The Clippers Do Nothing Three Year Plan

Despite a 1-6 start (heavily impacted by a difficult early season schedule that sees the Clippers play their first sub-.500 team this Friday in game 10), there are any number of things to be excited about in Clips Nation.  In particular, if you are a member of Club D(evelopment), the youngsters are developing quite nicely.  It puts Neil Olshey and the Clippers front office in an enviable position - one viable option is to do nothing for the next three years.

Now, I'm not advocating the do nothing strategy, and I'm exaggerating to some extent, because you still have to do SOMETHING, no matter how minor.  You have to exercise player options, and most importantly you have to re-sign key pieces.  But by simply doing those two things, we already have an idea of what the Clippers would look like three seasons from now, in 2013-2014.

 

This idea has been out there since the Clippers drafted Al-Farouq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe back in June.  With Aminu and Bledsoe joining Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers have a player under 23 at each position on the floor.  If that group pans out, it could form a starting lineup for a long time.  We've already seen that fivesome play together for a few minutes in this, the rookie season for three of them.  Considering how good they look now, the idea of moving forward a few seasons in time is indeed tantalizing.

It's a little simplistic, but I decided to chart it out for the next several seasons to see what it might actually look like.  Here's what I did.  Starting with the current roster, I let veterans' contracts expire, and re-signed Jordan, Gordon and Griffin when their contracts came up.  Of course the new contract amounts are total swags, especially considering that there must be a new labor agreement between the players and owners before any of them are signed, but at the very least I can assume that the money is there.  The new contract amounts below are, in each case, less than or equal to available money at the time.  Specifically, Jordan gets the money the Clippers currently have under the cap, Gordon gets a raise out of Chris Kaman's expiring contract, and Griffin gets his raise out of Baron Davis' expiring contract.  Doing this sort of projection is always frought, and it's easy to say 'keep everyone' and ignore issues like the luxury tax.  But at least through 2013-14, the Clippers can easily execute this plan without spending any more money than they already spend.

Here's how it looks:

Pos

2010-11

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

PG

Baron Davis
31, $13M

Baron Davis
32, $13.9M

Baron Davis
33, $14.75M

Eric Bledsoe
23, $2.6M

SG

Eric Gordon
21, $3M

Eric Gordon
22, $3.8M

Eric Gordon
23, $12M

Eric Gordon
24, $13M

SF

Ryan Gomes
28, $4M

Ryan Gomes
29, $4M

Ryan Gomes
30, $4M

Al-Farouq Aminu
23, $3.75M

PF

Blake Griffin
21, $5.35M

Blake Griffin
22, $5.7M

Blake Griffin
23, $7.2M

Blake Griffin
24, $15M

C

Chris Kaman
28, $11.8M

Chris Kaman
28, $12.7M

DeAndre Jordan
24, $5.5M

DeAndre Jordan
25, $6M

Depth

Eric Bledsoe
20, $1.5M

Eric Bledsoe
20, $1.6M

Eric Bledsoe
20, $1.7M

2011 pick

Depth

Al-Farouq Aminu
23, $3.75M

Al-Farouq Aminu
23, $3.75M

Al-Farouq Aminu
23, $3.75M

2012 MIN pick

Depth

DeAndre Jordan
24, $0.85M

DeAndre Jordan
24, $5M

2011 pick

2013 pick

Depth

Willie Warren
21, $0.5M

Willie Warren
21, $0.8M

Willie Warren
21, $1M

open

Depth

Randy Foye
27, $4.25M

Randy Foye
28, $4.25M

2012 MIN pick

open

Depth

Rasual Butler
31, $2.4M

2011 pick

open

open

Depth

Craig Smith
26, $2.3M

open

open

open

 

Again, the new contract amounts (in red) are guesses - they could be less, they could be more.  They're certainly not 'low ball' figures in my opinion, so this isn't a best case scenario.  I gave Jordan an Amir Johnson contract; I gave Gordon a little less than Durant's extension; I gave Griffin a little more than Durant's extension.

As you may have noticed, I didn't bother to put Brian Cook and Jarron Collins on the list.  I figure 13th and 14th men, making the league minimum, are interchangeable.

As I said before, all this plan does is allow veteran contracts to expire, while exercising options and signing extensions/new contracts with Jordan, Gordon and Griffin.  As veterans drop off the list, the young guys move into the starting lineup; first Jordan, then Bledsoe and Aminu.  It's certainly possible, perhaps even probable, that those guys will become starters before Davis and Ryan Gomes are gone, but that's neither here nor there; in the do nothing strategy, Davis and Gomes are on the team through 2013. 

Of the three re-signed players, Jordan may be the toughest call.  His contract comes up first (this summer), and his value will be the most debatable.  Young bigs with potential command a premium in the NBA, as evidenced by the Amir Johnson signing.  So don't expect to get Jordan locked up on the super-cheap.  If he plays well this season, it's a good news bad news situation.  He may prove he can start, but he'll also drive up his value and it will cost more to keep him.

With this simplistic approach we can envision a Clippers team three years from now with a starting lineup of talented players, still all 25 and younger.  That group would also have had three seasons playing together by that time.  The depth for the team, completely ignoring off season signings, trades, and even second round picks, would primarily come from three future first round picks.  The 2011 pick, sadly, is likely to be in the lottery still.  The 2012 Timberwolves pick could be a very valuable pick indeed, if David Kahn continues to oblige with inept leadership in Minnesota.  Hopefully, by the 2013 pick the team is out of the lottery, but still able to find a piece that can provide depth.

It gets much more complicated in the summer of 2014 when Aminu and Bledsoe will both be eligible for new contracts.  The best case scenario, that both of those guys turn out to be major stars, has the downside of requiring a major investment to keep the core together.  Suffice it to say that it's a little hard to imagine the Clippers with four starters making in the $10M+ range.  But it's all pretty straightforward for the next three seasons.

It goes without saying that lots of things can change, and that it won't work this way in real life.  Players could get hurt, they could not play as well as we hope, they could become disgruntled.  But assuming that the young guys continue to develop and manage to stay healthy, it puts Olshey and the Clippers in a terrific spot.  They can afford to be choosy about what deals they pursue.  Chris Kaman's contract will be expiring next season, and Baron Davis' the season after that.  Hopefully, if Kaman rediscovers his game and Baron regains his health, both of them have trade value to other teams above and beyond eventual cap relief.  So it's entirely possible that Kaman and/or Davis can be parlayed into something very valuable in the shorter term.  But if Olshey isn't wowed by a potential deal, he can pass - after all, he's got the 'do nothing' plan to fall back on.

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