Best Bargain-Bin NBA 2014 Free-Agency Options for LA Clippers
For the most part, the work for the Los Angeles Clippers this offseason is likely done. The Clippers were already on the brink of being a title contender with the league's best offense in terms of efficiency, per NBA.com/Stats, so there wasn't any big adjustments necessary.
With that being said, the Clippers did go out and get two solid rotation players in Spencer Hawes (mid-level exception) and Jordan Farmar (biannual exception). Hawes should fill the elusive need for a third big man Los Angeles has lacked for quite some time, and Farmar will take Darren Collison's place as a better perimeter-shooting backup point guard.
With the hard cap set due to Hawes signing for the mid-level exception, the most likely scenario for the Clippers to add talent is via minimum contracts. In that regard, the Clippers have to hope that free agents follow Hawes' example, as he told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports Friday night:
Even taking a little less money, this opportunity was too exciting to pass up. I've had a taste of the playoffs before, but being a part of this team will be just incredible.
You get to a point where you really realize what's important, and I was thinking: "What would my 12-year-old self have done? What would he prioritize?" It was this opportunity and what they're building with the Clippers.
As a legitimate championship contender with a great point guard and respected coach, the Clippers should have no problem attracting veterans to the sunny skies of Los Angeles.
Let's take a look at five potential bargain-bin signings the Clippers might be able to land for the minimum.
While Hawes will take the majority of the backup minutes in the frontcourt, adding another backup with a coveted skill would be a good idea.
Ekpe Udoh can't score around the rim or rebound all that well, but his shot blocking could be a major asset next to both Blake Griffin and Hawes. Udoh is really great at coming from the weak side and using his length to alter shots, and considering that defense is where the Clippers need the most help, signing a specialist like this would make sense.
Although Udoh isn't a good offensive player, he has a solid feel for the game and operates out of the high post. We haven't seen it much in stops with the Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks, but he's more comfortable away from the basket where he can see how things are developing offensively.
Primarily, though, this is all about those long arms. Udoh has been a disappointment so far in the league, but with the right tutelage under Doc Rivers and enough great offensive players around him, he can really make an impact on the game that shouldn't be taken for granted, especially if he comes at such a cheap price.
Dante Cunningham is a pretty solid backup power forward who is probably worth more than the minimum, but there's a chance he's ready to take less in order to play for a contender.
Cunningham's best skill offensively is his mid-range jumper, as he knocks that down with pretty solid regularity. His athleticism and motor also come in handy on the offensive glass, and in Lob City, his ability to flush alley-oops in transition won't hurt.
Cunningham is a bit limited as a defender, but he works hard and isn't afraid to play physical. In an up-tempo system, his ability to run the floor and trail the fast break is a definitive advantage, even though you wouldn't be comfortable handing him the ball to do anything but dunk or shoot a wide-open jumper.
Solid role players such as Cunningham who don't take much off the table are what Los Angeles should be looking for, as their stars can handle the heavy lifting.
Cunningham should be able to get a better deal, but if he goes unappreciated in free agency, the Clippers should pounce.
There are character concerns here, and he and Matt Barnes would be a Molotov cocktail at small forward together, but James Johnson is the type of athletic defender a team needs when there are guys such as Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard running the conference.
Johnson's size and length allow him to create a ton of turnovers, and we know how dangerous Chris Paul and Griffin can be with extra possessions. Getting some extra shot blocking from the wing is always nice, and considering how small the Clippers usually are in the backcourt, the defensive rebounding would be nice as well.
Johnson may ideally be a small-ball 4, even though he's not a reliable perimeter shooter. What Johnson can do, though, is handle the ball and pass extremely well, so at least in that regard, the drop-off from Blake Griffin's playmaking ability to Johnson's wouldn't be all that severe.
You have to wonder if there's a reason why Johnson hasn't been able to stick in the league, but in theory he looks like a killer forward to have coming off the bench.
With Barnes possibly slowing down a bit and Reggie Bullock having trouble staying healthy, adding a defensive-minded forward such as Johnson would be worth the incredibly low risk at this price.
The Clippers will likely still need a third point guard behind Chris Paul and Jordan Farmar, and given the lack of size and defense, along with J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford, getting a defensive specialist such as Toure' Murry would be a great get.
Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal tweeted that the Clippers were interested, although this was before the Farmar signing:
Touré Murry, who Knicks are still interested in bringing back as FA, is drawing considerable interest from the Clippers, per league sources.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) July 3, 2014
Murry hasn't really had the chance to perform in the NBA quite yet, but he's shown promise on other stages of being a legitimate backup guard who can use his size to play both spots and take another player out of the game.
Murry is also a pretty good pick-and-roll player, which could help the second unit when the offense breaks down. Shooting is the big concern here, but with Farmar, Crawford, Redick and Paul, the Clippers have plenty of room to add a strong defender to the backcourt.
Given Paul's injury history and Farmar's inability to play full seasons, finding a third point guard on the minimum should be viewed as a priority this offseason. Murry's versatility makes him a good option.
It's been a while since Delonte West has been on the radar of NBA teams, but Doc Rivers clearly has a soft spot for former players and veterans.
It's possible he's just doing West a favor, as many teams do that for summer league, but if West is back to his old form at age 30, he'd be an interesting addition as a combo guard.
Here's Jovan Buha at ESPNLosAngeles.com:
West earned a spot on the Clippers' summer league roster, so he has a built-in advantage. At the same time, he hasn't played in the NBA in two years, and will always be a wild card because of offcourt struggles.
Still, he's arguably the most talented cheap option available and has already played for Rivers. He's worth a shot if he can shake off his rust and recover his 3-and-D potential.
We'll be able to tell if West is a realistic option in short time, but it would be interesting to bring in a player familiar with River's system who can fill a need (defense) and play two different positions.
There are concerns with West being able to make it through a full year mentally, but on the veteran's minimum, the leash would be short. This is a gamble that could pay off if West is right.