The Clippers started last season with their primary back up big men being Antawn Jamsion and Byron Mullens, both of whom are no longer playing in the Association. With Jared Dudley having an uninspiring first half and being relegated to the bench, the Clippers were able to reload mid-season by picking up former All Star Danny Granger and Glen "Big Baby" Davis. For the first time ever, the Clippers were the destination franchise for the two preeminent buyouts during the season.
This season, many fans are hoping for another mid-season pick up or two in order to try and solve of the Clippers' biggest holes: lack of perimeter defense and a dysfunctional bench. With Andrei Kirilenko already having been waived by the 76ers, and many other aged veterans waiting to be signed, Ray Allen and Jermaine O'Neal specifically, you can expect the Clippers to be continually linked. With the Clippers pressed up against the hard cap, let's look at how many financial bullets the Clippers have in the chamber to fire at February free agents.
The Clippers currently are carrying a full roster of 15 players, with 14 contracts guaranteed and only 1 contract non-guaranteed, the training-camp invitation of Jared Cunningham. All unguaranteed contracts become guaranteed on January 10th in the NBA, so the Clippers would need to cut Cunnigham before then, typically by January 7th to clear waivers, in order to save money and open up a roster spot.
This season the Clippers have $79,125,501 million in guaranteed money not including Cunningham's salary (salaries via basketballinsiders). The hard cap is 4 million above the luxury tax at 80,829,000 million, and is a limit the team can't exceed under any means. If the Clippers were to cut Cunningham on January 7th, some of his money would count toward their cap, for the days he's been a part of team, but the rest would be discounted. Thus if the Clippers cut Cunningham by January 7th, instead of 915,243 being added to their cap, only 387,633 would be. This would put the Clippers salary for the season at 79,513,134.
At 79,513,134, the Clippers would still be underneath the apron having 1,315,866 million in wiggle room. This means that the Clippers could conceivably still sign multiple free agents in the middle of the season. The deadline for playoff eligibility is March 1st, so any other players the Clippers could sign would have to be on the roster, or have been waived before March 1st (or have played overseas). Thus lets just take February 28th as the cut off day for purposes of a pro-rated salary. Signing a veteran like Ray Allen from February 28th until the end of the season would mean adding 253,038 in salary. (The way pro-rated salaries work is by taking the amount of days in the season 170, and taking the amount of days till the end of the season say 47, and then taking the fraction 47/170 and multiplying it times the minimum salary 915,243).
With 1,315,866 in room in the Clippers cut Cunningham by January 7th, the Clippers could conceivably sign five different players during the season on February 28th. This means that the Clippers could potentially add Ray Allen, Andrei Kirilenko, Jermaine O'Neal, and two other players to their roster if they deem all those moves to be upgrades over current players. Five possible players! I was surprised the Clippers still have that much salary capacity. Since everyone but Cunningham is guaranteed, the team would have to waive some players with guaranteed contracts in order to open up the necessary roster spots; waiving someone like Udoh in order to sign say O'Neal means that Udoh would still be paid for the entire season, he would just not be on the roster.
Barring any trades to the current roster and just looking at in-season additions, the Clippers have plenty of financial flexibility in order to sign veterans to their roster. Kirilenko could definitely help the team. So could Allen and O'Neal as well as the number of buyout players that happen every season. Doc has said he would be interested in Allen as well as O'Neal, remarking we should "Count [him] in for everybody." Ultimately the Clippers will not sign 5 new players to the roster mid-season, but it's nice to know they have plenty of breathing room to tinker. The Clippers have the finances, need, and championship aspirations in order to attract players to come join the team, it will just depend on if GM Doc can make the right decisions.