After marinating on an eventful season following the Los Agneles Clippers elimination from the playoffs at the hand of the Oklahoma City Thunder
The Steve Ballmer era is here. With that said, a brand change should be in place. While the last three seasons for the Clippers have been successful, reaching heights the franchise had yet to reach in the seasons prior to 2011-12, there are too many things that remind the world of Donald Sterling and his era. And since the Clippers won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, a name change may be on task.
Will it/should it happen immediately? Probably not, but the further the franchise distances themselves from the Donald Sterling era of ineptness, the better for the future.
Hollywood Stars anyone?
Make a decision on Jamal Crawford
It’s hard to deny Jamal Crawford’s impact on the Clippers team. With injuries to Chris Paul and J.J. Redick throughout the regular season, Crawford’s offense helped keep the Clippers afloat. Unfortunately, impact is a two-way street.Defensively, Crawford was a sieve in the playoffs and his isolation-heavy play stifled the ball movement that made the Clippers the best offensive team in the league. The balance between the good and the bad was enough to raise the question of whether Los Angeles should continue to pay Crawford throughout his contract as the shooting guard is owed $5.45 million in 2013-14.
Fortunately, the Clippers, if they choose to, have the option to waive Crawford thanks to his contract being non-guaranteed. According to Spotrac, only $1.5 million of Crawford’s impending salary is owed, making the choose easier if the team chooses to release Jamal.
How important is Crawford’s offense to his team? Does the efficiency and lack of defensive efficiency matter? Considering there are better options on the market that bring a more balance attack to the Clips, Crawford’s tenure in LA could be coming to an end. Or the Sixth Man of the Year will return and continue doing Sixth Man of the Year things.
Find useful third big man
Byron Mullens wasn’t the answer. Antawn Jamison wasn’t the answer. Hedo Turkoglu wasn’t the answer. Ryan Hollins wasn’t the answer. Glen Davis wasn’t and isn’t the answer. Attempt after attempt, Doc Rivers wrongfully filled a hole that’s critical to playoff success across the NBA. But he now has the chance to right his wrongs as the crop of big men in free agency is littered with players that’d be the perfect big man on this roster. Money shouldn’t be an issue. The Clippers will have a mid-level exception (non-taxpayer or taxpayer depending on salary cap following the deal) this summer along with their bi-annual exception that allots the team $2.077 million on a two-year deal according to Larry Coon’s CBAFAQ.
But unlike last season, the Clippers should seek out a forward/center that’s defensive-minded unlike last seasons coup of player. Some names that come to mind? Emeka Okafor. Elton Brand. Kenyon Martin. Epke Udoh. Marcus Camby. If those players are unavailable–for whatever reasons–players such as Jordan Hill, Jason Smith, and Jeff Adrian also come to mind.
Decide what to do with draft pick
The Los Angeles Clippers are in a position where they can be flexible with their lone draft pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
One on end, young players aren’t what this roster needs at the moment. In their Western Conference semi-finals loss, there was no moment where you thought “the Clippers need to get younger” and that’s despite LA being the third oldest team in the NBA (Barnes, Granger, Turkoglu, Green, Crawford are all over thirty). The issue was the lack of quality talent on the roster amongst all the useless fluff. Combining the pick with a player could allow the team to acquire another veteran presence or ditch a less-than-favorable contract (*looks at Jared Dudley*).
At the same time, using the pick allows the Clippers to add a rotation piece for a fraction of the price you’d shell out for a non-veteran free agent. According to the CBA, the 28th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft would command a salary of $1.109 million. Looking back at the 28th pick through the last few drafts, Tiago Splitter, Wayne Ellington, Norris Cole, Greivis Vaquez, and Ian Mahinmi all being selected in the slot throughout the last few seasons, good scouting could land the Clippers a nice rotation for next season and furthermore.
Figure out the small forward position
Matt Barnes is a good player. Through the constant injuries, Barnes emerged from the small forward brigade as the top talent, the gap between himself and the next person relatively big. He defended, shot the ball, and rebounded well, playing his best season as a Clipper, but at 34, you have to wonder if Barnes would be best suited for a reserve role where he can bring energy to an extremely lacking group.
