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Clips Nation roundtable: Final roster decisions

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The Clips Nation staff puts on their general manager hats to decide who the Clippers should keep on their regular season roster.

Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

If you were in charge of the Clippers, which two players would you cut?

Chris Murch: I think the first thing the Clippers must do is assess the trade market for Milos Teodosic. There were small rumbles earlier in training camp about the Suns having interest in Teo that seem to have dissipated. Teo will be 32 by the end of the season and is on an expiring contract. While he was a positive member of the team last season, his defense is nonexistent, and his scoring aptitude resides strictly in pick and roll situations and deep shots. He also has injury problems and will only be utilized in deep bench rotations this year anyway. His presence also could mean less time for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, which would impede development. If the Clippers can get a late second-round pick back from a team, or a two-way guy and money, it’s a win for L.A.

Outside of this, my cut would be Sindarius Thornwell. It’s sad because I was a big fan of his in college and thought he would be a second-round steal. Unfortunately, his offense hasn’t come around, and he is a liability with the ball in his hands. His defensive upside doesn’t make up for his lack of ability to make plays and hit threes consistently. He had a golden opportunity this offseason to prove himself in both Summer League and in preseason, but he has failed to do so. He is shooting 4-for-13 thus far in three games and hasn’t separated himself at all. With the depth that the Clips have at the two and three as well it doesn’t help his cause.

Farbod Esnaashari: I would cut Jawun and Wesley.

Lucas Hann: Milos and Wes. I’m not super high on Jawun, but Milos’ presence on the team worries more than reassures me this year. I like Milos! I like Milos more than Jawun, and I think Milos is better at basketball than Jawun right now, too. But Milos is 31, doesn’t figure to be a part of the team’s medium or long-term plans, and unlike Avery Bradley, there isn’t much hope of hanging on to him and flipping him for a pick mid-season. If the Clippers can move him to Phoenix or San Antonio for a second-round pick instead of cutting him, great, but otherwise, I’ll keep the 22 year old in his 2nd NBA season considering where the Clippers sit at the guard positions and the stage they’re in of their overall team-building.

Then we get to the long-term implications. Aside from the fact that Milos is 31, he’s also on an expiring contract and the Clippers will have to renounce his cap hold next summer in order to free up cap space to pursue the free agents they want. Jawun, while having less current on-court utility, is a much more team-friendly asset going forward if he can earn a role. The Clippers have a team option for $1.6M for 2019-2020, which means that after they see how he does this season, they can decide to keep him around for a very, very low cost next year. If he shows some signs, they get a young depth piece for super cheap as they try to fill in the gaps around the star free agents they pursue. Moving past that option year, Jawun would then become a restricted free agent, suppressing his value and allowing the Clippers to maintain long-term control over him if he does happen to develop into a quality player.

As close as that decision is between player 15 on the roster and the last man out, there really isn’t much question who should be #17 in the current 17-man group. Wes Johnson, unless the team has a use for his $6M expiring contract in an impending Jimmy Butler trade, seems almost certain to be released.

Max Jeffrey: The Clippers have deftly assembled a roster that is — by design — young, versatile, and capable of playing with pace. There’s also a particular emphasis on defensive fortitude, clearly demonstrated in their preseason outings thus far. Everyone on their current roster is undoubtedly worthy of an NBA rotation spot somewhere. But, to best maintain their organizational goals, the Clippers should cut (or trade) Milos Teodosic and Wesley Johnson.

Teodosic simply doesn’t fit the vision for this team. He can score from outside and has a remarkable ability to facilitate. But he is, most importantly, an absolute liability at the defensive end at all times; that cannot be said about anyone else on this roster. Pace is also a major issue for Teodosic, who often labors up and down the court relative to his teammates. Injury history and injury potential are factors as well for a player who has logged a lot of international minutes and will be 32 by season’s end. In the team’s new read-and-react offense, there’s just no need to have someone like Teodosic facilitating plays in the halfcourt.

Wesley Johnson, the longest-tenured Clipper on the roster, has had so many moments where he’s fit in so well. He can defend in isolation, he’s athletic, and he’s always healthy. The problem is, he only really has moments. He’s streaky, at best, offensively, and he sometimes struggles to switch onto players defensively. Furthermore, he hasn’t improved much over the last few seasons and just doesn’t carry the upside everyone that most others do on their roster.

Michelle Uzeta: I would cut Jawun Evans and Wesley Johnson. Jawun is just excess weight at this point. The Clippers have an abundance of guards and should stay focused on building a lengthy and tenacious backcourt. Unfortunately, Jawun does not fit that mold. Wes has had ample time to develop and prove his worth on the squad over the last couple of seasons and failed to do so. He has long out-stayed his welcome.

Robert Flom: I would cut Wes Johnson, and try to trade Milos to the Spurs or Suns for a smaller/non-guaranteed deal and a second-round pick or two. If a trade doesn’t happen, I’d just cut Milos, too. Look, none of the guys on the roster bubble should be getting minutes this year if the top 10 rotation players remain relatively healthy. If any of them are forced to play big minutes, the season is probably going badly anyway, in which case I’d rather have young guys getting development minutes. If the team is healthy and the fringe guys are sitting on the bench, I’d still rather have Jawun and Sindarius, because they are on cheap contracts for next season, and there’s at least a chance they could play a role in the next great Clippers team. Milos is better than Jawun, and Wes has a clearer path to minutes than Thornwell because of his positional fit. But neither of them are close to game-changers, not for this Clippers team, so give me the young guys every day.

