As free agency for 2014-15 draws near, that mindset hasn't changed after one season under his direction. The Clippers are competing for the league's ultimate prize.
That means for a team on the cusp of getting to the NBA finals last season, there's no need to make wholesale changes with the framework of the roster. The Clips are young, talented and well-coached. Considering the fact that they'll return their nucleus of Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul, it's appropriate to expect this group to be among the few left standing late in the postseason.
Los Angeles was close, and it needs to stay the course. If there's a theme throughout the free-agency period, this has to be it.
So here's how things ought to play out, at least in part, with the Clippers:
Doc will get one of his guys
It's now official. The Clippers named Rivers the president of basketball operations on June 16 and will trust him with greater responsibility to mold the roster into a championship contender. With that in mind, expect the Clips' leader to go out and get one of his guys.
What does one of these guys actually look like?
In short, they're versatile and can do a little bit of everything. Take for example James Posey with the 2007-08 Boston Celtics on Rivers' lone championship squad. Posey found himself in the thick of the rotation because he could do just about everything.
Here are his per 36-minute totals from that season:
In essence, Posey was an everyman, and as a 6'8" swingman with quickness, he could guard multiple positions. His value on both ends of the floor doesn't do his 12.0 player-efficiency rating justice.
The Clippers had the NBA's top reserve in Jamal Crawford a season ago, and now they will likely look for another reserve who can chew up important minutes and be a Swiss army knife of sorts, a la Posey.
No big man aside from Griffin or Jordan posted a PER of 12.0 or better last season for the Clippers. That put a lot of pressure on the starting frontcourt to produce.
According to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, the Clippers put Matt Barnes and the Clippers' first-round pick (which was used to select guard C.J. Wilcox) on the trade block in hopes of nabbing Tony Allen, Gerald Green or Iman Shumpert prior to the draft.
Though no such move came to fruition, it could be a hint as to where the team wants to go in free agency. Allen in particular could be the the type of player who's key to vaulting the Clips past Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder as a lockdown defender.
A key reserve will see the light and give L.A. a discount
Again, the Clippers were close to a shot at an NBA title last season, so it stands to reason that one of their key reserves in Darren Collison will re-sign with his hometown club at a discount in order to pursue another.
He'll do his due diligence and test the market after declining his player option for the upcoming season, but L.A. will win the bidding war and keep its backup floor general. Both sides will have to give a little, but it will get done.
In fact, not only will it happen, but it should take place early in free agency so the team can pursue talent elsewhere.
How it will play out
Even in the NBA, size is at a premium. The Clippers need to find a rotation big man to do some of the dirty work. With no cap space to speak of, the mid-level exception will be their best bet at netting someone to fill that void.
There weren't many deficiencies to speak of last season, but L.A. was 21st in offensive rebounding and 29th in opponents' offensive rebounds allowed.
A player like Pau Gasol would be the one to covet here, but though the Spaniard is an unrestricted free agent, he's likely not going to take on a diminished role nor a reduced salary at this point in his career. He'd have to do both to become a Clipper.
But another glance across the hall at the Los Angeles Lakers could yield a player who may fit with the Clippers like a glove—Jordan Hill. His energy is off the charts, and he's not afraid to mix it up inside.
Boris Diaw would be another who could be a versatile mid-level type player. But his asking price should be higher than market value since he's coming of an exceptional NBA Finals. He'd have to take less money to sign with Los Angeles, but it could happen.
Other names to watch for include Shawn Marion, Andray Blatche and Emeka Okafor. No matter what happens, the Clips will find a producer in the post come July 1. That's a virtual certainty.
All advanced statistics via Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted