All this week John Raffo and I are discussing the 2014 Clippers position by position. Today it's the small forward spot.
Small forward was a problem position for the Clippers for years, especially during the Ryan Gomes experiment, but last year the Clippers had an interesting glut at SF- three decent players, none of them much better than the others. Caron Butler kept his starting job the entire season but split minutes almost dead evenly with Matt Barnes, while the old man, Grant Hill, played very, very sparingly after missing a large portion of the season with a knee injury. Now that Hill has retired, Barnes is a free agent, and Butler's expiring contract is involved in trade rumors, who will the Clippers roll out at SF next season?
He didn't do a lot as a Clipper, but he still had a few moments, and I'm sure his best work was done in the locker room around the younger players. He's had a good career, his body's catching up to him, and he's done for good, but I think Raffo alluded to wanting to say something about him earlier on.
I wish Grant Hill hadn't retired. I think Vinny bungled his usage, though I think Matt Barnes had a lot to do with that. But here's the problem for next year: Matt Barnes isn't signed and the Clips might not be able to afford him. I think the Clippers would also like to send out Caron Butler in a trade... with Hill's retirement, you can't really do that or you're likely to wind up with no small forwards (or no backup small forwards if you've taken one back in a trade). Did the Clipper front office speak with Hill before he retired? Did they say, "Can you just wait on this, until we replace the coach and figure out a bit more of our roster? Because you're an asset and we like you and etc..."
Caron Butler: 1 year remaining at 8 million
I had one big complaint against Butler early in the season- his shot selection. He took a lot of contested shots, some fallaways, and they seemed to come at the worst times. But I'll give him as much credit for fixing it as I did blame for doing it poorly- he cleaned up his looks as the season wore on. Besides a frigid January (under 32% 3pt), Caron shot over 37% from deep in every month of the season, doing his job as a third option/shooter in the Clippers' starting lineup. He plays solid, if slightly slow-footed, defense, but he doesn't bring a lot to the table otherwise, averaging only 3 boards and 1 assist a game last year. His contract is valuable because of it's size and expiring nature, and he's the logical player to package with Eric Bledsoe in a trade (the rumored Bledsoe/Butler for Afflalo swap, for example). It's a toss up whether or not he'll be back.
Butler's fine, but he's expensive for what he gives you. But with only a year left on his deal you can bring him back, use him as a bargaining chip now, or in February. And it's not a nightmare if he's your starter either.
DaJuan Summers: 1 non-guaranteed year remaining at about $950,000
Mr. Irrelevant. Not going to be in the rotation next year, but maybe he'll be in camp, maybe he'll get a roster spot, who knows, doesn't matter a whole lot.
Another guy I can't remember.
Clippers Free Agents:
OK FINE I WAS WRONG I WAS WRONG I WAS WRONG I WAS WRONG
And I can't believe that I just linked those stories...
The point is, the Clippers have to re-sign this guy. He was a decent shooter last year, which was better than most expected of him, but what he really brought to the table was everything else- Barnes' slashing and cutting ability opened up the offense, and he finishes excellently in transition. He also averaged 4.6 rebounds a game last season, and guarded players like LeBron James for the Clippers. It's tough to know how much of a market there will be for Barnes. He was excellent last season, so it's not unthinkable that a team would throw him their MLE to be a starter, but at the same time he's often left alone as a free agent (the Clippers added him as an afterthought last season on a minimum contract). I doubt the 1 million and change that the Clippers can offer with his FA rights will be enough, so they'll have to dip into their MLE to keep him. That's fine, because they can split the Mid-Level on him and another player, especially if they trade Butler.
I gleefully accept Lucas' apology. But I'm not at all sure how the Clippers are going to juggle the MLE. They need to sign Lamar Odom, they need another, better backup big, and a backup point guard (though that maybe Billups). Oh me oh my.
Free Agent Wishlist:
I'll stick Kyle Korver up here for DB, along with some names like Corey Brewer, Al-Farouq Aminu, Dorell Wright, and Wesley Johnson. Are any of these guys better than Matt Barnes? Maybe. But I don't know that any of them are better than him and inexpensive enough to leave part of the mid-level for another player.
Meh to all those guys. I don't see a guy I want on the FA list.
Who will the 2014 Clippers start at SF?
It's another tough one- will Butler be traded? If so, will Barnes get re-signed to start or will a new face be brought in? I'm going to say that right now Matt Barnes will be the starter.
Butler. Maybe. If he's gone in part of a trade, then player x.
Who will the 2014 Clippers bring off the bench at SF?
First, we'll have to see how the Clippers do in the draft. It's possible that they use their #25 pick on a backup SF, and if he's good enough to be in the rotation as a rookie, then the remainder of the MLE can be saved for a different backup. However, it's unlikely that a 25th pick contributes right away, so my guess is a free agent fills this spot. Maybe someone like Dorell Wright who can be had for part of the MLE and is a decent shooter (37% career threes).
A #25 pick winds up in the rotation in year one?! I can't stop laughing. Or are those tears? I think, if the Clips properly juggle their roster, that #25 pick will be traded away for cash or a 2nd rounder because the Clips will be hard up against the luxury tax. At best that pick will be a project... or a Euro stash.
I like Hill, oh yeah, he retired. Okay then Barnes, if the Clips can work the money.
I don't think it's likely that the #25 pick ends up in the rotation, but let's just keep an open mind and see who the Clippers get on draft night. Two years ago, the #25 pick was Marshon Brooks- he started and played 30 minutes a game for the Nets. In 2008 one Nic Batum was the #25 pick- how great would it be if the Clippers got a Nic Batum in the draft?
It's not likely and I hope the Clippers aren't planning for it, but depending on how draft night goes, if the right player drops it could turn out well for the Clips.
The Point Guards
The Shooting Guards
Check back tomorrow for the Power Forwards