First of all, let me just say that 'Invitee' is a fun word. In French, it makes perfect sense, as the person receiving the invitation, and is also the past participle of the verb invite. In fact, invitée in French really just means guest; but as in this case, 'guest' and 'invitee' don't have identical meanings in English. Invitee simply means one who was invited, while guest implies more. It wouldn't exactly make much sense to call Jarron Collins a guest at the Clippers training camp. I think I tend to use invitee in English, because it is such a common word in French. In English it is also a valid form (if not a common form), in the way that the double E ending turns a transitive verb into a noun, describing the target of the action (the actee versus the actor, if you will). There are some commonly used nouns of this type (inductee, licensee, etc.), but it's also often used colloquially and facetiously (to distinguish the hitter from the hittee, for instance). Interestingly (and I'm just going off on my own here, not really researching the exact etymology), it would seem to derive directly from the French past participle, English having many vestiges of French assimilated from the Normans. Invite, invited, French inviter, invité. It likely literally meant 'the invited one' originally. The French past participle invité has a single e and the accent egu, which causes it to be pronounced as a long a, as in tray. The second e would be added if the guest in question was a female, to make the word feminine invitée. So, by using the double E ending, it's as if in English, any nouns constructed in this manner are always feminine. I'm looking at you, Jake Voskuhl.
I went a long way for that joke, but I think it was worth it.
Anyway, you've probably seen the list by now. Lisa Dillman posted it on the Fabulous Forum blog yesterday afternoon. The camp invitees are Jon Scheyer, Jarron Collins, Jake Voskuhl and Stephen Dennis.
Where does that put the Clippers going into camp?
One of the key things to remember here is that not all contracts are created equal. All four of the new guys have contracts - but they're make good contracts, contingent on the player making the team. The Clippers already had 14 players under contract, but only 12 of those are fully guaranteed. Rookies Willie Warren and Marqus Blakely have partially guaranteed contracts, making it much less painful from a financial standpoint to waive those guys. That's why, in case you're curious, ShamSports lists Warren and Blakely as camp invitees as well. In the interest of getting all the info out there, Sham also has Warren's guarantee at $100K and Blakely's at $35K. That's what it costs the Clippers if they decide to waive one of those guys in order to keep someone else.
The four newcomers break down pretty nicely into two pairs by need - third string center, and guard with size and range.
For the third string center candidates, we have two nine year NBA veterans, Collins and Voskuhl. Comparing their stats you can see that there's not a whole lot of difference between them. Collins has started more and played more minutes in his career; Voskuhl has better per minute numbers in most stats (scoring, rebounding, blocked shots) and a higher PER. Voskuhl was out of the league last season and is a year older. Collins is considered a better low post defender, and in fact that is what has kept him in the league for nine seasons, since he has no offensive game to speak of and isn't much of a shot blocker.
Voskuhl has a strike against him here at Clips Nation for intentionally shoving Zach Randolph from behind two seasons ago, sending Randolph to the inactive list with a bruised knee and further wrecking an already wrecked season for the Clippers. I was pretty upset about it at the time, but I'm totally over it now.
Scheyer and Dennis exist at opposite ends of the NCAA basketball spectrum. Sheyer was a four year starter at Duke, the most well known program in the nation, and won the NCAA title last season as a senior. Dennis played at Division II Kutztown U (in Pennsylvania) where he led all of DII in scoring and was named the DII player of the year. Scott Schroeder at Ridiculous Upside wrote a quick profile on him back before the draft when he was going to a workout for the Knicks. If he played for a team in Summer League, I can't find who it was, which is strange. I will say this though - scorers are scorers. A guy that can put up 27 points per game in DII can score. Consider Reggie Williams of the Warriors. No, VMI isn't DII, but it's in one of the lowest conferences in the NCAA. Williams led the NCAA in scoring in 08-09, and lo and behold, when he got his chance with the Warriors, it turned out he could score the ball.
Scheyer is 6'5" and Dennis is 6'6". With a guard rotation currently consisting of Baron Davis (6'3"), Eric Gordon (6'3"), Randy Foye (6'4") and Eric Bledsoe (6'1") (with the 6'7" Rasual Butler admittedly capable of sliding over from the three), the Clippers would seem to be trying to address a lack of backcourt size with these guys. Scheyer was headed to camp with Utah, where he thought he had a pretty good shot at making the team, until the Jazz signed Earl Watson last week. Scheyer and his agent could go to training camp with any number of NBA teams, but they want to be somewhere where they believe he can make a roster, so it's interesting they chose the Clippers from that regard.
The opening day roster can have from 13 to 15 players. In years past, Mike Dunleavy's tendency was to carry 14, leaving one roster spot open for ongoing flexibility. We don't know if Neil Olshey will have the same inclination. With so many inexperienced players on the roster (five rookies so far if you count Blake Griffin, Warren and Blakely), you could make the argument that the Clippers should carry the maximum 15. Not that Scheyer or Dennis would add experience (though obviously Collins or Voskuhl would), but if you're not sure who's going to be able to contribute as a rookie, then it may be worthwhile to have a couple more to choose from. It's also worth noting that both Scheyer and Dennis were four year college players. A four year starter at Duke is about as NBA ready as a rookie player gets, all other things being equal. As for roster flexibility, if you sign these guys to partially guaranteed deals, then carrying 15 only costs you a little bit more than carrying 14 without sacrificing any flexibility.
Stepping back and looking at the roster, it would not surprise me a bit if one of the centers makes the team. Chris Kaman has had a recent history of injuries, and I suspect that Olshey and Vinnie Del Negro would like to have an old hand around to step in, rather than relying completely on the still raw DeAndre Jordan. My money is on Collins - for your insurance policy, you want a solid defender and a great locker room guy, and Collins fits that bill.
You also have to assume that Scheyer has a legitimate chance to make this team. For what it's worth, Mike Krzyzewski, who knows a little something about NBA players, thinks he belongs in the league. It would cost the Clippers $100K to keep Scheyer over Warren, but I assume that they'll be willing to eat that cost if Scheyer proves to be the better player in camp.