Best Free-Agent Options for Los Angeles Clippers to Replace Darren Collison

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2014

Best Free-Agent Options for Los Angeles Clippers to Replace Darren Collison

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    Darren Collison was supposedly the Los Angeles Clippers' first offseason priority.

    But after opting out of a deal that would have paid him just $1.985 million next season, the lightning-quick point guard has reportedly found a pretty lucrative arrangement with the Sacramento Kings instead. Per the Los Angeles Times' Brad Turner, Collison agreed to a three-year, $16 million pact with the organization.

    Another report from Basketball Insiders' Eric Pincus put the total closer to $15 million.

    And according to USA Today's Sam Amick, Collison is in store for a promotion too: 

    A person with knowledge of Collison's situation not only confirmed the agreement but said the 26-year-old who was Chris Paul's backup with the Los Angeles Clippers last season is heading for Sacramento with the understanding that he will be the starter.

    This was a no-brainer move for Collison. 

    "The Kings were the most aggressive team by far in the free agency, and I respected that on all levels," Collison told The Los Angeles Times, per Broderick Turner. "Of course, I was trying to make it work with the Clippers and tried to re-sign with them. But I didn’t think they really made me their first priority like the Kings did."

    Now the Clippers need a replacement.

    That replacement will likely have to play for some portion of their $5.305 million mid-level exception. The Clippers are well above the salary cap, so don't expect them to make a run at restricted free agents like old friend Eric Bledsoe or the Kings' Isaiah Thomas.

    Other unrestricted free agents—like Mo Williams or Mario Chalmers—may be probably looking for bigger paydays.

    With that caveat, here are the best-available—and realistic—options.

5. Jordan Farmar

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    Jordan Farmar—or someone of his ilk—is so far our best guess as to the caliber of player Los Angeles is targeting.

    According to the Los Angeles Times' Brad Turner, the, "Clippers have had conversations with free agent point guard Jordan Farmar, per source."

    Turner also notes that there are, "3-4 teams interested in him."

    But Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears reports via Twitter that the, "Clippers have become the front-runner to land... Farmar, but nothing agreed to as of yet, sources said."

    Farmar proved he could still play NBA ball after a stint in Turkey during the 2012-13 season. He gave the Los Angeles Lakers some quality minutes last season, averaging 10.1 points and 4.9 assists in 41 games with the club.

    The big selling point with Farmar is his shooting ability. He cashed in on 43.8 percent of his three-point attempts, a mark that was even better than his overall field-goal percentage.

    Like most reserve point guards, Farmar isn't an elite defender, but he'd certainly contribute to Los Angeles' already robust scoring attack. And he'd probably do so for some part of that mid-level exception. If the price is right, don't be surprised to see Farmar remain in Los Angeles, only this time with the Clippers.

4. Ramon Sessions

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    Anyone who remembers Ramon Sessions' brief stint with the Los Angeles Lakers will recall what makes him so frustrating. He's a good scorer, a fine distributor—and a pretty terrible defender.

    Nevertheless, he's also one of the best options the Clippers can realistically get their hands on. Though the 28-year-old is likely looking for one last payday, he probably can't command much more than a portion of a mid-level exception. There are enough decent point guards on the market that Sessions can't hope for much more.

    For his career, the Nevada product has averaged an impressive enough 11.7 points and 4.7 assists per game. During that span, his numbers have really been all over the place, reflecting his journeys around the NBA and the varied roles he's taken on.

    Though Sessions played in just 28 games for the Milwaukee Bucks last season, he seemed to hit his stride. He posted 15.8 points on an efficient 46.1 percent shooting with the Bucks, marking a vast improvement over his previous stint with the then-Charlotte Bobcats.

    Sessions is big enough at 6'3" to play as something of a combo guard, and his ability to score and facilitate makes him an attractive option off the bench.

    Given that he's relatively young, Sessions could probably seek out a more robust role on another team. But he may be more interested in winning some games after finishing the season out in Milwaukee. In that event, don't be surprised if he becomes a match for the Clippers.

3. D.J. Augustin

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    D.J. Augustin has a one-track mind, but that might suit the high-octane Clippers pretty well. 

    The speedy reserve averaged 14.9 points and five assists in 61 games for the Chicago Bulls last season, playing an integral role on a team that desperately needed his scoring. Los Angeles clearly wouldn't need that scoring quite as badly, but the point remains: This guy can light it up.

    That makes him an intriguing option playing alongside sixth man Jamal Crawford. Few second-unit backcourts would rival this one in terms of sheer scoring ability.

    There are certainly downsides to Augustin, as is the case with most backup point guards. He's small (barely 6'0"), and he's far more of a shooter than penetrator. 

    But you can't deny his production.

    Or his efficiency. Augustin's 16.22 player efficiency rating actually ranked 19th among point guards last season, which is especially noteworthy for a guy who played in a second unit. That goes some way in explaining how the electric floor general was able to produce so effectively despite Chicago's deliberate pace and various ensemble offensive options.

    Just imagine what this guy could do on a team that likes to run and gun.

    If the Clippers don't spend most of their mid-level exception adding to the wing, they might want to save it for this guy.

2. Kirk Hinrich

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    Augustin isn't the only Chicago Bulls point guard who may be on the move this summer.

    Kirk Hinrich signed up to be Derrick Rose's backup, but he's been called into starting service throughout most of the last two seasons on account of Rose's injuries.

    He's performed admirably in the process.

    The 33-year-old averaged 9.1 points and 3.9 assists in 29 minutes per game last season, 7.7 points and 5.2 assists the season before that. He won't beat many guards off the dribble, but he's a pretty reliable spot-up shooter and knows how to run an offense.

    Even better, he's a solid defender on the perimeter and can spend time at both guard positions. That's the kind of versatility that could come in handy for the Clippers, allowing head coach Doc Rivers to trot out a small backcourt without giving up too much ground on the defensive end.

    Most importantly, Hinrich reasons to be affordable. He's at the stage of his career where he's come to accept playing a smaller role and taking a smaller paycheck.

    That's just the kind of mindset Los Angeles needs.

1. Jameer Nelson

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    Jameer Nelson has had his payday. Now the question is whether he wants to sacrifice future salary in order to win. 

    The 32-year-old has spent his entire career with the Orlando Magic, but the organization waived him this summer in order to create additional cap space—and, perhaps, to spare Nelson any further participation in what promises to be a lengthy rebuilding effort.

    The Saint Joseph's product was witness to plenty of ups and downs in Orlando, and he's at the age now where winning may take priority.

    That's an opportunity he'd certainly have with the Clippers.

    There's plenty to like about Nelson's game, especially if we're talking about him in a reserve role. He averaged 12.1 points and seven assists starting for the Magic last season, proving he was able to produce and facilitate alongside undeveloped talent. That kind of resumé suggests he might also thrive alongside Los Angeles' bench unit.

    Nelson's experience would also ensure the Clippers maintain their poise and execution even when Chris Paul isn't on the floor.

    This isn't an exceptionally glamorous name, but it's probably the best of the targets L.A. can realistically consider.