Well, we're here. The other side. July 18th- one week after free agent signings began. The Clippers have since added veteran leadership in Chauncey Billups, Grant Hill, and Jamal Crawford, and the roster is really looking good.
Vinny Del Negro, Andy Roeser, and Gary Sacks have put together a roster that features scoring, passing, shooting, and even a little, tiny, barely-visible shred of defense. The team is very deep, featuring nine quality players in Paul, Bledsoe, Billups, Crawford, Butler, Hill, Griffin, Odom, and Jordan. Consider the versatility of this team, and think about the minutes that each of those nine will demand- and then consider that that VDN only has 240 minutes a night to spread amongst these core nine as well as the other three active players.
My point? There aren't many well-rounded players left who will be able to compete for regular playing time on this roster, so it's time for the Clippers to focus on specialists. A Marco Belinelli type (specialty: shooting) and a Ryan Hollins type(specialty: height) would be two good adds. Marco would want to play too much, but you get the point. Maybe a rebounder (think Reggie Evans) or a defender (think Q Ross) can grab a spot.
Let's take a closer look at the probable rotation for next season:
Chris Paul- 36 mpg.
An All-Star starter, MVP candidate, All-NBA 1st Teamer, and all NBA 1st-Team defense player, Paul will face no opposition for his minutes.
Blake Griffin- 36 mpg.
Another All-Star starter, and an All-NBA 2nd Team player last season, Griffin is the face of the Clippers and will get his time.
So, with those two taking up their well-deserved 72 combined minutes, the rest of the team is down to 168 to share. Let's look at the rest of the starters.
Caron Butler- 28 mpg.
The veteran SF played just a tick under 30 minutes a night last season- and that was with Ryan Gomes backing him up. Throw in the fact that Butler wilted down the stretch of the regular season, and lessening his load makes sense.
Chauncey Billups- 25 mpg.
Billups only played 20 games last season at 30 minutes a night before going down with an achilles injury that is certain to leave him a step slower next season. He will still be the starter, and he will still close games, but Chauncey won't play as many minutes as last season.
DeAndre Jordan- 30 mpg.
The Clippers project center from the 2008 second round is starting to come into his own- and this Clippers team badly needs him to step up. His minutes should get a slight bump from last year's 27 a game.
So, the starters have eaten up all but 76 of the minutes. Time to decide who gets what in the backup unit.
Eric Bledsoe- 15 mpg.
Bledsoe will play some minutes at the one, and some at the two. Either way, his defense and energy helps the team in small spurts and the 22 year-old will be a regular contributor in his third season.
Jamal Crawford- 20 mpg.
I know that this seems a little skimpy for a player of Crawford's caliber, but hear me out. Between the four guards I've listed so far, they now add up to 96 minutes per game- which means that these four guards only play guard. No three gaurd lineup!
Grant Hill- 20 mpg.
Since he turns 40 before the season starts, Hill won't demand heavy minutes- but he'll be good when he plays. The consistent veteran and expert defender will take all of the SF minutes when Butler isn't on the court.
Lamar Odom- 20 mpg.
Depending on how well he plays, Odom's minutes could go up or down from here. Dallas Odom? Minutes go down. Lakers Odom? Minutes go up. But 20 is a good starting point for the 2011 6th Man of the Year. Odom will play with either Jordan or Griffin, with Lamar playing PF and the other big manning the center spot.
So, there's 10 minutes left for the taking. Thompkins and Leslie round out the roster, but neither of them stand to play at all. With theses last ten minutes left at the C spot, the Clippers' targets of Darko Milicic and and Ryan Hollins would be picking up those minutes.
Not a bad rotation, eh?