It's almost become a story of good vs. evil.
A cruel tyrant (Donald Sterling) has ruled the innocent citizens of Clipper Nation for 30 years, denying his people happiness with miserly financial policies and turning his dominion into the laughingstock of the NBA.
The Los Angeles Clippers are the most inept franchise in league history, having only seen the postseason six times, and most people believe they will never find success until Sterling is deposed.
However, out of darkness comes light... or something like that. Clipper Nation finally has a knight in shining armor who may just be able to rescue his brethren and make their dictator turn benevolent.
Blake Griffin symbolizes hope for a better future. But he can't do it alone. He has found a trusty sidekick in Eric Gordon, but they need to build an army.
Although the Clips have had many issues over the years, the position of small forward has forever been a weak spot. The recent signings of Rasual Butler and Ryan Gomes did not quite work out.
Maybe this offseason they can finally get it right. There is a solid crop of SFs hitting the market, and the Clippers should be able to score at least one.
Here's a list of the guys they should target, from least to most desirable.
I know what you might be thinking. MIKE DUNLEAVY?! Really?! Isn't he an epic bust? Why would any team want to sign him? I thought the same thing initially, but listen up.
Dunleavy can shoot the rock; this season he is knocking down 41 percent of his 3-point attempts. With all the attention defenses have to pay Griffin and Gordon, the Clippers need players who can space the floor. Furthermore, he's a better rebounder than he gets credits for. True, he never justified his draft position of No. 3 overall, but he isn't a scrub.
Dunleavy does not play any semblance of defense. It's doubtful the Clippers want to rely on such a one-dimensional player. While Dunleavy might fit the role of sharpshooter off the bench, he's probably not a starter on a contender. Additionally, who knows if Dunleavy would feel uncomfortable joining the franchise that recently drove out his father.
If other options fall through, Dunleavy wouldn't be the end of the world. But he should not be the focus of LA's efforts.
Once upon a time, Howard was a rising star for the Dallas Mavericks. In 2007-08, he averaged 20 points and seven rebounds, in addition to playing stellar defense. Howard was explosive and versatile, and he appeared to be a winner.
Unfortunately, injuries and personal issues have derailed Howard's recently—but it might not be too late for him to reclaim the magic. Due to the uncertainty surrounding him, Howard could be a financial bargain.
We have no idea what to expect from Howard. Will he ever recover from his injuries? Is he a nutcase? And aside from these questions, he was never a great three-point shooter.
Howard probably isn't worth the risk. This is not the time for the Clippers to take chances on a wild card like Howard. But if the price is really low...
Even in his old age, Hill has maintained a high level of play. His superstar days may be behind him, but he is still a solid rotation member. He has not lost his sweet midrange jumper, tireless work ethic or outstanding basketball IQ, and he commits to defense.
A consummate professional and standup human being, Hill could be a mentor and leader in the young Clipper locker room, demonstrating how to do things the right way.
Hill will be 39 at the start of next season, and who knows how much longer he can go. He stays in great shape, but Father Time sometimes hits you like a brick wall. What's more, he has limited range on his jumper, so he would not space the floor as well as some of these other guys.
I can't see Hill heading to LA, unless it's to the Lakers. He doesn't care about money, and he wants to win a ring before he retires.
When he's playing well, Kirilenko can stuff a stat sheet. He's one of the most versatile players in the league; he once even led the NBA in blocked shots, an unbelievable accomplishment for a small forward. AK-47 can do a little bit of everything and affect the game without the ball in his hands.
Kirilenko is an enigma. Even though he is a good all-around player, you sort of expect him to be better in various areas. For example, he could rebound better and score more. I'm not sure if that's him deferring to teammates or lacking assertiveness. Also, he's expressed unhappiness about living in America before, and he might want to return to Russia.
I wouldn't scoff at signing Kirilenko, but he shouldn't be a top priority.
The kid has crazy talent. Young is a precocious youngster with tremendous ability. Some people think that he even has the potential to be a perennial All-Star.
At 22 years old, he is the youngest player on this list, and he would smoothly join the Clippers' youth movement. He is still maturing as a person and player, but he has time to do it.
