Summer agenda: L.A. Clippers
The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a 20-year executive with the Nets, offers his thoughts on the offseason plans of NBA teams whose seasons have ended.
THE PLAN GOING FORWARD
Stay the course
The easiest thing for the Clippers to do would be to hit the reset button, move All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin for a bevy of draft picks and some rotational players. The problem is that trading either player would not return the same value that both would produce on the court. Plus, teams are hesitant to take on players with one year left on their deals, which is the case with Griffin and Paul.
Golden State and San Antonio are built for the future, and Portland, Denver and Utah have strong, young nuclei, so the Clippers would be stuck in rebuilding mode in a difficult conference. Starting over would set the Clippers way back if the proper plan is not in place.
The best plan for the Clippers is to retain the core of Paul, Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick and keep striving to improve.
The Bird rights dilemma
The Clippers have an advantage this summer with free agents Jeff Green and Jamal Crawford. With Los Angeles over the salary cap, both players can be signed using Bird rights in which the team can exceed the cap.
The challenge for Los Angeles is to find a comfort level in salary for either player. The scenario the Clippers must avoid: overpaying both players, having Paul and Griffin leave next summer, and then being hamstrung with two bulky contracts during a rebuild.
But if both players sign elsewhere, the Clippers would have limited resources to replace them, and Los Angeles doesn’t have any developed draft picks on the roster to replace them.
The rotating door known as the Clippers’ bench will continue this summer with the likelihood of eight free agents hitting the open market.
Teams built with three max contracts must have success with their tax mid-level and draft picks to have some stability with reserves. The alternative is to depend on one-year minimum players like the Clippers have.
That’s why this June’s draft is so important.
Invest in a D-league team
The Clippers are one of the few teams that do not have an NBA Development League affiliate.
Although the D-League does not operate like a baseball minor league in which NBA franchises own the rights of the players on their affiliates, there are still plenty of advantages to having a team.
The biggest advantages are player development and the ability to implement the offensive and defensive principles of the NBA club. D-League teams also help replenish aging rosters with youth.
The Clippers have plenty of holes to fill, but how to fill them is the biggest challenge.
With the Clippers having two picks in the Nos. 25-33 range, they can start by addressing some of their needs in the draft. Rotation players such as Miami’s Josh Richardson and Toronto’s Norman Powell can be found with later picks.
After the bench, the team’s most glaring need is an athletic wing. However, unless the Clippers are willing to sacrifice one of their prized assets (Griffin, Paul or Jordan), Los Angeles will find the market bare once again.
SUMMER CAP BREAKDOWN
1. Chris Paul
2. DeAndre Jordan
3. Blake Griffin
4. J.J. Redick
Eligible for extension/trade bonus
5. Paul Pierce
6. Austin Rivers
7. C.J. Wilcox
8. Wes Johnson
9. Cole Aldrich
10. Branden Dawson
FA cap holds
11. Jeff Green
Full Bird rights
12. Jamal Crawford
Full Bird rights
13. Pablo Prigioni
14. Luc Richard Moute
15. Glen Davis
16. Hedo Turkoglu
17. Ekpe Udoh
18. Jeff Ayres
19. Own at No. 25
Carlos Delfino, $650,000
Jordan Farmar, $510,922
Miroslav Radujica, $252,043
FA cap holds
None ($24,128,325 over)
PROJECTED CAP SPACE
With $82 million in guaranteed contracts and with large cap holds on key free agents, the Clippers currently have no cap space.
The best-case scenario for Los Angeles would be to have $9.5 million in room. But in order to create the space the Clippers would have to renounce free agents Jeff Green and Jamal Crawford, and hope that Austin Rivers, Cole Aldrich and Wesley Johnson opt out of their contracts. Room could also be created if Paul Pierce retires, but the Clippers would still only have $12 million in cap space plus minimum salaries to address their roster issues.
Even if room is created, the Clippers will find themselves in the back of the pack in July.
JUNE DRAFT PICKS
First-round: Own pick.
Second round: Has Brooklyn’s pick.
2017: Own or to Toronto (pick Nos. 15-30).
2018: Own or to Toronto (pick Nos. 15-30) if no first in 2017.
2019: Own or to Toronto (pick Nos. 15-30) if no first in 2018. If first to Toronto in 2017, then 2019 first to Memphis (pick Nos. 15-30).
2020: Own or to Memphis (pick Nos. 15-30) if first to Toronto in 2018.
Key rights to: None
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