***UPDATE*** The Clippers have pulled off a three team trade with the Suns & Bucks. The Clippers will send Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler to Phoenix, the Bucks receive two 2nd round picks, while the Clippers receive JJ Reddick and Jared Dudley.
With the off-season officially here, its time to take a look at our local teams and which directions each of them could (or possibly even SHOULD) go, going into the 2014 season. Both the Clippers and Lakers had high expectations headed into this past season, only to be sent home packing in the first round. Both teams have holes to fill, both teams have a big name player who is on the market as a free agent.
Lets start with the Clippers who for the better part of a week were mired in on again/off-again rumors of their acquisition of Boston Celtics head coach, Doc Rivers. The deal was finalized this past week and now the Clippers officially have the best coach in franchise history (not including Larry Brown of course). And for the first time ever, dare I say the Clippers have the best coach (Rivers) AND the best player (Chris Paul) in Los Angeles.
With the acquisition of Rivers and CP3 officially back in the fold the Clippers will be on par with the best teams in the Western Conference again this season. But despite the Clippers' wealth of talent, they still managed to take a step back in the post-season this year, losing in the first round of the playoffs to a team that they defeated in the same stanza last year in the Memphis Grizzlies. So what does a team that is already deep and already talented need? The change in philosophy the Doc Rivers brings will definitely help.
Rivers brings a tough, defensive minded style of play that the Clippers haven't had since the days of Mike Dunleavy (sooo long ago I know). Drafting Reggie Bullock out of North Carolina gives them another wing player who can stretch the floor, make hussle plays and play quality perimeter defense that was greatly lacking at times last season. In other words...so long Matt Barnes.
The good news is that even after signing Paul to a max contract, the Clippers will still have enough cap room to use the full mid-level exception that they can give any free agent (thats a 5 year contract worth about $30 million). Here's a short list of players who the Clippers could pursue (a few in which they have already have begun pursuit) to either give that full-midlevel or at least a portion of it to:
Pros: Would provide the Clippers with another backcourt scoring option
Cons: Volume shooter;Extremely similar to Jamal Crawford
Pros: Tough, defensive minded guard who played for Doc Rivers in Boston and would set the tone for the Clippers defense on the perimeter
Cons: Limited as an offensive player and does not stretch the floor as a shooter – something the Clippers DESPERATELY need.
Pros: Deadly 3 point shooter and excellent overall scorer when given enough minutes/opportunities
Cons: Plays little, if any, defense
Pros: Streaky scorer who can get hot at a moments notice
Cons: Umm, how much time do you have?
Pros: Former Clipper who is a better than average spot up shooter and can create off the dribble
Cons: Shot selection and on-court focus can be questionable at times
Pros: Comes back home in a reserve role; still an effective mid-range shooter, hussle player and shot blocker
Cons: Have a hard time believing Donald Sterling would be able to forgive him for spurning the Clippers in the 11th hour during free agency a few years ago
Pros: Plays hard every night and never gets out-hussled; a Doc Rivers type of player
Cons: A bit undersized for the power forward position and limited offensively
Pros: Solid mid-range shooter and post defender despite his size
Cons: Few, if any, considering what his role on the Clippers would be
The free agency period is still in its infancy and it'll be interesting to see what direction the Clippers take. Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford, Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe are the only players currently on the roster. And Butler and Bledsoe have been on the trading block all off-season.
As for the OTHER team that plays in Staples Center...I'll talk about their free agency and off-season scenarios in another post next week. I'll promise you, itll be much shorter than this one. Who knows? By then, their most important off-season move may have already been made [Dwight Howard].