The Los Angeles Clippers' bright future lies in the hands of two effulgent youngsters, Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon, but the killer G's can't do it alone.
LA's front office, led by Neil Olshey, is trying to craft a contender, and one of the current question marks is the position of center.
After an All-Star campaign in 2009-10, Chris Kaman appeared to be the answer. However, due to injuries, defensive deficiencies, incompatibility with Blake, the emergence of DeAndre Jordan, and contract status, it is now clear that Kaman does not figure into the Clips' future.
Kaman has a $12 million contract that expires after next season, so he is definitely tradeable in the near future. It remains to be seen how much the Clippers can get for him, and whether they will be able to trade him this summer, but the franchise should not worry too much about the Kaman situation as it proceeds with offseason acquisitions.
There are actually a lot of decent centers available, but you're not going to build a contender from the Sam Dalemberts and Joel Przybillas of the world.
The Clippers should not settle for guys that make announcers say, "He'll work hard for you, battle underneath, and won't back down from anybody."
They don't need someone who's "got six fouls and isn't afraid to use them."
Instead, the Clips should focus on the several game-changing centers on the market, and with boatloads of cap space (pending a new CBA), they should be able to obtain one.
Here are the players the Clippers should target in order to create a formidable frontcourt alongside Blake.
If your first thought was, "Why look for another center? DeAndre Jordan is young and promising!" then know this: he's a restricted free agent.
Remember, the Clippers finished the year 32-50, not exactly a stellar season, so they should not immediately try to re-sign Jordan without looking elsewhere.
That said, Jordan is young and promising. He was the Clippers defensive anchor, averaged almost 2 blocks per game, rebounded well, and displayed a raw but expanding offensive game.
Only 22 years old, he could yet develop into a force in the league.
Furthermore, who knows if DeAndre will even receive a big offer from elsewhere? LA might be able to keep him with little effort or financial sacrifice.
What's Olshey's opinion on sports betting?
Because signing Yao would be quite the gamble.
The mammoth from China has missed almost all of the last two years with severe foot problems, and no one knows for certain whether he'll ever regain his former effectiveness, or even if he'll be able to stay on the court.
Moreover, Yao has recently expressed his desire to stay with the Houston Rockets if possible.
But if the Clippers could somehow score Yao for an attractive price, then the potential reward might outweigh the risk. If the eight time All-Star with career averages of 19 and 9 recovers even 75 percent of his former ability, then he would still be one of the best centers in the league.
Since the Clippers seem to be headed down a young and athletic route, Yao might not make the most sense right now, but his availability does make you think.
Marc Gasol is a restricted free agent, and he is expected to command a lot of attention from other squads this summer.
Pau's little brother is no longer merely the trade throw-in of 2008. He is now a legitimate NBA starting center.
While he doesn't quite have the offensive repertoire of his brother, he is the clear winner in sheer size, an attribute he constantly uses to his advantage.
Couldn't you see Marc coming to LA's other team, hanging out with his bro, and then being part of the Clippers' rise to SoCal ascendancy?
After being drafted second overall in 2001, Tyson Chandler's career has been rather rocky, and he has failed to live up to the lofty expectations.
However, the 28-year-old has flourished this season on the Dallas Mavericks, revitalizing a lackadaisical defensive team and infusing them with toughness.
While his statistics - 10.1 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks - are hardly mind-boggling, Chandler finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting, confirming how well he has played and how important he is to the Mavs.
Chandler is originally from Los Angeles, where he attended Compton Dominguez High School.
He might want to return home and help lead the Clippers' resurgence. He would be a fantastic edition to the team from an intensity and defense standpoint.
Nene has an Early Termination Option on his contract, so he could become a free agent if he so desires.
He is set to make $11.6 million next year, and the Denver Nuggets are having fun on the court, so I doubt he'll take the option. In fact, leaving that money on the table, especially as the NBA reinvents itself financially, would probably be a terrible decision.
However, a free agent Nene would be quite an appealing addition. He is an extremely athletic big man in his prime, a great finisher around the basket and a willing defender.
Nene and Blake would form one of the most explosive combos in the game, regularly serving up facials to helpless opponents.