Top Free Agent Options to Beef Up LA Clippers' Front Line
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Since July 1, the Clips have already made headlines by reaching a verbal agreement for a max contract with point guard Chris Paul. CP3 was the first domino to fall, followed by a three-team deal with the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks that saw the Clips deal Eric Bledsoe and the expiring contract of Caron Butler for sharp shooter J.J. Redick and swingman Jared Dudley.
Even with the perimeter upgrades, Lob City is still thin in the paint and could use another backup big in the rotation. During the regular season, the Clips were one of the league’s better rebounding teams, finishing sixth with a 51.6 rebounding percentage.
Despite the athleticism of high-flyers Griffin and Jordan, the duo combined to gobble up just 15.5 boards per game. For perspective, the burly Memphis Grizzlies front line duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combined to haul in an average of 19.0 rebounds per contest.
With the mid-level exception (MLE) and veteran’s minimum contracts at their discretion, the Clippers should turn their attention to another backup big. Here are five potential free agent candidates that the Clippers could use to beef up their front line.
All statistics used from Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com/Stats.
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2012-13 Stats: 12.7 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 0.6 BKPG
2012-13 Salary: $4 million
Breakdown: Coming off of a career year, J.J. Hickson will be looking for a serious raise this offseason. Hickson was a walking double-double for the Portland Trail Blazers while starting alongside big man LaMarcus Aldridge last season.
While Hickson is not a notable defender, his offensive skill set would nicely complement Griffin. Hickson knows his offensive limitations and can stretch the floor a bit. Last season, he knocked down over 40 percent of his jumpers from eight to 16 feet.
Ultimately, Hickson could command too much money for the Clips to compete for his services next season. If he can be convinced to take a portion of the MLE in order to pursue a ring, then Lob City should consider reaching out to the big-man.
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2012-13 Stats: 0.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.7 BKPG
2012-13 Salary: $7.372 million
Breakdown: Wildly overpaid last season, DeSagana Diop might be had for the veteran’s minimum this summer. Playing in just 22 games last season, Diop grabbed a total of 51 rebounds.
As such, the Charlotte Bobcats paid Diop roughly $144,549 for each rebound he collected last season. All jokes aside, Diop is still 7’0” and weighs 300 pounds, giving his team a huge body to plant in the paint.
If the Clips reach out to him, then he would certainly play limited minutes; it is unlikely that he would play his way into the rotation. Rivers could use Diop to spell Jordan or Griffin against especially big-front lines like those of the Grizzlies or the Los Angeles Lakers.
At a minimum, Diop could provide six fouls every night.
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2012-13 Stats: 8.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 0.7 BKPG
2012-13 Stats: $4.2 million
Traded midway through the season from the Grizzlies to the Cavs, Speights quietly performed, averaging 10.2 points and 5.1 boards in 39 appearances in Cleveland. Having played on the Grit and Grind Grizz, Speights is a notable tough guy.
In the 2012 postseason, Speights bothered both Jordan and Griffin in the Clippers-Grizzlies seven game slugfest. Despite playing an average of just 14.4 minutes per night, Speights scored 6.6 points and grabbed 4.3 boards per contest. More significantly, he constantly harassed Griffin on defense.
Speights has a toughness factor cut from the same cloth as Zach Randolph and comparable to that of someone like Kenyon Martin. For a team that has struggled to develop a toughness identity, a player like Speights would be a welcome addition.
If the price is right, the Clippers should consider reaching out to the Florida product.
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2012-13 Stats: 6.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.1 BKPG
2012-13 Salary: $6.699 million
Breakdown: Coming off of one of the worst seasons of his career, Samuel Dalembert might be had on the cheap side this offseason. Playing in just 47 games for the Bucks, Dalembert had his worst season statistically since his rookie campaign on the Philadelphia 76ers, when he put up just 1.5 PPG and 2.0 RPG.
By the end of the season, Dalembert seemingly fell out of favor with head coach Jim Boylan. He appeared in just one contest in Milwaukee’s four-game series against the Miami Heat.
Dalembert is only 32 years old, and he would give the Clippers both toughness and rebounding in the post. Despite his poor play last season, his defensive rebounding percentage of 24.9 percent still outperformed Jordan’s defensive rebounding percentage of 22.4.
Optimists will suggest that Dalembert just needs a change of scenery in order to return to his stable performances of years past. If the Clippers can entice him with the opportunity to pursue a championship, then they should be able to sign Dalembert to a very cheap contract.
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2012-13 Stats: 10.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 0.4 BKPG
2012-13 Salary: $4 million
Breakdown: Coming off one of his better seasons, Carl Landry could be a perfect fit off the bench for the Clippers.
Landry is a capable stretch four that knocked down over 40 percent of his eight-to-16 foot jumpers for the Golden State Warriors last season. He can also finish around the basket, converting over 60 percent of his field goals in the paint.
According to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Doc Rivers was expected to meet with Landry. The big-man has a history with CP3.
In one-and-a-half seasons playing alongside Paul in New Orleans, Landry averaged 12.2 PPG and 4.7 RPG. Reuniting Landry and Paul is not a bad idea, as the big-man could co-exist comfortably alongside either Griffin or Jordan on the floor.