Almost a full month ago I wrote a post wondering who the Los Angeles Clippers might still sign as an additional big man. Since then, the team has signed 24 year old seven footer Byron Mullens to a two year deal -- but given the front court still feels a bit thin, particularly given the risky nature of Mullens, who may not be a player on whom the Clippers want to rely. If he works out, it could be great -- but there's a distinct possibility it won't work out.
Amazingly, two of the names we were discussing a month ago remain on the short list of possibilities today -- Lamar Odom and Antawn Jamison. Odom was the Clippers' third big last season, and though his offensive game seems irretrievably lost, his defense and rebounding remained top notch last season. Re-signing Odom would at least guarantee that the Clippers would not regress in the front court from last season to this, at least provided that Odom can continue to defend and rebound at 34.
Jamison played for the Lakers last season, and has been tied to the Clippers since the start of free agency back at the beginning of July. Despite multiple stories connecting the Clippers to Jamison, including a dinner with new coach Doc Rivers last week, the Clippers have yet to pull the trigger.
Jamison and Odom represent two different types of bigs the Clippers could add. Jamison has in fact been a tweener his entire NBA career, having his greatest success as an undersized four, but he's a poor defender in addition to being undersized. He can score however, and in particular he can score from the perimeter and the Clippers have made no secret of their desire to add a 'stretch' four to help spread the floor for Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Mullens can hit a face up jumper, but he's still just 30 percent from three point range on his career -- Jamison hit 36 percent last season during his difficult season with the Lakers.
If the Clippers feel like they need another post defender, they could choose Odom; if they want to add yet another weapon to an already potent offense, Jamison would be the choice.
There are other options of course, though fewer and fewer. Al Harrington became a free agent last week when he was bought out of his contract in Orlando. Harrington was limited to 10 games last season, but two years ago in Denver he had one of the best seasons of his career. Harrington could be a slightly bigger, younger version of Jamison. However, the word today is that Harrington is close to signing in Washington, which would leave the Clippers back at the Odom/Jamison square one.
There are other options of course -- there are always other options.
It's also worth considering the possibility of signing a big during the season. During the NBA playoffs, Chris Anderson was Miami's second best player over 6'8, and he didn't join the Heat roster until late January. More veterans will be bought out, trade deadline deals will put some players into bad situations; every season opportunities arise and this one will be no different. If the postseason is the only season that matters, then reserving the money and the roster spot to act on an opportunity in February or March may be the best strategy. The Clippers are currently above the tax threshold but far enough below the hard cap to afford a couple minimum salary players. They'll surely keep the flexibility to sign at least one min player in season.
So don't be shocked if the Clippers don't make another move now. They're going to be patient and see if something compelling materializes. Matt Barnes wasn't signed until September last season, after hanging out and balling at the Clippers training all summer. Something like that could happen of course.
Rivers is going to give Mullens his chance, and he also would like to use small-ball lineups quite a bit. If Barnes or Jared Dudley are going to get some minutes at the four with a small second unit, the need for another "big" big is diminished. If over the course of November and December it becomes obvious that Mullens isn't sufficient as a rotation big on a championship contender and/or that small-ball isn't a viable long term solution, the Clippers can still look to add someone for the stretch run and the playoffs. In fact, my guess is that the big rotation will include at least one name during the playoffs who is not on the roster on opening night.