After much anticipation, last Thursday’s NBA Draft ended up being pretty mellow. Not only did the Clippers fall short of making a blockbuster, but the NBA as a whole failed to produce many fireworks, with just four draft-day trades being completed, none of which included a current NBA player. All teams did was use combinations of picks and cash to acquire other picks. There wasn’t even a team making a big play to move up into the draft and nab a top prospect, as maybe the two most exciting deals were Atlanta and Dallas trading the third pick for the fifth pick and a future 1st, and Philadelphia and Phoenix trading the 10th pick for the 16th pick and a future 1st.
The Clippers were a part of the action, but barely: they gave up two future second-round picks and the 12th overall pick in a bidding war with the Suns to acquire the 11th pick and select Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. That move is about as low-key as a draft day trade can get, save for the Lakers and 76ers swapping second-rounders, which was the fourth and final trade of the draft. The Clippers actually got more attention for the pick they didn’t trade, as selecting Jerome Alexander 13th overall has drawn some surprised criticism in the media.
While the unexciting nature of this year’s draft means that the league landscape hasn’t changed much since the trade deadline, the end of draft season means we should officially start preparing for a time of year when the league’s landscape always changes: free agency. By June 25th, the table is mostly set for fireworks on July 1st—trades, while not unheard of, are relatively rare in the week leading up to free agency, and we have decisions on almost all of the league’s impending team options, player options, early termination options, and pre-free agency contract guarantee dates. We’ll spend this week looking at the Clippers’ tools and targets for improving their roster during the free agency period, but first, let’s look at exactly where the Clippers stand. Here’s their current depth chart (the 12 players who are under contract and the Clippers’ two soon-to-be-signed first-round rookies):
PG: Patrick Beverley, Milos Teodosic*, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jawun Evans
SG: Austin Rivers*, Lou Williams, Jerome Robinson, Sindarius Thornwell
SF: Danilo Gallinari, C.J. Williams
PF: Tobias Harris, Wesley Johnson*, Sam Dekker
C: Boban Marjanovic
*Reportedly exercised player option for 2018-19.
Clearly, that depth chart presents some issues. The Clippers have 8(!) guards, no reliable forward backups, and the only center on the roster was their third-string option last season. Clearly additions need to be made, but even more pressing is the issue that the team is going to need to make some subtractions: with 14 players on the roster and several needs to address, it’s clear that some of the players listed above are going to have to be off the team over the course of the next couple of weeks. Let’s expand the depth chart a little bit and look at where the Clippers stand with all of their players, including pending free agents and contract details for everyone involved:
PG: Patrick Beverley (non-guaranteed expiring contract worth $5,027,028), Milos Teodosic (reportedly exercised his player option for a partially guaranteed expiring contract worth $6,300,000 with $2,100,000 guaranteed if waived by July 15th), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (rookie scale cap hold estimated at $3,346,560, will have a four year deal with team options in years 3 and 4), Tyrone Wallace (eligible for restricted free agency; qualifying offer is a two-way contract with $50,000 guaranteed; qualifying offer due by June 29th), Jawun Evans (owed $1,378,424 next season with a subsequent team option for $1,618,520 in 2019-20)
SG: Austin Rivers (reportedly exercised his player option for an expiring $12,650,000 contract), Lou Williams (recently extended for three years, $24 million at a flat $8,000,000 annual salary; final season $1.5 million guaranteed until July 15th, 2020; not trade-eligible until August 7th, 2018), Avery Bradley (unrestricted free agent; LAC has bird rights; $13,212,483 cap hold), Jerome Robinson (rookie scale cap hold estimated at $3,020,280, will have a four year deal with team options in years 3 and 4), Sindarius Thornwell (owed $1,378,424 next season with a subsequent non-guaranteed salary of $1,618,520 in 2019-20)
SF: Danilo Gallinari (guaranteed contract for $21,587,579 next season and $22,615,559 in 2019-20), C.J. Williams (non-guaranteed contract for $1,378,242 next season and $1,618,520 in 2019-20; $125,000 becomes guaranteed for 2018-19 on opening night 2018; $200,000 becomes guaranteed for 2019-20 on opening night 2019; not trade-eligible until July 9th, 2018)
PF: Tobias Harris (guaranteed expiring contract for $14,800,000), Wesley Johnson (reportedly exercised his player option for an expiring $6,134,520 contract), Sam Dekker (guaranteed expiring contract for $2,760,095)
C: DeAndre Jordan (has until June 29th to exercise player option worth $24,119,025), Montrezl Harrell (eligible for restricted free agency; qualifying offer is $1,839,228; qualifying offer due by June 29th); Boban Marjanovic (guaranteed expiring contract for $7,000,000)
That’s where the Clippers stand heading into free agency. By Friday’s deadline, they’ll have confirmation regarding DeAndre Jordan’s player option, and they’ll have made decisions on qualifying offers for Wallace and Harrell. Then the table will be fully set for the Clippers to explore the options we’ll lay out later this week: potentially releasing Teodosic or C.J. Williams’ non-guaranteed deals to save money, exploring trade options to unload some of their many guards, pursuing free agent depth at the forward positions, and signing a starting center—either Jordan or a replacement.