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Clippers Signings - Analyzing the Deals - DeAndre Jordan

Well, it's been an interesting day. It's been an interesting few days for that matter, but today has been a nice resolution - at least to a couple of things.

The Los Angeles Clippers signed two players and walked away from a trade today. And while each of the decisions involves a fair amount of risk, you can't help but admire the bold determination of Neil Olshey and the Clippers' front office.

In case you missed it, the Clippers today:

  • walked away from a potential trade for Chris Paul;
  • claimed Chauncey Billups off of amnesty waivers;
  • matched Golden State's offer sheet for free agent DeAndre Jordan.

I already went over the Billups deal. Now let's go over the Jordan deal.

On Sunday afternoon, Jordan signed an offer sheet with the Golden State Warriors for four years and about $43M. Essentially, the deal starts at $10M per season and includes the 4.5% raises a team is allowed to offer external free agents. The Clippers had already put a contract offer of 5 years and $40M on the table for Jordan, so matching the Dubs offer only involved an extra $3M total - but, the annual amount is an increase of over $2M per season on average - and those kinds of numbers add up fast when you start getting close to the luxury tax.

Is DeAndre worth $10M plus per season? I was asked this question by Nate Parham of Golden State of Mind the other day, and you can go look at my answers over there if you like. The short answer is no, but that doesn't mean that the Clippers were wrong to pay him that. As Eric Pincus tweeted today, if the Clippers are overpaying Jordan by $10M over the course of the next four years, you can think of it as an investment in the franchise as a whole.

There are at least three reasons to retain DeAndre Jordan at this time that go beyond his measurable value on the basketball court. They are, in no particular order:

  1. Because he's close friends with franchise cornerstone Blake Griffin. I don't want to overemphasize this - you don't necessarily want to coddle the star, nor should the Clippers rush out and sign Blake's brother Taylor. But signing Jordan sends a message to Griffin that the franchise is willing to spend money, and if it also improves BG's work environment so much the better.
  2. To send a message that these are not the same old cheap Clippers. I'd say that message has probably been delivered more forcefully in the last four days than in all the Brand/Maggette matching, Mobley signing, Kaman extending, Baron signing transactions of the past decade combined. The idea has been a bit outdated for a while, but the greater NBA-verse can't help but have noticed after the Clippers spent $18M on Caron Butler and DeAndre Jordan while simultaneously making a serious play for Chris Paul. On the other hand, if that $18M turns out to be a massive overpayment for these players, it only re-enforces the perception of the Clippers as being incompetent. But dispelling the cheap perception is easier to control, and still worthwhile.
  3. As a message to Chris Paul. This is decidedly less important now, but then again the Paul deal may already have been resurrected, and will always be a possibility the Clippers should prepare as long as he's in New Orleans. Paul is rumored to see a young Tyson Chandler in Jordan and supposedly covets him as a teammate. (By the way, I ran into Mike Smith in Playa Vista today, and he was able to verify the CP3-Jordan story I relayed yesterday. Two seasons ago, during pre-game warmups, as DeAndre was soaring through his pre-game dunk show, Paul took notice. He turned to someone next to him and Smith heard CP3 say "Why don't we have a guy like that?", or words to that effect.)

So for now, the Jordan signing is all great. Of course, it's not my money. Furthermore, the Clippers still have Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin on rookie contracts. When it comes time to pay the two cornerstones big boy money, will the Clippers be willing to possibly take a luxury tax hit? The way the roster stands today, the team can pay Gordon and Griffin without going above the threshold - but if indeed they were to sign Paul (or any other big name of course) they would most certainly go where no Donald Sterling has gone before. Will that prospect keep the team from pursuing big opportunities that come their way? Will it (FSM forfend) cause them to lose Gordon? It's not year one of Jordan's contract that presents a problem - it's years two through four. So we'll just have to wait and see.

I'm going to close with a question: I cannot think of another NBA player who got a larger salary increase from one season to the next since the 1999 CBA that established the rookie scale and player maximums. (Kevin Garnett and Michael Jordan got some crazy paydays before that.) It would have to be a second round pick, or possibly a late first rounder. Gilbert Arenas got a bigger percentage increase: from about half a million to $8.5M in 2003. But Jordan's raise of over $9M (from about $1M to over $10M) has got to be one of the richest in recent NBA history - it's even bigger than Juwan Howard's ridiculous contract in 1996. Does anybody know of any other contenders for the title of biggest raise? Even if there might be bigger raises out there in terms of raw dollar amount, I feel rather certain that DeAndre Jordan is the first player in NBA history to got from a six figure salary to an eight figure salary overnight.

Congrats DJ. Now go and earn it.