Predicting LA Clippers' Next Moves After Re-Signing Chris Paul

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Predicting LA Clippers' Next Moves After Re-Signing Chris Paul
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency in the NBA is a time of debate and negotiation, and can often drag out between players and teams.

For Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers, it was anything but that.

Paul agreed to a five-year, $107 million deal on the very first day of free agency on Monday, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLos Angeles, putting to rest any talk that he may leave the club.

For the Clippers, they now have Paul, Blake Griffin and head coach Doc Rivers all under contract for the next three-to-five years.  A championship is very much in reach after a 56-win season, and expectations will no doubt be at an all-time high.

That being said, the Clippers shouldn't be done yet.

After all, those 56 wins didn't mean a whole lot when it came to the playoffs, as L.A. got knocked out of the first round by the Memphis Grizzlies.

Here are some moves the Clippers should pursue this offseason so that they can make sure an early playoff exit doesn't happen again.

 

Salary Cap and Assets

With nearly $35 million scheduled to go to Paul and Griffin alone in 2012-13, the Clippers are understandably going to be over the salary cap.  They currently have a projected 2013-14 team salary of just over $65 million, according to HoopsWorld.com.

L.A. has its mid-level exception of $5.15 million to use on free agents, as well as a $1.6 million trade exception they can use in a possible deal.

When it comes to tradeable assets, one name in particular stands out. Eric Bledsoe, the Clippers' 23-year-old backup point guard, has become a hot commodity.

He's still on a rookie deal and averaged 8.5 points and 3.1 assists in just 20.4 minutes a game behind Paul last season.

Caron Butler, the Clippers' starting small forward, could also be used in a trade due to his expiring $8 million contract.

Now that we've seen what the Clippers have, let's take a look at what the Clippers could do.

 

Trade Eric Bledsoe

Moving Bledsoe makes sense, as he would prove far more valuable as a starter to a young team.

Some clubs that have been mentioned as possible suitors for Bledsoe have been the Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks.

The team with the most to offer in terms of assets would be either Toronto or Orlando.  The Clippers could use an upgrade at shooting guard over Willie Green, and need a backup center behind DeAndre Jordan.

I predict that Bledsoe ends up going to the Orlando Magic in a package for shooting guard Arron Afflalo, power forward Andrew Nicholson and a draft pick.

Afflalo averaged 16.5 points and 3.2 assists for the Magic last season.  His veteran presence would be a nice addition to the Orlando starting lineup.  Nicholson was the Magic's first-round pick in 2012 and averaged 7.8 points and 3.4 rebounds in 16.7 minutes a game last season.

The Clippers won't want to overpay for a backup point guard when Bledsoe hits restricted free agency next summer so trading him now for immediate help makes sense.

 

Free-Agent Targets

As mentioned before, the Clippers are over the salary cap, but can use their $5.15 million mid-level exception to sign players.

One player rumored to be on their radar is Dallas Mavericks shooting guard O.J. Mayo.

Mayo is an unrestricted free agent coming off a solid 15.3 point and 4.4 assist per game season.  He's still just 25 and would fit in with the Clippers long-term plans.

Mayo played this season with Dallas for $4 million, so it's possible he would agree to join the Clippers for their exception.

Another target for L.A. should be Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen.

Allen is one of, if not the best perimeter defender in the game today.

Adding him in a backcourt with Paul would be downright scary defensively, and would likely come up with four or five steals a game between the two.

The best part about landing Allen?  He wouldn't be a part of the Grizzlies anymore—the team that knocked L.A. out of the playoffs last season.

In terms of a backup center behind DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers will definitely want to upgrade from Ryan Hollins.

Marreese Speights of the Cleveland Cavaliers would be a nice addition.  He can play both power forward and center and registered a PER of 17.35 last season.

 

Conclusion

With over $200 million invested in Paul and Griffin, it's championship-or-bust for the Clippers.

They have one of the best coaches in the business in Doc Rivers and some tradeable assets and exceptions that will allow them to fill in the final pieces of a championship team.

Rivers should be refreshed with a new start in a new city, and Paul will have 107 million reasons to be motivated to bring the first NBA title to the Los Angeles Clippers.


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