It's a real pleasure to see that the Clippers have some interesting storylines this morning. There's a lot to think about and analyze, and topics for discussion, even if no one in the media is going to bother to get around to it and they'd like to dismiss the Clippers as always. I've had a few topics banging around in my head since last night, on which I'd be curious to hear some other points of view, and I'd also love to see some other angles on where the Clippers find themselves today.
Before getting started, I should say that one primary topic is the media and pundit response (and non-response) to the Clipper moves and situation. Whenever a topic is raised, it's immediately interesting to see how the media has chosen to spin. This is generally a matter of a quick dismissal and moving on to other teams and Lebron and where he might go and the ability to bundle free agents (Miami, Chicago). No one is stopping to look at where the Clippers are now and wondering if free agents should give them serious consideration. Our view, of course, is that the Clips were worthy of serious consideration before the draft, and they look to be only more so now.
Let's begin with the Aminu pick. I like SP's point last night that we had half-convinced ourselves that he wouldn't be available, and then he was there, and then we were tempted to begin the process of thinking he might not be the right guy. We know I like to be optimistic, and I have to say that this pick looks better and better the more that I think about it. The main area of my own study is trying to determine the last time that the Clippers had a legitimate SF who was focused on rebounding and defense and running the floor. All of the intriguing picks who fell in behind Aminu (and we shouldn't forget that there was a moment when Aminu and Wes Johnson seemed like a toss-up), Hayward, Babbitt and George, present question marks on defense and rebounding. Yes, Hayward's all around game might be a nice addition, although he could be frustrated like Luke Jackson or a bit fragile like MDJr.. And Babbitt is a 50-40-90 shooter (against limited competition). But should we complain about erring on the side of defense and rebounding? Aminu seems to present a longterm complement to the 20 year old club (DJordan, Griffin, Gordon), which could evolve into a unit that is stingy on defense and rebounds extremely well. Do the Clippers want a shooter, scorer and playmaker, or some one who can feasibly guard and cause problems for players like Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Carmelo Anthony, as well as a Paul Pierce, Rudy Gay, etc. etc. Would the Clips have addressed that issue by taking one of the other guys? No. Is it bad to have a defensive role player and athlete available for the SF slot, when you have solid players at the other four positions? Look at the Lakers, with Ariza and now Artest.
What was the media response to the Aminu pick? ESPN coverage: curious, because he's the same guy as Blake Griffin. No, he's not. Griffin has always been a natural PF whose versatility might allow him to play the 3 and defend against the aforementioned beasts, LeBron, Carmelo and Durant. Aminu was always slated to be the opposite, a natural SF whose athleticism and length might allow him to defend well against stretch 4s like Lamar Odom, Rashard Lewis, and others. The ESPN guys forgot these facts. It was like people saying that it didn't make any sense for the Clippers to steal Camby from the Nuggets when they already had Kaman, when it was obvious that they were completely different players (only Kaman got hurt in 08-09). LATimes Mark Heisler, thinking the Clips should gamble on Hayward or Babbitt, said that "the Owner is involved again." But it certainly doesn't seem like this is a DTS decision, and instead it looks more like a safe, solid basketball decision, with the credit going to Olshey. Heisler's great, but he's gotten a lot of mileage out of the foibles of DTS. Simmons decided to play the "Aminu is now being fitted for a full body cast" card, his own version of "it's the Clippers." The poor boy is going to need more time to get over giving up that double-digit lead.
Next item: Are some of the other, lesser free agents more attractive and viable now that the Clips drafted Aminu? I say yes, starting with Joe Johnson. We're a long way from being able to call Aminu a defensive stopper, but having the guy with size, length, athleticism and a hunger for rebounds to come off the bench behind a wing scorer like Johnson makes for a much stronger rotation with Eric Gordon. The same is true for Rudy Gay, a guy the Clips might make a reasonable offer to, allowing Memphis to match. I'm very happy with Olshey today, and I'm willing to believe that he wouldn't overpay Rudy Gay, but there's no reason not to make him an offer of Lamar Odom money or thereabouts. Again, Hayward and Babbitt are lesser, unproven versions of the free agents, and they're not especially complementary.
Now we move on to Bledsoe. This was obviously a strong move. The Clips had poor luck in the past with 2nd round backup guards, with Chalmers, Ewing, and Mike Taylor. Then there's Keyon Dooling, but let's remember that Dooling was picked to be a starter at PG or SG, only he wasn't good enough to start at either position. Bledsoe has a much higher talent level and athleticism than the 2nd round guys, and he seems more skilled than Dooling.
One of the best things about the Bledsoe deal is the intricacy, forethought, and timing of it, which show that Olshey was extremely well-prepared and had a carefully selected target. It was a tricky combination of forces: Bledsoe had to still be on the board, there had to be a team that might draft him that wanted to trade their pick (OKC), and that pick had to be at exactly the right spot where the money wouldn't reduce the Clips ability to make a max offer. It obviously took KA and others a fair bit of time to figure out that the pick was "safe," but Olshey had it figured out beforehand. And he knew that OKC has Westbrook, Maynor, and Harden and wouldn't want Bledsoe, and they would be open to taking a protected 1st round pick.
Media response? Simmons couldn't resist the obvious joke: "when the Clippers offer you a first round pick, you have to take it." Funny "it's the Clippers" stuff, but not exactly aimed at NBA cognoscenti, who know how a protected pick works. And it should be noted that Simmons was salivating for Bledsoe as Rondo's backup on the Celtics just before OKC took him. He admitted it was a solid deal and that the Clips have the makings of a great guard rotation in BD-Gordon-Bledsoe.
Other ripples: the Clips could still sign Steve Blake, of course, depending on how the rest of free agency goes, and if they divvy up the money rather than putting it all in one pot. Laker fans were claiming Blake was already on their roster, until they heard that they probably weren't going to spend the MLE, stack their roster and increase their tax payment. The good news is that the new Lakers coach will cost a lot less money than the old one, so there's that.
Speaking of the Lakers, I was thinking about how this new roster matches up with the champs. DJordan-Bynum, Kaman-Gasol, BGriffin-Odom, Aminu-Artest, Kobe-Gordon, Fisher-BDavis, Bledsoe-Farmar (leaving). And the Clips have 17 million to spend on one or more players. With continued forethought and the effort that we saw last night, the Clips could really match up well. And it's not about beating the Lakers as much as it is about competing and matching up with them, which means that you're a competitive team in the West, capable of winning regularly and against anyone.
Could keep going--what else didn't the Clippers have: a guard who can shoot and score who played great with their future star back in college. Now they've added that guy. It's a nice change on the 2nd round stuff referenced earlier, similar to the Mike Taylor experience. But maybe it's the kind of thing that actually works, if Blake Griffin turns out to be the Clipper messiah.
The other, final, funny thing, mentioned by others, is that if you add Sofo the Clippers have a complete team. It's rather amazing how many spots were filled, when there were so many empty holes going into yesterday. And the marginal fills (Sofo, Warren, Aminu as a starter) are placeholders moving towards the next step.
As I said at the beginning, the Clips were legit and attractive going into yesterday. How much more so, and how much better does their money look now?