The Clippers, despite their DeAndre Jordan triumph, are not done this offseason. They've added Lance Stephenson, Paul Pierce, and Wesley Johnson, and re-signed Jordan, but the holes on the roster remain. As it currently stands, the following players have guaranteed contracts:
|Point Guard||Chris Paul|
|Shooting Guard||J.J. Redick||Jamal Crawford||C.J. Wilcox|
|Small Forward||Paul Pierce||Lance Stephenson||Wesley Johnson|
|Power Forward||Blake Griffin|
*Jordan Hamilton (SF) and Lester Hudson (PG) are also currently on the roster, but both have non-guaranteed deals, and neither figures to be in the rotation if kept.
**These are just position estimates and not a projected depth chart.
As you can see, the Clippers' needs are obvious: backup point guard, and backup big men. Even though it's late in the process, there's still names left on the market, including the free agents listed below. Keep in mind that the Clippers' only method through which to add outside free agents is the veteran's minimum salary. They have no cap room, no exception money, and cannot acquire a signed-and-traded player. The players below are all likely to receive offers of more than the minimum, but if they are enticed by the role or contender status of the team, or if they fall through the cracks and are looking for a one-year deal to rebuild value, they could land in LA.
Darrell Arthur: Arthur is a tweener forward well known for his defense and mid-range game. He spent four years on the grit-and-grind Grizzlies before playing the last two seasons with Denver. The 27-year-old, 6'9" Kansas product has career averages of 13 points and 7 rebounds per 36. He is a career 44% field goal shooter and 27% three-point shooter. Offensively, despite his shaky results from deep, he's excellent in the mid-range, at 41%, with a plurality of his shots coming from that distance. His spacing and athleticism could provide a nice complement to both Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan as a third big, and he enables the Clippers to play a little bit more small ball than incumbent Glen Davis does.
Arthur has been been held in relatively high regard as a free agent this summer, garnering interest from his old team in Denver as well as the Detroit Pistons. However, Denver's forward situation seems to indicate that a large role could be impossible there, and both teams lack the contender status of the Clippers, where he could potentially grow his value for a year before getting a more lucrative deal next year than any of the teams will offer him now.
Cole Aldrich: Aldrich has played center almost his entire career, until last season, when basketball-reference says that he played over half of his minutes at power forward. A former 11th overall pick on the Oklahoma City Thunder roster, Aldrich never carved out a role with the Clippers' Western Conference rivals, appearing in just 44 games during his two seasons there. Then, he was traded to Houston and Sacramento, where he played just 45 total games and saw the court for under 400 total minutes, before landing as a free agent with the New York Knicks. His first year in New York was history repeating itself: 46 games, 330 minutes, nothing to phone home about.
However, last year, he got a real role for the first time in his career, and say what you want about him being a "stiff", he produced statistically. His per 36 averages of 12.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 2.4 blocks are stellar, and while he likely wouldn't really produce those numbers in a starting role, he did it in 16 minutes per game last season, which is a similar role to the one he'd likely see as a Clipper. Aldrich, a Kansas big man like Arthur, will turn 27 on Halloween this year, right around opening night. He is reportedly in touch with the Knicks, but hasn't gathered a lot of league-wide interest and hasn't reached an agreement with New York.
#Knicks remain in touch with representatives for free agents Alexey Shved, Cole Aldrich and Lou Amundson, league sources say.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) July 10, 2015
Jameer Nelson: Nelson, an 11-year veteran with an All-Star past, is one of the hidden impact players of this free agency period. After opting out of a contract that would have paid him about $2.85 million to remain in Denver as a veteran leader during their rebuilding period, it's possible that Jameer, who has been to the NBA Finals before with Orlando (as a teammate of J.J. Redick), could be looking to join a contender again. He could choose a different playoff team, but the Clippers are certainly a candidate with their strong Orlando ties (as the Orlando radio stations remind me every time, Doc, Big Baby, J.J., and even Hedo Turkoglu are beloved figures). Nelson is undersized, which will likely cause problems if he plays alongside Chris Paul, but he's a really good basketball player, with career averages of 15.3 points and 6.6 assists per 36 on 44% field goals and 37% from deep.
Nelson originally signed with Dallas last year, but was traded to Boston and then later traded to Denver, causing a whirlwind for a guy who thought he'd be on a strong playoff team when he signed on last summer. He has interest from Denver, who would like him to return to be a leader for their youth, but it seems likely that if he had interest he would have simply opted in. Houston is another strong contender who has been linked.
The Clippers also could opt to pursue the only players that they can give above-minimum offers to: their own free agents. The only two who are worth considering for rotation roles are Austin Rivers and Glen Davis.
Austin Rivers: Doogie had an interesting storyline last season: initially, he was a joke in the eyes of many, and his acquisition was widely criticized. However he demonstrated some signs of life during his half-season on the team, using quickness and energy to be a plus on-ball defender and get to the basket (even if he struggled to convert). Turning 23 soon with three years of NBA experience, he's one of the only prospects the Clippers have, and if he can continue to develop in a reserve role under his father's coaching and Chris Paul's tutelage, he could establish himself as a player who belongs in this league and kick off a good career.
Because the final option year of Rivers' rookie-scale contract was declined before the Clippers acquired him, they can only use their bird rights to give him the equivalent of that option year, which is about $3.1 million. Any other team could use cap room or their mid-level exception to top that offer, and given what we've seen this summer, anything is possible.
Glen Davis: Big Baby, on the other hand, doesn't have upside. He is who he is at this point, and while he's incredibly limited by both a lack of athleticism and height, he plays hard, is a solid defender, and brings championship experience to the team. He's incredibly close with Doc Rivers, but his mid-range game never translated to Los Angeles (38% from 16ft out in Boston, 35% in Orlando, 23% as a Clipper). However, he brought a solid contribution to the team last season in 12 minutes a night off of the bench, and while it makes sense to explore options for an upgrade (like Darrell Arthur), the Clippers have a reliable fallback. I actually wouldn't be surprised to see Davis re-sign even if the Clippers bring in someone ahead of him in the rotation--he has incredibly close ties with Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers, and he isn't getting interest around the league. If that happens, and Davis returns as a 5th big, it would provide the Clippers with excellent veteran depth down low.
Keep an eye on these 5 names--at least one (and probably two or more) of them will end up a Clipper next season.