Los Angeles Clippers: 6 Moves to Make Blake Griffin and Company Title Contenders
After years of devastation and disappointment, it seemed as if nothing could pull the Los Angeles Clippers out of the black hole it was sucked into for so long. However, that was until Blake Griffin burst onto the scene (after recovering from his knee surgery that is.)
While Clippers fans were cautiously optimistic about just how effective their potential young star would be, he did not disappoint. He posted stellar averages of 22.5 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 3.8 APG along with 214 dunks, each one more electrifying than the last. Those numbers have catapulted him to be the favorite for Rookie of the Year Award, along with high consideration for Comeback Player of the Year as well.
Griffin's play has been contagious this past season, getting the Clippers to be one of the most watched teams in the NBA. With an already young core of DeAndre Jordan, Eric Gordon, Eric Bledsoe, Mo Williams and some solid veteran players like Chris Kaman to complement the high-flying Griffin, they are poised to come out of the cellar and become a dangerous team.
However, they will need to make several moves to really contend for an NBA title as they are a young team, which could use more veteran leadership, depth, and lineup versatility which will make them a hard team to game plan for.
While the upcoming moves may surprise you, realize these are the moves I feel that they need to make to contend for an NBA title, regardless of what Donald Sterling is willing to spend. Also understand that the following moves are not ranked in order of importance of players they should go after, but instead comprise what I believe would make them the best team, within the structure of the current collective bargaining agreement and also assuming that there is no lockout next season.
Although, not all of the following players are big names they are all needed in order to maximize the Clippers chances of winning an NBA championship. The following combined youth, experience and talent would create one of the deepest most intriguing rosters in the NBA. Although not exactly, the hypothetical team follows Sam Presti's Oklahoma City Thunder model, which has become the gold standard of how to build a team correctly and take it to the top.
6. Trade Kaman, Aminu, and Foye to the Hawks for Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia
While this trade sounds one-sided since the Hawks would be giving up one of the most versatile forwards and best defenders in the game in Josh Smith, let's look at the trade from both sides before you judge.
As far as the Clippers side goes it's fairly obvious how this would benefit them, it gives them another young piece to add to their core who has playoff experience and would make the Clippers easily one of the most athletic young teams in the NBA with Griffin, Jordan and Smith all in one lineup. Getting Pachulia is useful for them as well, since he would help to replace Kaman, and is a scrappy, energy player off the bench which every good team needs.
As for the Hawks the trade makes a lot more sense than one might think. Getting Randy Foye gives them some insurance at guard, since Jamal Crawford's tremendous performance in the playoffs may net him a big contract elsewhere, which the Hawks may not be able to match, since a lot of their money is tied up in Joe Johnson's enormous $120 million contract.
Getting Al Farouq Aminu gives them a small forward tandem along with Marvin Williams, that has room to improve. Aminu will give the Hawks a player who they can develop, while they will rely more heavily on their veterans to carry the team. Obviously the biggest luxury would be allowing Al Horford to play his natural position at power forward, with Chris Kaman playing center, Johnson playing shooting guard and Crawford coming off the bench, if they can retain him to help out the scoring as well.
While the Hawks have been on a roll as of late in the playoffs, the team is using a "center by committee" system, which is bound to fail against the teams who have elite big men, who they get scoring support from (sorry Dwight Howard).
The only reason the Hawks are fairing so well in this series, is because the Magic have played as if Howard is all they have. Against teams in the later rounds who have gifted big men, along with scoring from their guards and forwards, the Hawks will wish they had a center of Kaman's caliber.
5. Sign Brian Scalabrine
Before you judge this signing, read the rest of the article.
Always a great locker room guy wherever he goes, Scals is known for stretching defense's with his three-point shooting ability, while also being a member of the 2008 Boston Celtics championship roster and really isn't known for much else.
Bottom line is every team has an end of the bench player, that only receives spot minutes when player's are injured, or just need rest. Why not make that player Scalabrine? His locker room presence and championship experience will be useful on a roster that's core is made up of young pieces, not to mention he is likely the most affordable guy on the market with a championship ring to his name.
He will become an instant fan favorite in Clipper land. I know you secretly love this move. Just wait until you see how well it meshes with the overall roster. It just makes sense, trust me on this one.
4. Sign Chuck Hayes
"The Chuckwagon" as he is affectionately known by Houston Rockets fans rounds out an intriguing front court with Griffin, Zaza, Smith and Jordan. Hayes is almost certain to go overlooked by many teams because he plays Center and stands at only 6'6".
