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February free agency: destination Clippers

After landing free agent Glen Davis over the weekend, the Clippers have reportedly emerged as the frontrunner to sign the newly bought out Danny Granger

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Since Danny Granger was traded to the hapless Philadelphia 76ers at the trade deadline, it's been assumed that he'd reach a buyout agreement to play elsewhere -- anywhere else, really. The speculation on where he might wind up has mostly focused on teams like the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. Another contender with a need and a roster spot -- the Los Angeles Clippers -- was rarely mentioned in conjunction with Granger.

Until today.

The Sixers and Granger did indeed reach an agreement on a buyout and now that Granger is actually on the market, the Clippers have emerged as the frontrunners to sign him, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. I don't know whether there's an offset in the buyout (that is, whether the salary he will receive from his new team will reduce the monies he is owed by Philadelphia, as was the case with Glen Davis), but it hardly matters. Granger's salary this season was $14M -- he gave some of that back in the buyout, but regardless, the money he'll get is going to be quite secondary to other considerations, like the chance to win and the chance to play.

Which is where the Clippers come in.

The starting small forward in Miami is LeBron James (though to be fair, he is often the starting power forward). The starting small forward in Oklahoma City is Kevin Durant. The starting small forward in San Antonio is Kawhi Leonard (who is now back from injury). That's the two best players in the league and a future cornerstone of the Spurs.

The starting small forward in Matt Barnes; unless it's Jared Dudley; and Doc Rivers would dearly love to have another choice. And the fact that Granger could potentially be that other choice is the selling point for Granger to the Clippers.

Doc won't guarantee Granger the starting spot in the playoffs, and Granger wouldn't be dumb enough to believe him if he did. Granger will have to play well enough to earn and keep minutes as all NBA players do. He knows that.

What Doc can give to Granger is a legitimate shot at the starting role. He could even give him first crack at it when he gets to town. And clearly that is indeed a big part of Doc's pitch as Brad Turner of the LA Times reports that "The Clippers view Granger as a possible starter at small forward."

Marc Stein has this as a two horse race between the Clippers and the Spurs.

Miami appears to be set on signing former Heatian (and former Clipper) Caron Butler who is getting his own buyout in Milwaukee, so that seems to indicate they are not a realistic suitor for Granger. Where OKC fits in this equation is anybody's guess.

Doc is a persuasive individual and he's got something very powerful to offer Granger, who could have a major role on the team even if he's not the starter. Whether Granger actually makes sense as the starter is far from obvious. He does little to help their defensive issues on the wing, and coming off an injury may actually be worse than either Barnes or Dudley at this point. But he's also surprisingly young for a former All Star coming off a max contract who can apparently be had at the veteran's minimum. He's only 30, which is three years younger than Barnes and only two years older than Dudley (who plays about ten years older than he is). It's not unreasonable to suspect that Granger is still rounding into shape after missing essentially a year and a half after knee surgery. So even if Granger hasn't been great in his return to action this year, he's an intriguing gamble who could pay off big -- he could actually be much better in May and June than he is right now.

While he probably doesn't add much on defense, he would clearly be another potent offensive weapon in an already potent Clippers attack. This is the second most efficient offensive team in the league, and that's with a pair of starting forwards who have contributed very little. Granger is a former All Star who was a 25 point per game scorer not that many years ago. If he can provide even a fraction of the offense he's produced in the past, the Clippers will approach unstoppable, particularly when they get J.J. Redick back.

It's reasonable to ask whether you can have too many scorers, if there is a point of diminishing returns adding yet another shooter. But there's really no downside for the Clippers in finding out, and Doc seems perfectly happy to run as many shooters onto the court at once as he's allowed (the exception being DeAndre Jordan). Granger may not work out, but the Clippers seem eager to find out, and sincere in offering him a shot at the starting role.

That makes them the front runner right now and we won't have to wait long to find out denouement. Granger clears waivers at 2 PM PT Friday, less than two days from now.

It's strange to think of the Clippers as the "it" destination for veteran free agents chasing rings, but if indeed Granger picks LA, that will make the Clippers two-for-two on coveted vets during this strange February free agency redo. It makes the team's approach to the season -- get the main pieces into place and plug the holes later -- look much better when you see these hole pluggers lining up to talk to Doc. Of course Granger hasn't signed, Davis hasn't played, and we haven't even gotten to the postseason yet, so there's still a long way to go.