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Clippers Free Agent Targets: The Panic Moves

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The Clippers offseason moves can go a lot of ways. However, this free-agency class could be a minefield, and reaching for a player could end with tepid results

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

While Jovan Buha of The Athletic reported last week that the Clippers were only interested in going after the three big fish this summer (Kevin Durant, kawhi Leonard and a potential trade for Anthony Davis), there is a world where the Clips get panicky and don’t want to run it back. Yes, they were a playoff team that had an unexpectedly successful season, but with all of the anticipation, and talk, of making a big free-agent splash this summer, they might feel the need to do something. With KD’s injury, Kawhi’s ring, and the Clips unwilling to split from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in a trade for AD, the Clips might be running out of options.

The good news? The Clippers have a great front-office that sees both the future and present in a focused light and know what is best for the team. With the re-signing of Jerry West, Michael Winger and Trent Redden, this is an F.O. that knows this team is a desirable location for players and will do everything in their power to formulate a winning team. The (potential) bad news: with so many brand-name, all-star level players on the free-agency market this summer, will they try to make a move for an established name to alleviate fan worries and to make a quick run for the top of the Western Conference? With the Warriors’ outlook next season looking pretty dim due to the injury to Klay Thompson, the Rockets shuffling of a lot of front-office (and potential player) personnel, and a bunch of younger teams like the Nuggets, Trail Blazers and Kings coming up, the West will be very different next year. That’s not even getting into the possible new power in LA with the Anthony Davis-LeBron James Lakers. There’s a lot of uncertainty, and the Clippers might think they could take advantage with the right moves/

Do the Clippers reach for an all-star level player, not taking into account ego’s, price, age or passion for the franchise? I doubt it. But, at the end of the day, this is the Clippers: all fans should be cynical. Let’s take a look at some free-agents this summer that would be panic moves for the franchise if signed.

Jimmy Butler - SF, Philadelphia 76ers

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Stats (2018-19): (With Philly) 18.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists in 33.2 minutes. Splits of .461/.338/.868

Previous Contract: 5 year/$92,339,878

Free-Agent Status: Player Option for $19,841,627

Cons: Ego, potential price

Summary: Nah, I’m good. Remember when Jimmy Butler demanded a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves before the season started and he listed the Clippers as a preferred destination? I think Clipper Nation was pretty happy the front-office didn’t jump on it. While it was cool to see L.A. being at the forefront of a stars’ mind, the reality of the matter was that Jimmy was sullen and unhappy and sabotaged his team because of it. Now, as a potential free-agent this summer, Butler might be looking to move teams again. The problem with this? He will more than likely demand near-max or max money. Is Jimmy worth $150 million+ at age 30 with his miles, injury history, and ego? He has now disparaged and demanded to leave two separate franchises, and might leave another this summer. I don’t think Butler would be a good fit in L.A., a fairly ego-less team, and while he’s a great player, signing him to a max would be a panic move from the Clips front office.

Marc Gasol/Al Horford - C, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics

NBA: Boston Celtics at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Stats (2018-19):

Gasol (With Toronto): 9.1 points, 6.6 rebounds .9 blocks in 24.9 minutes. Splits of .465/.442/.769.

Horford: 13.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists in 29 minutes. Splits of .535/.360/.821

Previous Contracts: Gasol - 5 year/$113,211,750. Horford: 4 year/ $113,326,228

Free-Agent Status: Gasol - Player Option for $25,595,700. Horford - Player Option for $30,123,014

Cons: Age, diminishing abilities, Player Options

Summary: I’m lumping Marc Gasol and Al Horford together because they are two aging bigs with massive player options that they would be silly to not pick up given the market this offseason. However, there is a world where they decide to test the free-agent market. There is a higher likelihood that Horford could, even though he’d be leaving many millions on the table, if he wants to join a championship contender. However, these are two 33+ year olds whose stats have been steadily declining over the past few seasons, and probably wouldn’t contribute as much as their contracts would payout. While they are still valuable members of a team, signing these two to longterm, expensive deals is the type of panicky move that can sink a franchise cap wise.

DeMarcus Cousins - C, Golden State Warriors

NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Stats (2018-19): 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists in 25.7 minutes. Splits of .480/.274/.736

Previous Contracts: 1 year/$5,337,000

Free-Agent Status: UFA

Cons: Injuries, not a good identity fit

Summary: Please, for the love of god, no. Yes, Boogie would fill a need at the five. However, he is an injury-prone, inefficient player that recently suffered a devastating injury, and doesn’t look anywhere near 100%. I feel bad for Cousins, who was certainly a max contract player before his Achilles injury in early 2018, but I don’t feel bad enough to want him in L.A. Even if he improves on this past year, he’s going to be 29 in a couple months, is a below-average defender, and just seems unlikely to return anything approaching max value. Pass.

Kyrie Irving - PG, Boston Celtics

NBA: Playoffs-Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Stats (2018-19): 23.8 points, 6.9 assists, 5.0 rebounds in 33 minutes. Splits of .487/.401/.873

Previous Contracts: 5 year/$94,343,126

Free-Agent Status: Player Option for $21,329,750

Cons: Ego, crowded position, price, injuries

Summary: Kyrie almost single-handedly drowned the Celtics this season with his (not-so) subtle comments in the media about playing with youth and the rest of the organization. Irving seems like an impulsive loose-cannon who wants things done his way and won’t budge. He demanded a trade away from perhaps the second-best player of all-time, after three straight seasons in the finals, only to go to a Celtics team that was better when he was off the floor and now will more than likely jump again. It would be the ultimate reach for the L.A. front-office to go after him, especially with SGA firmly entrenched at the starting point guard position. It doesn’t seem likely that the Clips even try, with Kyrie’s interest seemingly leaning towards NYC or the other L.A. team. Kyrie, like Butler, is a legitimately great player, but he just doesn’t fit with this Clippers team and is not good enough to be the best player on a title team.

Would you be ok with any of these players? Do your thoughts change if the Clippers do land Kawhi or KD and one of these players would be the number two guy?