With Tyson Chandler and Marc Gasol likely staying put, teams will focus on big bodies like Joel Przybilla, Jeff Foster, Samuel Dalembert and several other seven footers. My advice to the Clippers is let the opposition focus on those players, while you swoop in and swipe Hayes right out from under their noses.
With Yao Ming constantly plagued by injuries, Hayes stepped in admirably as the starting Center of the Rockets anchoring the middle with solid rebounding and defense. He finished the season averaging eight rebounds a game, and is an underrated passer as well averaging almost three assists per game. With the scoring taken care of by the likes of Griffin, Gordon, Williams and Smith, he is sure to bring toughness and hustle off the bench behind Jordan.
While losing Kaman's size down low will be tough, the aforementioned four frontcourt players, along with the elite defensive help of Josh Smith will be more than enough to compensate for the loss of Kaman. With the legs of an All-Pro running back, Hayes makes up for his lack of height, using his strength to gain solid defensive position and block the occasional shot. Not to mention that the positive of him being low to the ground is that he can jar the ball loose and pick up some steals, which is rare for a center.
If you think I'm crazy the Spurs are playing DeJuan Blair at center and that seems to be working out pretty well for them. Blair gets the recognition because he is a younger player on one of the NBA's top teams. Now it's "The Chuckwagon's" time to shine.
3. Sign Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
A player who prides himself on defense, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute deserves to be on a competitor. While Tayshaun Prince has been the popular pick as the forward the Clippers should pursue this offseason, Prince is older and will likely command more money since he is a championship caliber player.
Utilizing his wiry frame, Mbah a Moute will play a similar role off the bench similar to the role which Thabo Sefolosha plays as a starting shooting guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder. At only 24 years old, he can develop to become one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA, while also giving them some solid rebounding for a 6'8" player off the bench as well.
Mbah a Moute can play both forward positions, so he will be relied upon as a glue guy for the team and will contribute many times in the areas which do not show up in the box score. Although he is a young player, he will be a valuable one, since he has playoff experience which came with the Milwaukee Bucks as he played a crucial role during the "Fear the Deer" campaign in 2010.
The toughness and defense which he learned from Scott Skiles will fit in perfectly with this team, and will give them a player who has the quickness and length to guard both forward positions.
2. Sign Leandro Barbosa
"The Brazilian Blur" as he is appropriately nicknamed due to his lightning quickness, will join a cast of players as one of the oldest and well seasoned players on the team.
With infinite range, freaky length, and the ability to play both guard positions, he will be the final piece to a team that will get up and down the floor in a hurry.
Utilizing his speed and length on both ends of the floor, he will be able to slice to the hoop when he has to, and knock down the open jumper from distance when Gordon is on the bench as well.
Having Williams, Barbosa, Bledsoe, Gordon and Griffin's college teammate Willie Warren will give the team the ability to mix and match with Williams, Barbosa and Warren all having the ability to play at both guard positions.
With many waiting on Chris Paul and Deron Williams, Barbosa will likely slip through the cracks and would be a great fit with the young core of the Clippers giving them one of the deepest and most versatile teams in the league as they will be built to compete with any team who crosses their path.
1. Re-Sign DeAndre Jordan
Thanks largely to the help of his best friend Blake Griffin, Jordan has improved greatly and is poised to become one of the best upcoming shot blockers in the NBA. He hit the weight room, and has gotten even stronger than he was before Griffin came into the picture. With his new found strength and positive mindset he will pair with Griffin to patrol the paint for this new and improved Clippers squad.
Unfortunately for the Clippers it is not a guarantee that he will be back, since many teams have their eye on the 22-year-old gargantuan. However, they must do everything in their power to bring him back since he makes up the other half of one of the most formidable front courts in the NBA, albeit one of the youngest as well.
The fact that he is Blake Griffin's best friend should entice them even more to sign him to an extension, as the aforementioned players that the team should sign, would all come at an affordable price. Considering he is a restricted free agent, the Clippers will have the ability to match any offer made by another team, and they absolutely should.
If the Clippers are in fact able to bring him back, and they were to somehow make all of these moves they would continue to be one of the best teams to watch on the defensive end as well as the offensive end.
The Kaman trade saves them an extra $3 million to spend, and after all these moves are made the team has a total of 13 players on their roster, with two roster spots open for rookies, or players they may wish to sign over the course of the season. While the team will likely have used up all of their cap space, they would not have much to worry about with a solid young core and experienced players surrounding them, with some roster flexibility if a trade is needed down the road as well.
After years of feeling crestfallen with their beloved team, and having to watch Kobe Bryant and the other Los Angeles team be number one for so long, Clippers fans deserve this team. They have a budding superstar in Blake Griffin. Now it's time to surround him with the right pieces and make new memories that make the negative ones a thing of the past.