When looking for a possible starter, three things should be high on the Clippers list in regards to what the perspective guy is capable of: 1) shooting the three, 2) perimeter defense, 3) ball-handling abilities. Due to cap reasons, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are off the list. Second-tier guys only apply if they’re willing to take a pay cut, but with each being relatively young (Deng, Parsons, Gay, Ariza) that’s unlikely as they’re set to cash in on deals that could range from $8 million and up. This leaves older, savvy veterans left: Paul Pierce, Shawn Marion, Andrei Kirilenko. Marion is a streaky shooter at this point in his career and Kirilenko has a player option, leaving Pierce on the table as the best option.
Pierce makes the most sense. Not only because of his connections with Doc Rivers and Los Angeles (born in Inglewood), but because of his all-around game. Age has crept up on the small forward, that evident in the NBA Playoffs, but playing the fourth banana on the best offense in the NBA could allow Pierce to focus more on defense rather than him attempting to shoulder a load.
How the Clippers feel about Matt Barnes could determine which moves are made in the off-season.
Fill reserve point guard position
Darren Collison is likely gone, and after watching him man the reserve role that Eric Bledsoe once held, it’s fair to say that the Clippers don’t need a marquee talent behind Chris Paul. And unlike Collison, they don’t need a player whose best attribute is scoring, especially if the organization plans on keeping Jamal Crawford. Defense and play-making should be the two attributes the front office looks for in a player, rather the search means the guy is an upcoming free agent or draft prospect.
One free agent name that comes to mind? Shaun Livingston. It’s unclear if the Clippers will be able to afford him, but he’s the ideal guy for the job. He’s a versatile defender, solid rebounder and playmaker, though his arsenal lacks a three-pointer, but in a versatile offense, that can be worked around. A draft prospect who comes to mind is Elfrid Payton of Louisiana-Lafayette, but several scouts and reporters have Payton climbing draft boards across the league, even being linked to the Sacramento Kings who hold the eighth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, making it difficult to assume he makes it to the 28th pick. But if he does, he’d be the perfect reserve.
Seek potential replacement for Alvin Gentry or Tyronn Lue
There are no guarantees, but with the market moving fast on head coaches, there’s a chance one of the two mentioned assistant head coaches in Alvin Gentry and Tyronn Lue could be elsewhere by the beginning of next season. Both assistants are set to interview with the Cleveland Cavaliers for a second time and the Los Angeles Lakers position remains a possibility for Gentry and in the off chance that both assistants are hired, Doc Rivers will have to look int the well for replacements.
While there’s little chance this happens, a dream replacement duo would be Rasheed Wallace and Mike D’Antoni. Both are coaching free agents after dismissals from their respective teams and they’d step into Lue and Gentry’s roles perfectly. With Gentry out, D’Antoni could come in an construct his point guard-favored offense around the best point guard since Magic Johnson, making the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin combo deadlier than last years version while Wallace could step into a role similar to Lue’s where Rivers was grooming Lue for the future. Based on his work in Detroit, if the league is willing to give him a chance–hopefully he doesn’t end up like Patrick Ewing–Wallace could one day be an excellent coach and under Rivers’ tutelage, that process could be sped up.
Begin extensions talk with DeAndre Jordan
The DeAndre Jordan hype machine was an interesting point of concentration and conversation last season. Through his career season, Jordan was an All-Star, Bill Russell, Defensive Player of the Year, and All-NBA Defense according to Doc Rivers, the media, and fans constantly lost themselves in Jordan’s rampant growth.
Now it’s time for the Clippers to reward Jordan for growth because the later it happens, the higher the price will be driven up. It’s hard to project Jordan’s true value, but based on the effective center in today’s NBA–can protect the rim and rebound–there’s no way the starting price will be anything below $13 million dollars, especially considering DAJ is set to make $11.4 million this upcoming season. Obviously Jordan isn’t in the Dwight Howard or Chris Bosh tier of player as each is expected to earn $20 million next season, but following those two the lines a bit blurred. Is he as good as Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah, Brook Lopez (minus injury) and Al Horford (same rule w/ Lopez applies here)? No, but those four salaries range from $15 million (Marc) to $12 million (Horford).
It will be interesting to see how the Clippers set up a pay day for their supposed center of the future, especially considering he’s about to enter prime years for a center.