According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Austin Rivers will return to the Clippers.
Free agent guard Austin Rivers has agreed to a deal to return to the Los Angeles Clippers, league sources tell @TheVertical.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 2, 2016
Dan Woike of the Orange County Register added that it will be a three-year deal.
Per source Austin Rivers has agreed to a 3-year deal with the Clippers— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) July 2, 2016
Rivers was one of the Clippers' top priorities to re-sign this summer, and the team has his bird rights, meaning they could exceed the cap to offer him any contract. We'll get you the terms of this deal as it comes out, but he was thought to be seeking $8 million a season, which is a pretty decent price considering the crazy market of the last few days.
Last season, Austin was one of the Clippers' best perimeter defenders and he also was a fairly effective scorer, shooting 44% from the field and 33.5% from deep while averaging 8.9 points per game off of the bench. His distribution left something to be desired, but he's aware of his limitations and also kept his turnovers down. If Jamal Crawford does not return, Austin might be better served by playing shooting guard with a true distributing point guard alongside him.
Having Austin back is a tremendously good thing that's a sign of a tremendously bad thing. He's a good young player who is was a big part of the Clippers' second unit and his effort and energy frequently provided a boost. It's splendid to have him back on the roster for three more years.
What isn't so good is that this is surely a sign that Kevin Durant has told the Clippers that he will not be joining the team, as the Clippers would have had to let Austin Rivers walk in order to get close to affording a deal in the $24 million range for Durant. While courting Durant, the Clippers lost their incumbent small forward, Jeff Green, to a one-year, $15 million contract with the Orlando Magic. The other two wings that the Clippers featured last season, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Wesley Johnson, were only with the team for one season and the Clippers do not have their bird rights. With most of free agency's wing targets already gone, the Clippers will be left short-handed at small forward again.
Now, the Clippers will have to move forward with or without Jamal Crawford. If they can re-sign him, they'll have the $5.6M mid-level exception and $2.2 million bi-annual exception to fill out the roster before looking for minimum salaried players. If the Crawford does not return, the Clippers can open up about $10 million in cap room to pursue either one target or multiple players at above minimum salaries. They'd also have the room exception of 2.9 million to add a player.
Update: According to Adrian Wojnarowski, Austin's contract with the Clippers is for three years and $35 million. Ramona Shelburne reports that the third year of Austin's contract is a player option.
Either way, Austin's contract doesn't really matter. The Clippers have his bird rights and they can exceed the cap to sign him, and if they need to clear cap room, they can wait to sign him last and is $5.9 million cap hold will be used in place of his new, larger salary. Here are some other contracts given to backup guards this summer:
Jeremy Lin got 3 years and $36 million, a comparable price for a guy who was a backup combo guard and shot significantly worse from the field and just 0.1% better from deep. Lin's more of a dynamic offensive player but he's inefficient and not nearly as effective defensively as Austin.
Jerryd Bayless got 3 years and $27 million, a slight discount over Austin. Bayless is a backup scoring guard who, throughout his career, has been inefficient from the field but solid from deep. He has a very poor defensive reputation and is undersized playing off of the ball.
Both Lin and Bayless are also older than Austin.