Bynum to the Pacers, what's next for the Clippers?

Sam Greenwood

The Clippers have had an obvious need for a big man off their bench all season, a need that will not be filled by Andrew Bynum at this point. Hedo Turkoglu has helped, but the team will probably add one more big before the playoffs.

Now that Andrew Bynum has landed with the Indiana Pacers, the options available to the Los Angeles Clippers for adding an impact big man before the playoffs have been reduced by one. We may never know whether the Clippers were just playing coy or were truly too wary of the character and chemistry issues that Bynum represented. We do know that L.A. had only the pro-rated minimum to offer and that Bynum's camp wanted something more, which they eventually got from Indiana. Why a guy who has made about $64M in the last five years would care whether he got $1M (which is what he got from the Pacers) or $400K (which is about what the prorated minimum would have paid) for the rest of the season is beyond me -- or rather it seems clear that opportunity and fit should have been more significant priorities. But I certainly don't profess to understand the priorities of Andrew Bynum.

The Clippers had been linked to Bynum in the rumor mill of course, which is not surprising considering the situation with backup big men on their roster. Bynum is now off the list and Hedo Turkoglu is on the roster, so the situation has changed since Bynum first hit the market after being waived by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Turkoglu is firmly entrenched as the first big off the bench for Doc Rivers at this point. Since joining the team nine games ago, Turkoglu has played 105 minutes, Ryan Hollins 70 minutes, Byron Mullens has had nothing but garbage time minutes and Antawn Jamison has not gotten off the bench. The playing time is only going to tilt more to Hedo as he rounds into basketball shape, gets more comfortable with his teammates and the offensive and defensive schemes, and rediscovers more of his dormant game. Although he hasn't shot particularly well, he has made three three pointers in eight attempts, and his rebounding has been far above his career levels on a per minute basis. The sample size is of course small, but the rebounding has been a very pleasant surprise thus far. It goes without saying that the guy can handle and pass and make plays at a very high level for a power forward. I was certainly dubious about the signing, but it seems to be working out -- he's a clear upgrade over the other options, at least as long as he keeps rebounding like this.

But is it enough? Can a team with a career small forward who has barely played in two season playing a significant front court role really be expected to advance deep into the post season? Even assuming Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan stay healthy (and let's face it, the Clippers will be in big trouble if either of them gets hurt), the Clippers remain thin on front court reserves, especially from the standpoint of defense and rebounding and general toughness.

The team does have another roster spot to use; they seem content at this point to get by with Jamal Crawford and Willie Green (and Turkoglu for that matter) picking up some of the ball-handling duties until Chris Paul gets back, and there doesn't appear to be any plan to sign another point guard now that Darius Morris has been cut. That means that the 15th roster spot can be used on another big, hopefully that defensive-minded missing piece. But who?

My guess is that they plan to remain patient and see how the trade deadline shakes out. Every season, veterans included in trades motivated by cost savings wind up being waived or bought out by their new teams. In the same manner that Bynum and Turkoglu suddenly became free agents in early January, a new crop of free agents will magically appear in late February, which is not that far away at this point. The Clippers will take a look at that batch of cast-offs -- and then make a decision. Existing free agents like Lamar Odom and Ivan Johnson and Jason Collins remain an option, but clearly the Clippers aren't completely sold on any of them or something would have happened by now.

So cross Bynum off the list, and prepare to add some mystery names on to the list. In the meantime, just hope that Turkoglu keeps on rebounding and starts to hit a few more shots.

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