers. That would put the Clippers’ team salary in the $60 million range and close, if not over, the new salary-cap level that will be announced early in July.
This scenario would leave the Clippers with only eight players and already nearing the new luxury tax level. Who will the Clippers target with their mid-level exception? Who will they target in the draft? Will Chauncey Billups, Matt Barnes or Lamar Odom accept less money to stay Clippers?
There will be plenty of questions heading into this summer. Donald Sterling refusing to pay the luxury tax would have the front office scrambling to trade someone like Caron Butler to free up more room under the tax.
Rewind to the 2011-12 season, a month or so before the playoffs. Vinny Del Negro was facing a near mutiny in his locker room. The Los Angeles Clippers were in the midst of a losing streak, and Del Negro’s coaching was a hot topic among the media. So hot, he nearly lost his job.
This season has been nearly the exact opposite. Until the Miami Heat went on a tear en route to the second-longest winning streak of all time, the Clippers owned the league’s longest streak of the season at 18 games. Additionally, Del Negro helped transform a porous defense last season into one of the league’s best.
Unfortunately, the writing may be on the wall for Del Negro. It remains to be seen if the Clippers front office decides to bring back Vinny after this season, especially if Chris Paul returns.
The Clippers will be one of the most desirable coaching jobs in the NBA this summer.
Certain to be one of the most sought-after players this summer, Eric Bledsoe will be on plenty of teams' wish list. Making things more complicated will be the Los Angeles Clippers’ payroll, and whether or not the team is committed to Bledsoe long term. He will be eligible for an extension this summer, but it seems unlikely the Clippers will offer him one.
Furthermore, due to the Clippers’ payroll and lack of available cap space, the team could be interested in dealing Bledsoe with Caron Butler or DeAndre Jordan, to upgrade another position.
They could also decide to target multiple draft picks for Bledsoe, seeing as though the team lacks young players to develop. Heading into the future with a high payroll and a lack of assets is not the way successful franchises, such as the San Antonio Spurs, have operated.
Bledsoe could fetch a nice return this summer, making it a difficult decision for the front office. Do the Clippers invest one last season in Bledsoe and hope they can trade him or retain him as a restricted free agent? Do they move him now to continue to build a championship-caliber team with the package in return?