Well, that was a long day. After some mixed and meaningless reviews of the Clippers' meeting with Kevin Durant, they clearly received notice from his camp yesterday afternoon that he would not be coming to Los Angeles, and moved on to their plan B: re-signing their own free agents.
Of course, that didn't go smoothly either. While the Clippers were courting Durant, Jeff Green decided not to wait a few days as the Clippers had requested and took a one-year, $15 million deal with the Orlando Magic. Because of that, the Clippers had already lost one of their three bird rights players before they even got started on making them offers. Today, when they finally extended offers to the other two (Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers) they got one deal done--a 3-year, $35 million contract for the young combo guard. Unfortunately, Jamal Crawford wasn't impressed with the Clippers one-year, $12 million offer, and he turned to other teams, seeking a three-year deal. He's drawn interest from multiple other teams, including the Golden State Warriors who are rumored to offer him a three-year deal if Kevin Durant does not choose them.
Here's how the depth chart is looking:
|Point Guard||Chris Paul||Austin Rivers||David Michineau|
|Shooting Guard||J.J. Redick||C.J. Wilcox||N/A|
|Small Forward||Wesley Johnson||N/A||Branden Dawson|
|Power Forward||Blake Griffin||Brice Johnson||Paul Pierce|
|Center||DeAndre Jordan||Diamond Stone||N/A|
As of now, it seems as though Crawford, who ha been named the NBA's 6th Man of the Year twice in his Clippers tenure, will be moving on. Anything can change with one phone call, whether it be from the Clippers raising their offer or from Crawford caving because he wants to return, but right now it seems unlikely. If the Clippers are able to retain him, then Wesley Johnson's new contract will count as their mid-level exception, and they'll have just the $2.2 million bi-annual exception with which to sign one last above-minimum player--although the trends of the market dictate that for less than 2 years and $6 million you're not likely to get an NBA-caliber player.
If the Clippers don't keep Jamal Crawford, then, to put it frankly, Doc Rivers needs to convince Paul Pierce to retire. If Pierce retires, then the Clippers can free up $9.9 million in cap room. First, $5.628 million of that goes to Wesley Johnson's new 3-year contract for the value of the Mid-Level Exception, and the Clippers would be left with $4.8 million, which is probably enough to land you another solid player who falls through the cracks. If they need more negotiating power, waiving Branden Dawson's non-guaranteed deal puts their cap room at $5.2 million. Then, they'll have the room exception--valued at $2.898 million, which so far has been used to sign players like James Ennis--a wing that the Clippers had been rumored to target.
It's easily seen in the Clippers' depth chart above that they have three serious needs to address: a backup point guard to allow Austin Rivers to slide to shooting guard, another small forward to split time with Wesley Johnson, and a veteran big as insurance for the rookies Johnson and Stone. If Crawford stays, they can keep their makeshift backcourt intact and maybe get one buy-low guy for one of the other holes. If Crawford leaves, the Clippers have a chance to add two solid-to-replacement-level players to plug at least two of those holes. They clearly must prioritize adding a small forward, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute would seem to be the obvious choice. Choosing between guard and big will have to come down to which free agents are available for the right value and fit.
In the end, if the Clippers are to lose Crawford, they'll need Pierce's retirement in order to free up the money to fill out their roster. That means that sometime in the next couple of days, Pierce will need to finally make a decision--the decision that should have come well before the draft, the decision that was promised before free agency, and the decision that now could influence a critical junction in the Clippers' off-season. If he's going to stay, they'll have to overpay to keep Crawford in order to have playable NBA talent. If he's going to retire, they might decide to let Jamal walk instead of giving him too large of a contract.
The only other option for the Clippers would be to waive Pierce and stretch his contract. With two years remaining but only $1,096,080 guaranteed in the second, Pierce's contract could be stretched for a penalty of $924,800 a season for each of the next five seasons. If the Clippers do that, their room would be just under $4 million. If they really need a little bit more to attract a free agent, cutting Branden Dawson's non-guaranteed deal will easily free up another few hundred thousand, giving the Clippers almost $4.3 million. Now, I don't see any scenario in which the Clippers would actually cut Paul Pierce--Doc Rivers is too close with him. But we'll see if an announcement comes in the next day or two. If not, and the Clippers' off-season is further spoiled by Pierce's indecisiveness, a player that most fans already didn't like will become massively more unpopular.
That's what we're waiting on right now: Jamal Crawford, and Paul Pierce.