As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, figuring out the Clippers’ roster needs this summer is a tricky endeavor. The other day, we looked at some potential wing targets that the Clippers could use their mid-level exception on. Now, let’s check out some potential point guard targets.
For the purposes of this list, we’re assuming that the Clippers are re-signing Chris Paul in free agency and searching for backups. If Paul departs the team, they’ll obviously be looking at a different tier of players with more than just minimum-salary offers. Otherwise, they’ll just be looking for depth. The most likely scenario is that the team will re-sign Raymond Felton, who was successful in that role last season. They can offer him 120% of the minimum salary, almost $2.8 million with the new salary cap. Still, whether they keep Felton or not, the Clippers could use a new body at the point guard position. Whether it’s a Felton replacement, or a veteran capable of playing shooting guard alongside Paul and Felton, or a younger point guard to develop behind those two, I’d like to see the Clippers enter the 2017-18 season with more depth at the position than they had last year.
There are a lot of names out there at point guard, and we can’t list all of them here. But moving as quickly as I can through the list, here are 17 (!) names that should at least be somewhat on the Clippers’ radar.
- Tyler Ennis: Okay, so Ennis probably won’t be here for the minimum. But he’s had an up-and-down career, recently boosting his value with a strong finish to the 2017 season with the Lakers, averaging 7.7 points, 2.4 assists, 1.2 rebounds, and 0.9 steals in 18 minutes a game. It’s unclear if that stretch boosted his value from “D-League guy” to “worth a roster spot,” or if he’s now considered by some teams as a viable backup. At 22, someone might gamble real money on him.
- Xavier Munford: He’s not a true PG, and he’s too small (6’2”) to really be a shooting guard, but he was in camp last season with the Clippers and they reportedly really liked him. I’d guess that he’s a major candidate for one of L.A.’s new two-way contracts, which would allow him to spend a limited number of days with the Clippers during the season while still developing in the D-League. He recently turned 25.
- Kendall Marshall: I’ve always liked Marshall as a passer, despite his overall limitations. Turning 26 in August, it’s time for Kendall to prove if he can replicate his past NBA success (9 assists per game with the Lakers in 2014, and a career 37% three-point shooter).
- Shane Larkin: I’m not sure how Larkin didn’t get a new deal following his 2016 campaign with the Brooklyn Nets. As the backup point guard, he averaged 7.3 points and 4.4 assists in 22 minutes a game, posting a semi-efficient 44% from the field and 36% from deep. There are holes in his game (especially with defense and turnovers), but guys who can score like that tend to stick around. Look for him to try to jump back to the NBA following a successful year overseas.
- Tony Wroten: Maybe the most far-fetched of these younger players, Wroten wasn’t in the NBA last season and only played 8 games in 2016. Still, there’s some level of talent present when a guy averages 17 points and 5 assists at 21 years old. We know Doc has been interested in him in the past—does he still think that a smaller role and a more sturdy organization can help the now-24-year-old blossom?
- Toney Douglas: I’d keep an eye on Toney, because he’s someone the Clippers have been interested in in the past. Mostly known as a defender, he might be redundant with Raymond Felton, but he could still have utility providing depth if the Clippers face the injury bug. If he can repeat his 40% three-point performance from New Orleans in 2016, all the better.
- Greivis Vasquez: Now 30 years old, and with the injury bug having taken away the last two seasons, it’s unclear what Vasquez has left. If he can return to form, however, he could be a steal at the minimum: in the past, he averaged 9 assists per game in 2013 and shot 38% from deep in both 2014 and 2015. At 6’6” he could provide depth at multiple positions if you can get him playing at a high level.
- Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole: These two guys might as well be lumped together. They both had success as shooting point guards on the LeBron-era Miami Heat, but both had serious drop-offs when LeBron left and they were asked to do more than hit open threes. Then, they both struggled with injuries. I’m not sure how reliable an option either is at this point.
- Brandon Jennings: Quite possibly my least favorite player on this list, Jennings is an inefficient and selfish chucker who has only shot above 40% from the field twice in his 8-year career. Last season, he hurt the Knicks more than he helped before proving useless as a late-season pick-up for the Wizards. I’d advise the Clippers—and all 29 other teams—to steer clear, but his volume scoring (and perhaps name value) continues to attract suitors.
- Shelvin Mack: the much-maligned backup in Utah, Mack probably doesn’t deserve minutes over Dante Exum and Raul Neto, but could still be worthwhile on another team where he isn’t blocking minutes for better prospects. There isn’t much to get excited about here, but he’s got a healthy amount of NBA experience and you could do worse as third-string injury insurance.
- Brian Roberts: Part of Charlotte’s failed rotating cast of bench players last season, Roberts shot just 38% from the field. At his best, he’s been able to be a semi-efficient undersized scoring point guard, which can have value as part of a bench unit. It’s up to Doc Rivers to decide if the Clippers would be the right fit to get the 31-year-old playing up to his capabilities.
- Ramon Sessions: Once a much-coveted target for many Clippers fans, Sessions joined Roberts as part of the Hornets’ underwhelming bench crew last year. He’s proven himself a capable, well-rounded point guard in the past, but his poor season could cause Charlotte to decline his $6 million player option, leaving the 31-year-old in the bargain bin. Maybe he could be the classic Clipper backup point guard, rebuilding value and then signing a more lucrative deal next summer.
- Rodney Stuckey: The game seems to have passed Stuckey, a combo guard who can’t shoot, by. He has good size (6’5”) and experience playing multiple positions, but his 30% career mark from deep is troubling and he has slowly fallen out of favor in Indiana. Similar to Shelvin Mack, you could do worse at third string point guard, but there isn’t a ton to get excited about.
- Aaron Brooks: Tiny, quick, and now 32 years old, Brooks is the kind of player who is likely to fade fast as he ages. Still, he was marginally effective for the Pacers last season and has some name value, so he could potentially snag one last above-minimum deal.
The Old Dudes
- Beno Udrih: There isn’t a lot of upside or versatility here, but if the Clippers use a two-way contract on a younger guard to develop, they might just look for a third-string point guard who they can use as a crutch if Paul or Felton miss time with injury. Udrih, who will turn 35 during free agency, is that guy. A capable shooter and distributor who played 14 minutes a game in a part-time role with Indiana last season, he’d likely be able to fill the same gap for L.A.
- Jose Calderon: Calderon is an elite shooter and good passer whose long-time weaknesses—athleticism and defensive ability—have only grown worse as he’s aged. Still, he has proven that he can hit shots and at 6’4”, he’d at least be an option at shooting guard, if not a very good one. In one playoff game for the Atlanta Hawks last season, he had 10 points and 5 assists in 20 minutes, posting a +29 +/- and helping them to a 10-point victory.
The list is underwhelming, and it’s likely that the best names will get offered more money than the Clippers can hope to compete with. Still, for what they’re looking for in a third-string point guard, this isn’t an impossible task, and many of the names above are capable of getting the job done.
Who would you like the Clippers to pursue to bolster the point guard position?