Los Angeles Clippers: The Team Is Good Now, Here's What's Needed to Become Great
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The Clippers and offseason typically meant, well, off-season. There was a time then the Clippers didn't pursue free agents. Actually, it's more fair to say that free agents didn't pursue them!
It's amazing what a dash of Blake Griffin can do.
Instead of spending the offseason coming up with a marketing campaign to sell the good people of Los Angeles on the potential of the team or highlighting all the other teams in the Association you can come watch play the Clippers, the team actually had an "on" offseason. In case you missed it, here is a quick recap.
- Friday 12/9 - Caron Butler signs as a free agent.
- Monday 12/12 - DeAndre Jordan signed after matching offer sheet from Golden State
- Monday 12/12 - Chauncey Billups claimed off amnesty waiver wire
- Wednesday 12/14 - Chris Paul aquired via trade
In the span of just six days, the team picked up a small forward in Butler to fill their most pressing need, secured the center of the present and future in Jordan, claimed a former All-Star, future Hall of Famer and filled their second most pressing need for a veteran to lead the team in Billups.
Then, of course, they picked up a pretty good point guard in Paul.
If you consider what they gave up against what they got in return, this may go down as one of the best offseasons in the history of any team, ever.
- Al-Farouq Aminu for Butler
- Kaman for Jordan
- 1st round pick for Billups
- Eric Gordon for Paul
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Now, please understand I'm not saying these were one-for-one trades. I understand that AFA, Kaman, the pick and Gordon were swapped for Paul. I'm just trying to pair up what the team lost against what they gained in each of their moves. It's clear that they improved at every position.
Neil Olshey is the front-runner for Executive of the Year. Well, with an assist to David Stern.
All of the above made the Clippers good, which for them is a high watermark going into a season. Of course, in LA, good just isn't good enough. They have to keep wheeling and dealing to make the transition to great.
I'm not one to toot my own horn normally, but I have to mention the fact that I was the first to mention that the Clippers should pursue Paul and reach out to Billups. It's true, you can read about Paul here, and Billups here. What can I say, I'm a Clipper clairvoyant.
So, as I peer into my Clippers crystal ball today, I see a big man. Someone who can spell Jordan and Griffin. A banger who can be trusted to bring down the big rebound, swat away a shot or two and make the occasional dunk shot. I see a few options that might be willing to accept what the Clippers have left to spend.
First, lets look at whats left in the pot. The team can use $3.8 million from the trade exception they just got in the Paul deal and a "mini mid-level exception" of $2.5 million. Punching those numbers into the crystal ball it pops out these names.
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Samuel Dalembert - 6'11", 250, 8.1ppg, 8.2rpg.
Looks good on the surface, but he made $13M last year. Doubt he will sign for the paltry amount the Clippers have to offer. Olshey made a point to say in the Paul press conference that with this good a team and in this good a city, its not unusual for players to want to join the fold even for less than they might make elsewhere.
Dalembert will be considered, will Dalembert consider the team?
Andrei Kirilenko - 6'9". 235, 11.7ppg, 5.1rpg.
Yeah, I get that he is more of a small forward and couldn't really spell Jordan at the 1, but he is a defensive stopper who plays bigger than he is, so he makes the list. That being said, he also is accustomed to making more money than the Clippers would be able to offer. Last season, he cashed $17M. Might be too rich for the Clips, but still worth asking about.
Reggie Evans - 6'8" 245, 4.4ppg, 11.5rpg.
In Reggie Evans, you have an interesting possibility. He is the shortest of the four possibilities, but that rebounding average last year really sticks out. Yes, it only represents 30 games he played in last year, but remember, this season only goes to 66. His career averages of 7rpg at 19 mins per game would seem to be exactly what the Clippers need.
Considering he made $5M last season, he is a pretty attractive option.
D.J. Mbenga - 7'0" 255, 1.4ppg, 2.1rpg.
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A fan favorite when he was with the Lakers; picking up Mbenga wouldn't be a bad option for the Clippers, who secretly enjoy taking jabs at the team across the hall. He netted $854K last season, making him affordable, but he can really only play the center position.
Of course, the team might want to fill their need via trade (Mo Williams looks woefully out of place right now), but if not, these are the best options. Given that, and with the strength of my amazing track record at guessing the Clippers next moves, I say they pick up Evans.
He may not have the girth of Dalembert, the defensive prowess of Kirilenko or the cool name of Mbenga, but he fits. I'd offer him the mid-level exception which would leave them room to make additional deals. Why not bring him in along with Mbenga? Evans can spell Griffin and Mbenga can spot Jordan. Besides, his name is just so much fun to say. Mbenga!
Looks good to me, and given my track record, these deals are as good as done.
The Clippers clairvoyant has spoken.
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