December 15, 2011
The long relatively short national nightmare is finally behind us, provided further unforeseen circumstances do not arise. The four-player deal shifts the two teams' depth charts dramatically and sets up more transactions yet to come. Let's dive in:
Los Angeles Clippers
PG: Chris Paul, Mo Williams, Eric Bledsoe
SG: Chauncey Billups, Randy Foye, Travis Leslie
SF: Caron Butler, Ryan Gomes
PF: Blake Griffin, Trey Thompkins, Brian Cook
C: DeAndre Jordan
We'll pencil in Billups at shooting guard for now, but it looks and feels strange and is not a sure bet to last. What helps it work in theory is that Paul (elite defender) and Caron (plus-defender) would serve to limit Billups' exposure on the defensive end in most matchups. But the team now has too many point guards and a serious lack of depth at forward and center, so further roster adjustments are forthcoming. One scenario to deal with shooting guard: Williams leaves via the amnesty clause and an offer is presented to one of the remaining starting shooting guards on the market. Wednesday's signings whittled those choices to Nick Young and Arron Afflalo, both restricted free agents, but neither one of those players is a poor option. Until we know how things are going to play out, it's hard to get too comfortable with any member of the Clippers' backcourt beyond Paul.
You can't feel anything but good about Butler, Griffin, and Jordan with Paul on board. Butler's current ADP is 123, but this moves him much closer to the top 100 and it's only health concerns that temper much more optimism. Griffin will be fantastic outside of FT%, as we were already assuming (16.9 ADP) - the trade allows for a bit more optimism when it comes to FG% and turnovers, so we should see that ADP creep even closer to Rd1. Can Jordan actually raise his FG%? He shot 69% last season without Paul. With Kaman officially out of the way, I'm moving Jordan into the range of Andrew Bogut, JaVale McGee, and Andrew Bynum, which means roughly Rd6. Think boards and blocks galore, zero-ish turnovers, and a freak-show pairing of percentages (career 65% FG, 41% FT). The Clippers have some cap room to play with and will address their short bench in the coming days, and we'll have to wait and see if the team makes more changes at the guard spots.
First reaction: that's not so bad for a starting five. Gordon and Kaman are the offensive keys, Ariza and Okafor provide the defense, and Jack is solid at the helm. Gordon has to be bummed about the move, but count on his taking advantage of some serious usage as the Hornets' best offensive player by a reasonable margin (sound familiar?). I've got Gordon just behind Kobe now [comparison] and at the edge of the top 20, and if not for Gordon's health concerns I would likely push him further up the ranks. Count on the usual solid-but-unspectacular line from Jack, which means he's a solid target once the PG ranks start to thin in the Rd8-9 range - in 210 career starts, he's averaged 13 points, 47% FG, 87% FT, 0.9 threes, 5 assists, 2.3 turnovers, and 1.1 steals in 33 minutes. Ariza is still Ariza - there's no real reason to expect any upward movement on his 40-percent shooting or any drop-off in steals.
Kaman is in a good spot to succeed as the Hornets' second option and is just one season removed from 18.5 points, 9.3 boards, and 1.2 steals per game (and a whopping 2.9 turnovers). Kaman's offense is a good complement to Okafor's in that he likes the mid-range game, while Okafor is all at the rim. And that also means that Okafor will still have plenty of opportunities for those offensive boards, so don't adjust his rank. This assumes Kaman isn't going anywhere (else), and that's another bet I wouldn't make. The owner-less Hornets certainly love Kaman's expiring $12.7M contract, but the question is whether they value it as cap room in the off-season or will try to flip it for assets in the near-future. The team certainly remains desperately thin, so in any case they need to add a number of players to their ranks in fairly short order, namely as backups to Jack and their bigs.