Different people have different opinions regarding what the Clippers should do with what positions during this off-season, but most can agree that the main priority is re-signing All-NBA point guard Chris Paul. John Raffo and I have decided to do a position-by-position analysis. We'll start by breaking down how the point guard position will look for the Clippers next season.
Eric Bledsoe: 1 season remaining at $2.6M
Bledsoe this past year was the same Bledsoe we know, and expected. He didn't "break out" in any major way, but he was still good and intriguing throughout the season. His athletic prowess and potential gives him a lot of trade value, and in my mind it's time to move him. Deals have been rumored that include Aaron Afflalo or Eric Gordon coming back in a Bledsoe trade, and a deal like those that brings back a good, young wing player would greatly improve the team. The argument against trading Bledsoe is that he's "insurance"- what if Chris Paul doesn't re-sign with the Clippers? Personally, I don't think that Bledsoe is good enough to start next year and still take the Clippers where they want to go. They would be better off trading him in order to bring in a good wing, which would help convince Paul to return. Even if Chris still leaves, the Clippers can use their MLE to bring in a solid point guard who would likely be better than Bledsoe.
Assuming Chris Paul re-signs this offseason Eric Bledsoe's best value is a trade asset. But did the Clippers already blow the window on the best deal? Probably.
Bledsoe was liquid dynamite in the 2012 playoffs but only showed flashes of that form this past season. Was it injuries? Was it lack of development by the training and coaching staff? (Can we blame it on Vinny Del Negro? Sure. I blame EVERYTHING on Del Negro.)
The question is, after the Clippers crushing loss in the first round of the playoffs does Bledsoe still have the value he had last season? Did the Clips misplay their hand by not trading him last February? Once Paul re-signs, the entire NBA will know Bledsoe's on the auction block, and they're probably also know he isn't anywhere near ready to run an NBA team.
Wouldn't it have been better to ship him out last February? The irony of course is that apparently the one guy who thought so was Del Negro. The fact that Vinny wanted to ship out the Clippers' two young underachievers (the other is center Deandre Jordan) while their flaws were hidden and their value high is a credit to Vinny... and a black mark for Clipper GM-by-any-other-name Gary Sacks.
Finally, what if Chris Paul signs elsewhere (say it ain't so)? Then Sacks looks like a genius for holding on to Bledsoe right? Wrong. Bledsoe hasn't proved himself as a first string point guard. What he's probably best at is a combo guard. He can be very effective for some team coming off the bench.
Maalik Wayns: 1 non-guaranteed year remaining at $789k
Wayns is really sort of... irrelevant. He's on the roster right now, and my guess is that he'll be in training camp competing for one of the last roster spots. Maybe he'll get waived before that. No matter what happens, he won't be seeing a lot of significant minutes for the Clippers next season, and he doesn't make enough to impact the Clippers' salary cap situation.
Clippers Free Agents:
It's this simple- the Clippers are contenders with him and a fringe playoff team at best without him. There's been a lot of rumbling that he's upset, but I still believe that he will re-sign a max extension with the Clippers. Maybe because my mind can't accept losing him right now.
The Clippers weren't a "fringe playoff team" without Chris Paul. They were much worse. They won only 32 games in 2011and finished far out of the playoffs. The year he arrived with no training camp, Paul took the Clips from to 50 (equivalent) wins and then to 56 wins this season. With a real coaching staff the Clips have a shot at 60 next year. He's one of the three best players in the NBA. Why am I talking?
Free Agent Wishlist:
Assuming the Clippers trade Bledsoe, and re-sign Paul, they need a backup point. It could be Chauncey Billups, but based off of his performance this season I hope it isn't. I would rather the Clippers look into investing the portion of their MLE that they don't use on Matt Barnes into Jose Calderon (if he can be had for that price). Other options include Devin Harris, Shaun Livingston, Daniel Gibson, Nate Robinson, Derek Fisher, and a few others.
The Clips are going to need the MLE for other things. It'd be nice to have a decent backup. And it might be Chauncey Billups but... I think we're all a little sour on him after his terrible performance in the playoffs. Jamal Crawford can give you minutes at the one. And Grant Hill is a capable point forward-- oh that's right he retired (I hated that, I want him to un-retire but more on that later). The Clips need to find someone, maybe it's that Wayn's guy, don't know.
Who will the 2014 Clippers start at PG?
The man named Chris Paul
Who will the 2014 Clippers bring off the bench at PG?
I think it'll be a free agent. My #1 would be Jose Calerdon but unless he is willing to take a huge pay cut to come here some team in need of a point guard will pay him to be their starter. I'd be interested in a Daniel Gibson type- a shooter with the size to play the 2 alongside CP3 if necessary.
Billups, Crawford, inexpensive mystery player x.
Check back tomorrow for the Shooting Guards