Is it just a coincidence that Draft Day 2009 is falling on June 25th, which just so happens to be half-Christmas? Like a kid who has known for weeks what he's getting on the big day because he found it hidden in the hall closet, Clipper fans finally get to unwrap their present tonight. But to continue the Christmas analogy, as it stands now this would appear to be one of those December mornings where we get one GREAT present, and nothing else. And frankly, especially for immature kids with short attention spans like us, sometimes it's more fun to unwrap a lot of little presents.
With the Clippers holding no other draft picks, this draft season has been quite out of the ordinary. With a brand new training facility that wasn't even open last June, a terrific marketing tool the likes of which the organization has never had, the Clippers have worked out exactly one player - Blake Griffin. The team leadership has however attended multiple group tryouts out of town, so they've gotten to look at many other draft prospects, and both MDsr and assistant GM Neil Olshey hinted last week that they would be active on draft day and try to come up with another pick, most likely in the late first round or early second round.
With some loaded teams who are already in the luxury tax, it makes little sense to take on a late first rounder who has a guaranteed contract but who would be unlikely to help the team - the Lakers (who just sold the 29th pick to the Knicks for $3M cash) are the best example of this, but Cleveland and New Orleans are other candidates to try to save some tax money later in the first round. Then there is a team like Minnesota with four first round picks - they might be in the market to deal one of those, rather than bringing in four rookies all in the same season. At any rate, while there likely won't be any big Clipper deals announced today, the Clippers may still try to get another pick tonight, so don't turn off the TV five minutes in after BG tries on his Clippers' cap.
But the net effect of having the first pick in a one player draft is that most of the speculation surrounding the Clippers these last five weeks since the lottery hasn't really merited comment around here. It started with "The Clippers really prefer Rubio." Then it progressed to "The Clippers are willing to trade the first pick if they can also get rid of Baron Davis" or "if they can get rid of Zach Randolph." But the truth is, according to Olshey, other teams haven't even bothered to call the Clippers for the last three weeks, because they've known the pick is not in play.
That leaves us with other teams' trades and Clipper bashing as the main fodder for discussion lately.
Because all of the trades so far have attempted to satisfy a known need or desire of at least one of the participants, they've all involved players that were at least the subject of some speculation for Clipper trades as well.
- Everyone knew that Cleveland desired some inside scoring to complement LeBron James - and early rumors had focused on Rasheed Wallace and (perhaps improbably) Zach Randolph. But if you're Cleveland, and you're going to take on a big guy with an even bigger contract using the Ben Wallace trade chip, you can certainly see why you'd want Shaq over Z-Bo. (On the other hand, I'm not sure why Phoenix would do this deal other than for Steve Kerr to help out his old Spurs teammate Danny Ferry. The only thing that makes sense would be if they have some sort of assurance that Big Ben is going to retire and save them some money. Other than that, what are they getting for a guy who made the all star team last season? Sasha Pavlovic?)
- Likewise there was a Mike Miller for Chris Kaman rumor floating around which can now be crossed off the list, and the Wizards had made it known that the fifth pick was in play. More than anything else in Clips Nation, this trade makes you thank the FSM for aligning those ping pong balls with his noodly appendage. The Wizards and Clippers finished the season with the same record, and the Wizards actually won the coin toss to get slightly better odds at the first pick. But the Clippers will end up with Blake Griffin, while the Wizards will end up with... Mike Miller and Randy Foye. (I know this draft is considered weak at the top, but this is all they could get for a top 5 pick? It's not like any of the players they got rid of had bad contracts either - Thomas is in his final year, the others have two seasons on relatively cheap deals. It seems like a terrible trade for the Wizards, even if Miller can regain some of his form.)
- Richard Jefferson has been known to be on the trade block because of Milwaukee's financial troubles, and it might have been nice to see him on the Clippers in exchange for one of their shorter length big man contracts. But in the end, the Bucks got both immediate and long term salary relief from the Spurs given that only half of Bowen's contract is guaranteed and that Kurt Thomas will no doubt take a buy out to go somewhere - anywhere - other than Wisconsin. And by the way, the Spurs suddenly look a lot better for next season.
- And of course Don Nelson made it clear long ago that Jamal Crawford would not be back in Oakland next season, though Crawford never made much sense as a Clipper. I'm not a huge fan of Crawford, but you can certainly see why the Hawks and Dubs made this deal, since neither really gave up anything that they were counting on.
With Blake Griffin being the best story and by far the brightest star in this draft, there's plenty of reason to focus on him in the national media. But along with webisodes of the Rookie, we've had to suffer through a bumper crop of "The Clippers are the worst franchise in the NBA" stories.
- Chris Brossard proclaimed them the "worst drafting franchise" (insider required).
- David Shoenfield took a trip down memory lane and looked at twenty years worth of Clipper lottery picks.
- And of course Bill Simmons had to have his say, with an Open Letter to Blake Griffin, cataloguing the franchises woes stretching all the way back to Buffalo.
What can you do about this stuff? Nothing. Hopefully Blake can do something about it, though.
I'll be at the Clippers training facility to cover the draft, so hopefully I'll be able to get some quick reactions from the coach and others if anything comes up on draft day.
Merry Half-Christmas everyone!