He's maddeningly inconsistent. Some games he's wonderful, while others he's nonexistent. Some people doubt his capacity to ever put it all together and become a full-time starter in the league.
Do the Clips want more youth? Or do they want a veteran with experience? Do they want a guy with huge potential? Or someone reliable? Answers to these questions will determine their interest in Young.
Battier seems like a beautiful fit for the Clippers' roster. He is a great defender and teammate, only concerned with winning and ready to do anything or play any role to facilitate success. Furthermore, he shoots over 38 percent from downtown, so he would be a long range threat.
Battier is not dynamic. He is very limited offensively and cannot create his own scoring opportunities. He might be a legitimate fifth starter on a really good team—like Bruce Bowen was for the Spurs—but he should not have any more responsibility than that. At 32 years of age, it might in fact be time for him come off the bench.
While not a sexy signing, Battier could be the right guy for the Clippers. He would not catapult them towards a title, but he could be a piece to the puzzle.
Positives - Back in the Pistons heyday, this swiss army knife could do it all. Get buckets, hit the glass, move the rock, defend dangerous scorers. Prince's contributions were not easily quantifiable, as he was that even-keel, steadying presence. He can be the ultimate glue guy on a championship team.
Negatives - Can he still do it? His stats say yes, but Detroit has been alternately overdramatic and anemic over the last several seasons. We have seen that Prince cannot lead a team to success, but is rather dependent on the other guys. And at age 31, he's probably on the downside of his career.
Conclusion - The Clippers do not need Prince to be a leader or go-to-guy, so he would fit nicely. Due to his age, he shouldn't be the top target, but signing Prince for the midlevel exception would not be a bad idea.
Positives - Green is young and talented. The 24-year-old ex-Georgetown Hoya can do a lot of things on both ends of the court. He can shoot the 3-ball, finish in transition, and defend the three or the four.
He is also completely willing to buy into a team concept, as evidenced by both his time with Oklahoma City and his attitude when traded to Boston. As a complementary player on the Clippers, Green could thrive.
Negatives - Green is a bit of a tweener. He doesn't quite have power forward size, but he lacks some small forward skills, like the ability to create his own shot.
Conclusion - Green is a restricted free agent, so the Celtics have the option of matching any offer. I don't know if the Clippers will be willing to pony up the money to pry him away, and they might be able to get similar value for a better price.
Positives - Chandler is an extremely versatile player, having also played shooting guard and power forward at times during his career. He is a phenomenal athlete who can help a team in a variety of ways. He doesn't need the ball in his hands to score, but he can create his own shot. Moreover, Chandler is only 23, and his game should keep expanding.
He has all the tools to be a great defender, such as long arms and quick feet, but his coaches so far (Mike D'Antoni and George Karl) have been offensive gurus for whom defense is an afterthought. Get him with a coach who prioritizes shutting down opponents, and I expect Chandler to flourish.
Negatives - Chandler can sometimes look disengaged on the court. He does not always assert himself or play with requisite intensity, which is a shame for someone possessing his talent. He's the type of guy that could either become an All-Star or someone about whom we say, "He should've been an All-Star."
Conclusion - Like Green, Chandler is a restricted free agent, so it's unlikely the Clippers make a hard push to obtain him.
Positives - The cream of the crop, Butler is the best small forward on the market. The two-time former All-Star boasts career averages of 17 points and 6 rebounds. He is a complete scorer - he can get to the rim and stroke jumpers, and he has a killer midrange game - and a fine rebounder.
Butler is also one of the NBA's tough guys, and it rubs off on his teammates. He does not back down from any challenge and plays with incredible intensity.
Negatives - Butler is a ball stopper. Not a ball hog, but someone who loves isolation on offense. Sometimes he can cause the offense to stagnate, an issue that the Knicks are now struggling with due to Carmelo. And we don't yet know how well he'll come back from knee surgery.
Conclusion - Even at 31, Butler will command the most money of any SF. Yet, if Sterling is willing to change his ways, Butler is definitely worth it. He would make the Clippers infinitely more dangerous and complete.