Best Backup Big Men Options for Los Angeles Clippers to Pursue

D.J. Foster@@fosterdjContributor IAugust 5, 2014

Jan 30, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Wizards center Emeka Okafor (50) celebrates scoring during the first quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers, for the most part, have solidified their frontcourt depth behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan this offseason.

Spencer Hawes should add solid floor spacing, passing and rebounding ability as the first big man off the bench for the Clippers. He'll also provide insurance, should Griffin or Jordan get in foul trouble or suffer injury, which could certainly come in handy at some point this season.

Even with the addition of Hawes, however, the Clippers could still use some additional depth. Glen Davis was brought back, and while he's a capable offensive player who can score around the rim and shoot from mid-range, he offers little help defensively due to his lack of length.

PLAYA VISTA, CA - JULY 10: Jordan Farmar #1, Doc Rivers, and Spencer Hawes #10 of the Los Angeles Clippers pose for a photo during a press conference on July 10, 2014 at the Los Angeles Clippers Training Facility in Playa Vista, California. NOTE TO USER:
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While there are certainly plenty of frontcourts that don't feature this level of talent, there's just too much pressure on Jordan to anchor the defense by himself. The Clippers could use a defensive-minded big man—aside from him—on the roster who can alter shots and defend pick-and-rolls. Ideally, that player could slot in at either the 4 or the 5.

As for now, though, it looks like the Clippers are leaning toward going with high-upside, big-name signings as opposed to focusing solely on need:

Clippers to work out back up Centers this week. Names that will come thru: Andray Blatche, Greg Oden, Andrew Bynum & Emeka Okafor

— Jorge Sedano (@SedanoESPN) August 5, 2014

When you're looking at a player that would realistically be your fourth- or fifth-best big man, it does make some sense to aim high and hope for the stars to align. There isn't a lot of risk involved in the signing of injury-prone players to a minimum contract.

If they aren't capable of contributing should injuries arrive, you can release them and look at the free-agent market or D-League for help at that juncture.

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 26:  Andrew Bynum #21 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during the game against the Atlanta Hawks at Quicken Loans Arena on December 26, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by dow
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

Basically, the Clippers are in a position to gamble thanks to the signing of Hawes. Head coach Doc Rivers certainly seems to prefer veteran players, so it makes sense that the group of Andray Blatche, Greg Oden, Andrew Bynum and Emeka Okafor would all be considered.

Here's Zach Harper of breaking down each player:

Bynum and Oden haven't been able to consistently be on the court for some time now. Oden's return to the NBA last season was a success in terms of him staying relatively healthy and being able to contribute a little to the Heat during the regular season, but he was never part of a regular rotation for Miami. Bynum couldn't be effective on the court with the Cavs and was eventually traded to Chicago and waived immediately. He caught on with the Pacers, but never added anything to their roster.

Okafor sat out all of last season with a neck injury, but was an effective interior defender with the Wizards two seasons ago. If he's healthy, he's a great center to have off the bench, but there are doubts about his short-term and long-term basketball health. Blatche has been the best of the bunch since he joined the Nets two years ago. He was a double figures scorer off the bench for the Nets the last two seasons but wouldn't add much in terms of defense. He'd still be the most sure thing of this lot.

Blatche is indeed the most realistic choice to actually play well next year, although there's a lot of overlap between he and Davis in terms of skills and production. Blatche is a better player than Davis at this point, but it's hard to say he fills a need.

Okafor would be the best option of the four if he's healthy, but he's a total question mark after missing all of last season with a neck injury. He's by far the best defender of the bunch, and he should have solid mobility once he gets his legs back under him. If he works out well and was willing to play for the minimum, he'd be the obvious choice.

Bynum has the highest ceiling of the bunch, but he also has the biggest bust potential. For what it's worth, here's what Bynum's agent, David Lee, told Marc Berman of the New York Post earlier this offseason:

The 7-foot Bynum may not be reuniting with Phil Jackson’s Knicks or any other team next season because he is seriously contemplating sitting out 2014-15 to undergo the Germany-based knee therapy called 'The Regenokine Program' that would require an extra long rehab, according to his agent David Lee. But he could be in play for the following season. ...

Bynum, the Jersey product who was a young stud center for two of Jackson’s Lakers title teams, would undergo the procedure as a means to extend his career.

'He would be looking at in a longer-term situation,' Lee said. 'He’s still a baby. If he went to college, he’d be coming off his rookie contract at age 26.'

Oden was in a similar situation with knee injuries after taking some time off, and his ability to get back on the floor last year with the Miami Heat was promising. Oden was a shell of himself in terms of what he could provide, but theoretically, he could alter shots and use his fouls off the bench against big men like Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan and others in the Western Conference.

A dark-horse candidate that's still available who doesn't have major injury issues is former Milwaukee Bucks big man Ekpe Udoh. Even though Udoh has struggled mightily to produce offensively in his first four seasons, he's a proven shot-blocker who can use his size and length to protect the rim.

That's definitely what the Clippers need next to guys like Griffin and Davis, who are short on length. Udoh is also a capable passer out of the high post, even though he struggles around the rim. While he's far from a complete player, Udoh is the most mobile defender off the bench and can cross-match the best of the available options.

So which way should the Clippers go? Working out multiple options and doing the due diligence in talking to medical experts would be wise. If Okafor's health checks out, he's the best combination of talent, fit and veteran experience.