I was talking with longtime Clips Nation contributor Erik Olsgaard on Twitter the other day, and we came to the conclusion that defensive benches are the best. Why? First of all, offensive skills get paid, and get paid handsomely. Players who can put up 20 points with regularity aren't found on benches very frequently, and if they are, they are making a lot of money to do so. Secondly, as long as the other team can't score, your team's offensive effectiveness is less important. The Clippers have one of the best starting units in the league, and their bench's sole job is to maintain the leads given to them. The best way to do that is through a stout defense. Therefore, the three players on still playing playoff teams that I think the Clippers should look at in the offseason are all primarily defense-oriented players.
James Johnson, Toronto Raptors: A 29 year old veteran, Johnson would be a terrific target for the Clippers this offseason. He is able to play small forward as well as a small ball four, and his defense is solid at both positions. One of those guys that is always hustling and active, Johnson has been a favorite of Raptors fans (and bloggers) in his past two years, someone who they think should play more at times. He isn't very effective on the offensive end, but that isn't what the Clippers need. As long as he works on defense and jolts the team with energy when he enters the game, he is doing his job.
He signed a 2 year 5 million dollar contract that expires this summer, and probably should earn around that much on his next contract, maybe a bit more. While not a big money getter (for a reason), he would be a fantastic 9th or 10th man on the Clippers bench, a player who is very valuable in the right situations. Yes, he can't shoot... but neither could Luc Mbah a Moute, and he was huge for the Clips this season. Johnson hit the bench when DeMarre Carroll returned, but he might see some minutes against a Heat team that loves to play small.
Jason Thompson, Toronto Raptors: Funnily enough, Thompson is also 29. However, he is a power forward/center, and a good one. A longtime Sacramento King, he started the season on the Warriors, but was cut in favor of Anderson Varejao (puzzling, that), and signed with the Raptors for the rest of the year. He is a consistent player, almost always putting up per 36 numbers around 12/10 and shooting 50% from the field.
The good news is that because he played less this season, and is still getting paid by the Warriors, he should be available for less than he might be worth. While the league is moving away from big men who aren't rim protectors or floor stretchers, Thompson is solid enough as an all-around player to still be a decent reserve. He probably won't get minutes in the playoffs unless there is an injury or the Raptors decide to go big, but if he does play, look for his excellent rebounding.
Matthew Dellavedova, Cleveland Cavaliers: Unlike the previous two guys, "Delly" is a huge part of the Cavaliers' playoff rotation, and he won't come cheap this offseason. The 25 year old combo guard was once regarded as the epitome of a stereotypical "white guy" player who mostly just hustled and played energetic defense. Dellevadova has improved each year, however, and had by far his best season in 2016. In addition, he is a career 40% 3 point shooter on almost 2.5 attempts per game, and has increased his percentage and shots taken every season. While not an off the dribble threat like any of the premier shooting point guards, he is deadly as a spot up shooter- which is the role he would most likely play on the Clippers.
There have been many online debates about Delly's defense. While very active and definitely someone who "does stuff", it has been questioned how effective he really is. Well, he isn't exactly a lockdown defender, but he is comfortably above average, and would form a very aggressive and talented combination with Austin Rivers.
While still not a true playmaker, he has averaged 4.4 assists per game this season, by far a career high, and is capable of running simple offensive sets and plays. There is no reason why an offense with him, Rivers, and Jamal Crawford (at the 3) couldn't be a potent one. The primary obstacle with Dellavedova is paying him, but the full MLE which the Clippers possess might be enough to get it done. At the very least, he is someone to make an offer to.
Ideal Offers (all these guys will probably want more, but this is where the Clips should try to nab them):
Jason Thompson-veteran minimum
James Johnson- BAE (2/4.5 million)
Matthew Dellavedova- MLE (4/27) (can the NBA increase value of MLE in an offseason?)