Report Card Grades for LA Clippers' 2014 Offseason so Far
Offseasons are exciting, unpredictable and full of theatrics. That literally sums up the Los Angeles Clippers’ 2014 offseason, as this summer has been nothing short of a TNT drama.
First, there was a potential sale of the franchise to Steve Ballmer; next a promotion to president of basketball operations for Doc Rivers; then a lawsuit between Donald and Shelly Sterling over control of the team; and, oh yeah, the draft and free agency.
Rivers was able to add two key acquisitions in Spencer Hawes and Jordan Farmar. While the offseason is not complete, especially for the Clippers who have roster spots to fill, their primary resources have been used. Barring a trade, there will be no other major acquisitions. Therefore, it's time to grade the team’s offseason.
Drafting C.J. Wilcox: C
I hate to start negatively, especially when discussing a fellow Pac-12 guy, but the C.J. Wilcox selection was a bit puzzling. Considering the other players on the board and the Los Angeles Clippers’ positions of need, Wilcox looked like a luxury pick who will have his work cut out for him to earn minutes at shooting guard.
Make no mistake, Doc Rivers wants shooters all over the floor, and Wilcox is one of the best in the draft. He does have good size at 6’5”, and he shot 38.9 percent from downtown for his career at the University of Washington.
The problem is that the Clippers drafted Reggie Bullock last season to be a three-and-D guy, acquired J.J. Redick and already have Jamal Crawford. That means Wilcox, at best, is the third shooting guard. Rivers could opt to play small with Wilcox at small forward for limited minutes, but that is a stretch.
The depth chart makes the selection a bit puzzling, unless Rivers is considering trading Crawford at some point this season.
Not Trading Jamal Crawford: B
Many wondered if the selection of C.J. Wilcox was a prelude to a deal sending Jamal Crawford out of town. While that did not happen, it still could. However, dealing him would have been a major blow to the Los Angeles Clippers, who have nobody to replicate his ability to create a shot.
Crawford was an integral part of the Clippers’ success last season. He used the second-most possessions on the team, behind Blake Griffin. While Crawford was able to mesh playing with Chris Paul at times, there is no denying that Crawford is looking to score first, second and third.
Shot creation was something the team struggled with last season. Both Paul and J.J. Redick missed significant time, which allowed Crawford to prove his worth to Doc Rivers.
Furthermore, the team desperately needs someone who can create his own shot off the bench. While Rivers is enamored with spacing the floor, he still needs players who can capitalize on open driving lanes, which Crawford excels at.
While moving Crawford might have allowed Rivers to address the need for a legitimate starting small forward, his ability to break people down off the dribble and hit bailout shots would have been missed.
Signing Jordan Farmar: B
Darren Collison played a vital role last season as the reserve point guard. Once he opted out of his contract, it was only a matter of time before a team offered more than the Clippers could afford. Jordan Farmar signed the exact same contract Collison accepted last summer and will now have his opportunity to back up Paul.
Despite how well Collison was able to fill in for Paul after he separated his shoulder, Farmar looks to be an even better fit. He is a better shooter than Collison who flashed deep range on his jumper, knocking down 43.8 percent of his attempts from three last season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Farmar is also a very good athlete who is bigger and more physical than the frail Collison. This should allow Farmar to play off the ball next to Paul and Jamal Crawford. His athleticism will allow him to defend some shooting guards, while his shooting will keep the floor spaced.
The only concern is Farmar’s injury history. He missed nearly half of last season and only played in 35 games two seasons ago with the New Jersey Nets. The Clippers cannot afford for that to happen again, as the team needs a solid reserve behind Paul. Should he stay healthy, Farmar’s addition makes the Clippers more versatile and adds yet another good shooter on the perimeter.
Signing Spencer Hawes: B+
Landing Hawes for the full mid-level exception allowed Clippers fans to breathe a sigh of relief. The team has desperately needed a third big for years, especially one who can space the floor around Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Hawes is the perfect offensive complement to Griffin and Jordan, as evidenced by his career 36.1 percent mark from three. Furthermore, the last two seasons saw Hawes shoot over 40 percent from deep, including a scintillating 44.8 percent last season after joining the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Additionally, while Griffin is considered one of the better passing bigs in the league, Hawes is not far behind. His assist percentage of 16.9 with the Philadelphia 76ers last season would have put him 0.5 percent behind Jamal Crawford. Hawes’ ability to pass out of the high post will make him a difficult cover playing next to either of the Clippers’ star bigs.
Lastly, while his defense is below average, he is a good defensive rebounder, pulling down a higher percentage than Griffin last season. He also is a solid shot-blocker and has shown the willingness to be physical defensively.
If Doc Rivers can transform Hawes into a slightly above-average defender, this grade could turn into an easy A.
Final Grade: B
Overall, the Clippers addressed two glaring needs: a backup point guard and a legitimate third big who can play next to DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. While they dabbled in attempting to trade for Paul Pierce and other small forwards, they were unable to field a viable package.
Draft night was uninspiring, despite C.J. Wilcox’s penchant for being a lethal shooter. It remains to be seen how often he will see the floor this year, considering he is already behind J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford. Still, Wilcox fits into Rivers’ system as a deadly shooter.
Unfortunately, the happenings outside the Los Angeles Clippers’ facilities this offseason may have overshadowed the movement and signings within. The Clippers look as strong this season as last, if not more so.
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