For the Los Angeles Clippers, the next six weeks are about survival.
That's the projected timeframe Chris Paul should be out with a Grade 3 AC joint separation in his shoulder. Paul will avoid surgery, but the Clippers will still likely have to go about 19 games without their floor general.
Replacing Paul is impossible. He's the best point guard on the planet. It's unreasonable to assume that anyone can replicate his production, and that's before mentioning the lack of talent available in the free-agent pool.
The Clippers could potentially explore trade options, but since they're already above the luxury tax line with no substantial salaries that aren't tied to important rotation players, adding a minimum free agent or utilizing 10-day contracts probably makes the most sense.
If that ends up being true, here are five of the best free-agent options at point guard for the Los Angeles Clippers.
With Darren Collison serving as the sole point guard on the Clippers roster for the time being, the Clippers sound like they'll leave no stone unturned. Here's what Rivers told Eric Patten of Clippers.com:
“You’re looking at guys who are out of the league,” Rivers said. “There are a few guys who could get out of their contracts in China, so you’re looking at all that stuff.”
If that's the case, Brown will be looked at. The 29-year-old point guard and Los Angeles native last played in the NBA back in the 2009-10 season, where he struggled mightily for the Clippers.
Since then, though, Brown has recreated himself overseas and turned into one of the more highly regarded free agents available. After winning the award for "Best Scorer" in Italy last season, Brown signed in China this year after nearly latching on with the New York Knicks this offseason.
Brown has thrived in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) thus far, as he scored 74 points in a single game earlier in the year. He's always been able to score, but Brown is doing it more efficiently and managing the game much better than he did during his brief time in the NBA. He's a different player.
It seems like only a matter of time before Brown gets another chance, but it seems unlikely that he'll leave his deal in China for a simple 10-day contract. If the Clippers want Brown, they'll likely have to give him a guaranteed deal for the rest of the year.
This may seem like an odd inclusion, considering that Maalik Wayns was just cut by the Los Angeles Clippers so his salary wouldn't become guaranteed and count against the luxury tax.
While it seems like curious timing given Paul's injury, Wayns' release might indicate that he isn't close to contributing on the floor quite yet.
Wayns tore his meniscus back on October 14 in preseason, and he hasn't played since. Although he's been released from his current deal, it is possible that Wayns rejoins the team at some point.
The Clippers will be allowed to sign Wayns (or anyone else) to two consecutive 10-day contracts before having to offer him a guaranteed deal or looking elsewhere. If nothing else, Wayns could buy some time toward the tail-end of Paul's recovery window, which might lead the Clippers to fill this spot with a sort of committee approach in the meantime.
Again, a lot depends on the health status of the 22-year-old point guard. After beating out the competition for a roster spot this offseason and learning the system in practice, the Clippers will likely give Wayns another shot at some point, so long as he's able to play.
This one is a little outside of the box, which may be the way Rivers is thinking right now if the scheduled workout of point-forward Hedo Turkoglu counts for anything. This is a backcourt in need of some defense and playmaking ability, and Terrence Williams might fit the bill.
Williams isn't a traditional point guard by any means, but he essentially played that role for Doc Rivers after the Boston Celtics were ravaged with injuries late last year. Williams performed fairly well as a point-forward, averaging 12.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists per 36 minutes.
Williams, now 26 years old, has long enticed general managers around the league with his vision and athleticism, but trouble sort of has a way of finding him. An arrest and knee tendonitis was enough to scare away the Celtics and other teams this offseason, and after briefly playing overseas, Williams has recently joined the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the D-League.
Williams might be worthy of call-up, simply because he's familiar with Rivers' offensive system and provides the height and size to play next to more diminutive guards like Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford. It may be a risk to bring him into the locker room, but perhaps Rivers is willing to give him another shot on a 10-day basis, if nothing else.
Let's swing back to China, as that's where Sebastian Telfair is currently playing after spending nine straight seasons in the NBA. Telfair is yet another player who played briefly under Rivers during the 2006-07 season, but neither coach or player probably gets too many warm fuzzies thinking about that 24-58 campaign.
Although Telfair's NBA tale is a cautionary one, over the last few years of his career he did transform into a more responsible point guard. Telfair never became an efficient scorer, which was his primary downfall, but he was serviceable in a backup role at getting other players involved.
Still, it's hard to say that Telfair has the potential he once possessed at this point in his career. Similar to Bobby Brown, bringing him over from China would likely require a much more significant commitment than a 10-day contract, and it's hard to imagine Telfair having a role once Paul returns from his shoulder injury.
All that being said, Telfair is one of the more experienced guards available, and he's one of the better distributors, as well. If that alone is the criteria, he fits.
Speaking of experience, how about Keyon Dooling? After playing under Rivers in Boston during the 2011-12 season, Dooling took a front office job only to come out of retirement and suit up for the Memphis Grizzlies last year.
For a 33-year-old guard with a lot of miles, Dooling was pretty impressive in his role. He did a nice job of harassing ball-handlers for the Grizzlies, and he shot the ball pretty well from the perimeter in limited action.
If Dooling wants one last tour of action, this might be the best opportunity. Being reunited with Rivers is one thing, but Dooling would also be returning back to where it all started, as he spent the first four years of his career with the Clippers.
Adding a savvy veteran player may not be viewed as spectacular, but the reasoning would be solid. Even if he only has a few months left in his legs, that's all the Clippers need.