(I've had the last three fanposts...I hope nobody minds. It took me a while to get the horrid loss out of my head...tonight's game helped a lot).
Let’s play a game called pretend. Pretend we’re the Clippers GM (Mike...DSr.) and we’re responsible for putting together the best 2009-2010 Los Angeles Clippers on the floor. For the sake of simplicity, we don’t have to work out all the math, but at least try to keep it within the realm of plausibility…
Ok. Me first.
Our 2008-2009 Los Angeles Clippers:
PG: Baron Davis
SG: Eric Gordon
SF: Al Thornton
PF: Zach Randolph
C: Chris Kaman
As GM, I’d make sure to resign both Steve Novak and Fred Jones and I will end up with the following bench players :
PG: Mike Taylor
SG: Fred Jones
SF: Mardy Collins
PF: Steve Novak
C: Marcus Camby, DeAndre Jordan
Removing "chemistry" from the equation, I think the Clippers (when healthy and inspired to play) have as potent a starting five as you can find anywhere in the league and I would like to keep everyone together for now. I know Kaman has fallen out of favor with a lot of us. His negative comments (whining) about the team early in the season PO’d me as much as it did any of you. But despite his rust, he is a warrior under the basket. He defends the pick and roll, blocks shots, rebounds, and averages double-digits in points. Plus, he’s a fairly talented passer. Camby, as hard a worker as he is, is substandard in defending the pick and roll and is too light to bang under the basket as effectively as Kaman. I would have a difficult time finding another center with his level of skill and relatively cheap salary. Centers with length and athleticism (DJ) are easier to find than a center that knows how to play the position (Kaman). Next, Bdavis’ talent is all-NBA, despite what he’s shown us this season. Besides, I think his level of success (failure may be the better term) was likely due to the passes he DID NOT CHOOSE TO MAKE early in the season. Tonight, however, he made that extra pass to an open teammate to win the game. If he trusts his teammates more, maybe he’ll just learn to enjoy the game again…then the rest of the league needs to watch out.
Then I would waive Alex Acker. (Nothing against the guy, but I need the roster spots to do what I need to do. ) Brian Skinner and Ricky Davis both have player options that they can pick up (which they likely will because there may not be too many teams interested in their services). As GM, I’d try to trade both their expiring contracts for cash considerations and a conditional second round draft pick ala NY and Denver.
That being done, the Clips will have room for a total of 4 other players on the team, though they will likely settle for a max of 14 in order to: 1) save money and 2) allow them to pick up players during the season in the event of injuries (knock on wood).
I’ll shoot for 3…players that is. We all have the following choices to make: Talent vs Character & Work Ethic; Youth (Draft) vs Experience (Trades/Free Agency). The Clippers will likely get either the 3rd or 4th pick with our luck. First off the board via consensus is Griffin. #2 is more of a toss-up, but the pick getting the most buzz after Griffin is currently Ricky Rubio. As GM, I’m intrigued by the following players: James Harden from Arizona State (he reminds me of a mix between Paul Pierce and Brandon Roy, not to insult either All-Star), Greg Monroe (this guy looks like he can become a monster PF) and to a slightly lesser degree, DeRozan and Brandon Jennings.
If I get the third pick, I’d like go after Monroe. The reason being we don’t have a solid reliever for the Power Forward position. Zach will start, primarily because he is one of a few 20/10 players in the league. Greg will come right along though and will very shortly become a force off the bench. Besides, a combination of Greg and DJ will just absolutely gobble up all the rebounds available and promise lots of block parties to come.
Otherwise, I’d likely go after Harden. He just has a great feel for the game and I can see him contributing immediately and even challenging Al Thornton for the SF position. There’s more than enough room for both to coexist though—because he handles the ball very well, he and EJ could switch off between PG and SG as well. DeRozan is a talent who could also play both SG and SF position. He can defend, but doesn't have the same bball IQ and handle as Harden.
If I could trade Camby to get both of the above, I’d do it in a heartbeat. But out of gratitude for what he’s done, I’d try to trade him to a championship caliber team like the Lakers (so that his kids can stay in their new schools…you gotta consider the kids, guys...that way we’ll have good karma…!)
Finally, I’d fill the 14th roster spot with none other that Shaun Livingston…currently of the Tulsa 66ers. I know that Rubio is good. I know that Jennings is good. However, Livingston’s talent is all NBA if healthy. He is tall and skilled enough to be a passing SF if need be. Anyway, we have a lot of players that can play point guard (between BD, MT, EJ, Fred & Mardy). With that flexibility, I’d risk the 14th roster spot on Shaun because the risk is minimal compared to the potential rewards. If he’s not healthy enough to play, it’s fine: I can only suit up 12 players per game anyway.
Oh, and I’d fire the coach and hire Flip Saunders. LOL.
ADDENDUM: The Clips' second round pick would be the THIRD player added, rounding out the roster to the 14 I had intended to have (thanks CS). Historically, talent is not as widely available in the second round and I wouldn't waste time looking for potential. I'd look for proven character guys/glue guys in the mold of Shane Battier and, interestingly enough, DeAndre Jordan. All locker rooms need folks with positive attitudes or "the glass is half-full" type of guys. Players that have good work ethic and push other players in practice. Who knows? Maybe we'll get lucky and they'll develop into a rotation player.