Sabreena Merchant: I don’t really understand what Mike Scott is doing on this roster - the 5 minutes are taken care of by Gortat, Montrezl, and Boban, and Tobias, Luc, and Gallo should play all the minutes at the 4. I would also cut Wes Johnson, who provides little utility or trade value. Wes makes more sense on this team currently than Teodosic does, but I would imagine the Clippers make some sort of guard-clearing trade at some point in the season, making Milos a better fit down the line.

Taylor Smith: I’m definitely cutting Wesley Johnson and eating the $6 million he’s owed for the season. Steve Ballmer’s a billionaire, he can afford it. There is no clear path to minutes for WeJo anymore. He’s not particularly good, and the team has all sorts of depth on the perimeter. The fact that he hasn’t logged more than nine minutes in any preseason game to this point doesn’t bode particularly well for his future with the team, either. I’d just cut bait and move on.

The other spot will probably come down to Mike Scott, Jawun Evans or Sindarius Thornwell. Scott is the only established pro of the bunch, but he’s also 30 and hasn’t shown a whole lot during the preseason. Evans and Thornwell each had their moments as rookies last season, but it’s not like either is on the fast track to stardom. The Clippers’ point guard rotation minutes are spoken for (assuming Patrick Beverley stays healthy), so I would part ways with Evans. I like his game, but Scott and Thornwell are more likely candidates to find roles with the 2018-19 Clips than Evans at this point.

Who do you think the Clippers will actually cut?

Chris Murch: I truly am stumped as to what the Clippers will do. They haven’t shown their hand too much, although Sindarius has received many more minutes than Jawun Evans or Wes Johnson. I think Jawun has more potential than Sindarius moving forward, but if they decide to keep Milos, Jawun is the odd man out. I think Wes is a better player all-around than Thornwell, but the Clips traded into the draft to take Thornwell and he’s way younger than Wes.

If my life depended on it, I’d say they cut Jawun and Thornwell. Yes, getting rid of two second-year players who haven’t had enough time to prove much is peak-Doc, but this is a team that fancies itself a playoff contender. In the 45 games Milos played in last season, the Clips went 29-16. He is one of the best pure passers in the league and can knock down shots fairly consistently unlike Jawun. Wes is too expensive to waive and would help the Clips in deep bench rotations and in the locker room. I like them all, but the Clippers dug their own grave with this one.

Farbod Esnaashari: They’re going to cut Jawun and Sindarius.

Lucas Hann: Jawun and Wes. Overall, I don’t think it’s the most crucial move because the Clippers have Gilgeous-Alexander, Jerome Robinson, Ty Wallace, and Sindarius Thornwell already as four young guards who seem to be ahead of Jawun, and there is some short-term upside to keeping Milos in the fold this season, but I’d hedge towards making the long-term play. I think the Clippers will lean the other way and cut Jawun loose.

If Wes Johnson isn’t part of a trade (or a trade leaves the Clippers not needing to make cuts), I’d be really shocked to see him still around on opening night. Not only does he face pressure from the aforementioned host of young Clippers, but the team was so dissatisfied with their forward depth last season that they went out and signed two veterans, Luc Mbah a Moute and Mike Scott, to come in and play ahead of WeJo off of the bench at SF and PF.

Max Jeffrey: The Clippers will almost certainly end up waiving Wesley Johnson, even in spite of the glut of guards on the roster. An athletic forward is always nice to have around, but ultimately, it’s just hard to make the case for keeping him around against the talent they’ve accumulated over the last year.

The Clippers are also more likely to waive Jawun Evans than Milos Teodosic. This sort of seems inevitable given their willingness to fully guarantee the final year of Teodosic’s contract. Evans is quick, great in pick-and-roll, and he absolutely hustles defensively. He is a smart defender and masterfully fights through and around screens because of his keen foresight. He also plays very well going downhill, something Doc really likes from his guards. But Evans’ size and backcourt competition will probably end up forcing the Clippers’ hand.

Michelle Uzeta: I think the Clippers will cut Jawun and Wes, for the same reasons cited above.

Robert Flom: I think they cut Jawun and Wes. Jawun has been on notice since his poor showing in Summer League, and while he’s played well in preseason, so have guys ahead of him (outside Milos). I think the Clippers like Milos more than I do, and see more of a role for him on this year’s team. I do think they like Sindarius a lot too, and would rather move on from Wes, despite his baseline level of 10 minutes-per-game competence and locker room presence.

Sabreena Merchant: I thought the Clippers would have moved on from Teodosic earlier this offseason, and I was equally stunned when they matched Ty Wallace’s contract, though I’m thrilled Ty is still on the team. Suffice to say, I have no real feel for this front office, but I think the Clippers will cut Evans and Thornwell. It’s not good optics to cut veterans this late in the process, even if it would behoove the team to keep more youngsters around.

Taylor Smith: I think they really will cut Johnson and Evans. Mike Scott’s underwhelming preseason may have him on the fringe, but I still think Doc Rivers would prefer to keep a stretchy big with Scott’s skill set around despite the bricky start. I also think there’s a bit of P.J. Tucker in Thornwell somewhere, and his NBA ceiling looks higher to me than Evans’ does. Teams are obsessed with defensive versatility and switchability these days. Thornwell can give you something on that end, while the tiny Evans doesn’t.