As we've looked at over the last few days, there are a few options that the Los Angeles Clippers have heading into the draft tonight. They could either draft a player to help now, a player who can help more later, or even someone from the international ranks that they could either stash overseas or bring over right away and let play. Today, in the final installment, we're going to look at what options would make the most sense for the Clippers or, to put it plainly, what the Clippers should do with the draft pick.
PICK WHOEVER WE WANT AND GO FROM THERE
If the Clippers keep the pick, they most certainly can have a group of players that they're interested in. A few of them have probably been mentioned in the prior pieces that have gone up. It's hard to say how much playing time a rookie would get under Doc Rivers since Reggie Bullock, last year's late first round pick, really didn't see that much playing time and was kept relatively under wraps for the majority of the season. Rookies don't usually play a lot under Doc Rivers so picking someone who can play right away might not be the best way to go. The way that the team is constructed, it's built to win now and progress into the future. It's not a roster that can get infused with a ton of talent and help from a late first round pick.
The other idea behind just picking a player and going forward with him on the roster is that he's a cheap addition to the squad in the efforts to fill out the roster. The first year base salary for the 28th overall pick this year is $893,500. It's not expensive at all and he'd be a younger guy that could certainly help in the future. In total, his salary would come out to just $2.8 million over the first three years of his contract. The final two years of the deal are qualifying offers so the entire five year contract of the pick would come out to around $7.5 million. It's really not a bad deal with all things considered since it's a young guy for cheap over a minimum of two years and a maximum of five years. Financially, making the pick makes sense. It fills a roster spot and does so for a small amount of money.
When making the pick, the Clippers would have to rationally decide which position they need the most help at - whether that's backup point guard, backup big man, or even a wing player who can contribute at both spots. It's hard to say what direction they'd be leaning in since it seems there's going to be a few point guards on the open market who are veterans that won't command a lot of money to backup a point guard like Chris Paul while playing on a team with championship aspirations. There could also be wing guys and big men like that. It's hard to really say. However, the direction that the Clippers go in with this pick would say a lot about how they feel about the free agent market. If they draft a guard, they're not sold on the veteran guards as much. Same with a big man or wing prospect. It's really an interesting exercise in determining how the Clippers value the free agent market at this moment in time.
This is where the idea of selecting an international prospect becomes truly intriguing. The Clippers could do what the San Antonio Spurs did with the 28th overall pick last year and draft a guy who they can stash overseas for a season or two while they go about their business, then bring him over when he's ready to play. It would not only save the Clippers money for this season, and possibly even the one after that, but it'd also help them with development in the future because they'd have a guy who is still playing in a competitive league elsewhere. I doubt that the Clippers would indeed select an international guy and stash him in Europe, but it'd be a smart play for them. It's a now and future move. There is one other option, though.
SELL! SELL! SELL! AND THEN SELL SOME MORE!
There are a few teams that have expressed interest in trading down, with Phoenix and Houston among them. Those two have also said that if they can't find a trade partner, they'll just look at the international route and go there this way they could save some money now. The Clippers, as was mentioned above, could also do this but if they don't feel the need to wait around for a guy to develop then trading the pick makes a lot of sense. Not just for them but for other teams.
With the cheapness that late first round picks have to them, it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility that the Clippers flip this pick elsewhere for either a veteran player or for a future pick. Or, even, possibly a couple second round picks. The Clippers could also package this pick along with a player - for instance, Jared Dudley or Reggie Bullock - in order to create some more wiggle room. They could definitely find a way to trade out of this pick and move out of the first round entirely.
The other option with trading is that they could possibly find a team a little higher up that doesn't feel so intent on making their pick at that juncture of the draft. If this were to happen, the Clippers could move the pick, along with someone like Reggie Bullock, to a team that wants an extra young player. Teams that come to mind for this are Utah and Charlotte. They're picking 23rd and 24th, respectively. If the Clippers were to feel that they'd miss out on a player but want to trade up and get him, this would probably be the only way of doing so. They'd have to part with two young pieces, Bullock and whoever the pick is, but it could be worth it to move up a few spots to nab a guy they truly like.
The interesting thing to note with trading the pick is that this is really one of the few ammo pieces that the Clippers possess. The others being Reggie Bullock and the contract of Jamal Crawford. While Jamal Crawford is coming off of a Sixth Man of the Year award, it's important to mention that his contract is partially guaranteed for the next two seasons. Each season is only guaranteed for $1.5 million, which makes him a desired trade chip for certain teams looking to bolster their scoring on the perimeter and/or off their bench. Combined with the pick, and even Reggie Bullock, it could get the Clippers into the middle portion of the draft or even possibly into the late lottery depending on the panic level of certain teams.
SO, WHAT SHOULD THE CLIPPERS DO THEN?!
It's hard to sit here and say that the Clippers should "definitely" do something and get up on the soapbox and preach it as the right thing. But, as it stands, the two viable options for both now and the future probably sit at being either selecting an international player and stashing him, thus saving money, or just outright trading the pick away along with a contract or two and saving money that way while picking up a better piece from the other team in the deal. Those are, probably, the two best options going forward for both now and later.
The draft is pretty much a crapshoot, especially in the latter half of the first round. The history of it is littered with guys who turned out to be good, or even great, players but it's also a barren wasteland of guys you've probably never even heard of. There's no harm in picking a player with the 28th overall pick and sitting on him just to see what he becomes. That goes for both college players and international prospects. There's also no harm in trading the pick since players picked that late rarely turn out to be more than just complimentary roleplayers.
In all, the Clippers are really in a solid spot since whatever move they decide is easily defensible. Whether they trade the pick outright, package it with a player or two, or select a prospect, the Clippers are okay and the decision would make sense. Personally, I believe that selecting an international player - such as Damien Inglis - and stashing him overseas for a year or two would be the best route to go. That is, of course, unless the Clippers are able to package the pick and a contract in order to move up higher in the draft or nab a veteran who can help right away at a position of need - i.e. small forward or backup big man.
The draft is going to be an interesting spectacle this year. No one quite knows what's going to happen. Some are expecting the Cleveland Cavaliers to select Andrew Wiggins first overall and then the Milwaukee Bucks to select Jabari Parker second. But, as we all know, the draft is unpredictable. There's going to be a couple ‘wow' moments and a few moments that make you wonder what a General Manager is thinking. (We need David Kahn back just for more of those moments.) So try to sit back, relax, and don't overanalyze what the Clippers might or might not be doing. If there's no word on what they're doing, that's not a bad thing. The less talk, the better ... sometimes. And try not to freak out about whatever the Clippers decide to do. If they draft a guy, don't expect him to be great. If they trade the pick, don't wonder why. Just go with it. It's here to be enjoyed. It's not every year we can look at our first round pick and go "meh, whatever they decide is okay with me." We've hit that stage now, though. Embrace it.