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Clippers Free Agent Targets: The NBA’s Middle Class

There is a world where the Clippers strike out on star free-agents this summer. That doesn’t mean they can’t improve their roster, however.

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NBA: Orlando Magic at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Two days away people. On Sunday, June 30 at 6 PM EST, the most important summer in Clippers franchise history will start. This franchise has been plagued by little brother syndrome, terrible ownership, and the lack of attraction of big name free-agents for almost it’s entire existence. Yes, the Clippers got Baron Davis in 2008 (only to lose Elton Brand that same summer). Yes, the Clips got Chris Paul in a trade and drafted Blake Griffin. Yes, we convinced Blake to stay only to ship him away a few months later. The Clippers have had some successes in the summers of yore. However, this summer, the Clippers are on the precipice of becoming a true contender and with the addition of a star free-agent, could finally reach heights never seen before in Buffalo, San Diego, or La La Land.

That sounds great and all, but reality is starting to set in a bit as the days go by. The Lakers have two top-five players and, now, a max slot to make a big three, with their eyes set on the apple of the Clippers’ eye Kawhi Leonard. Kevin Durant, even if he comes, will miss next season and might never be the same post Achilles injury. Despite rumors he would be open to coming here, Klay Thompson will miss most of next season and is a strong favorite to return to Golden State. Guys like Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving and a host of others look to have their sights set on other cities, and there is a world where the Clippers get no stars and decide to run it back. Not the worst thing, but in a conference that will continue to get better while your biggest rival are now championship contenders, it’s a big swing and a miss.

Jovan Buha of The Athletic reported a few weeks back that the Clippers are only hunting big fish this offseason, However, will ownership and the front-office just let this summer go by without signing anyone? I doubt it. This free-agency class is really deep and the Clippers can still improve their roster by signing some more “middle class” free-agents to help with the needs of wing depth, solidifying the paint, keeping up the scrappy identity and hopefully getting a back-up point guard if Patrick Beverley decides to walk. With that being said, here’s a look at four players (and two honorable mentions) who could be solid targets for the Clippers this summer if they strike out on stars.

Terrence Ross - SG, Orlando Magic

Stats (2018-19): 15.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists in 26.5 minutes. Splits of .428/.383/.875

Previous Contract: 3 year/$31,500,000

Free-Agent Status: UFA

Needs Met: Wing, identity, added shooting

Summary: Terrence Ross finally had an overdue breakthrough season this year with the Orlando Magic. He is an uber-athletic, long 6’7” wing who is a sniper, with the athleticism to be a true 3-and-D threat. This past season, he became the first player in NBA history to hit 200 threes without starting one game. If he was in a bigger market than Orlando, he would probably have been in the top three of Sixth Man of the Year voting. Ross looked like he truly embraced the sixth man role, and was able to deliver consistently and effectively. He averaged a career high in points while finishing the season with the second best individual defensive rating of his career. Ross averaged 13.2 points a game in the playoffs, fits the Clips need for wing depth, and is a good enough defender to also patch up the 2nd units’ perimeter inefficiencies on that end. A potential bench trio of Lou-Ross-Trez would be damn near unstoppable on the offensive end, and he can give the Clips lineup versatility, as he could fit seamlessly with a starting group or bench. He was making above $10 million over the last three seasons, and after the 2018-19 he had, will probably look for a raise. He might be a tad expensive for a potential 2nd unit type, but just look at how valuable Lou has been to L.A. in that capacity. If L.A. strikes out on Kawhi, Ross would be a valuable, albeit much quieter, addition.

Darren Collison - PG, Indiana Pacers

Stats (2018-19): 11.2 points, 6.0 assists, 3.1 rebounds in 28.2 minutes. Splits of .467/.407/.832

Previous Contract: 2 year/$20,000,000

Free-Agent Status: UFA

Needs Met: Back-up PG, Shooting

Summary: Come back home Darren. The former UCLA Bruin and Los Angeles Clipper playoff savior is hitting the market this summer, coming off four straight seasons of: shooting above 40 percent from three, above 83 percent from the line, averaging 11+ points, and dishing four dimes per game. He is as efficient as they come, and is the type of team-first vet that the Clippers should be eyeing to mentor Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and provide immediate scoring and production. Collison will be 32 this summer, yet hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. Yes, his scoring numbers did dip from 2017-18. However, he averaged the most assists of his career last season. Collison is a heady, experienced point guard that L.A. will need for deeper playoff runs. The dude can flat out shoot the ball, and has good vision. While he leaves a bit to be desired on the defensive end due to his small stature, he’s by no means a bum on that end, and is still quick enough to keep players in front. He will more than likely be looking to grab a multi-year deal, as this could be his last big contract. But, with all of the other free-agents on the market and the Pacers supposed interest in replacing him as the starting PG with guys like De’Angelo Russell, Collison’s market could shrink a bit. If the Clippers strike out on some bigger names, Collison should 100% be someone they look at to replace the likely departed Pat Beverley.

Dewayne Dedmon - C, Atlanta Hawks

Stats (2018-19): 10.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.1 blocks in 25.1 minutes. Splits of .492/.382/.814

Previous Contract: 2 year/$14,100,000

Free-Agent Status: UFA

Needs Met: Big, rim-protection, added shooting

Summary: A semi-popular name in free-agency circles because of his ability to stretch the floor and protect the rim, Dedmon is another LA native hitting the market this summer. A former journeyman who played for four teams in four seasons before landing with the Atlanta Hawks in 2017-18, Dedmon finally got a chance to showcase his inside-out game in ATL. A previous career high of 5.1 points per game in San Antonio in 2016-17 was dwarfed by back-to-back seasons of averaging 10+ points and 7.5+ boards a game. Dedmon was a killer in the Hawks spread-out offense, and was able to score in a multitude of ways. Not unlike how Brook Lopez transformed his game, Dedmon never shot threes before 2017-18, and last season knocked them down at a 38.2 percent clip. His per 36 numbers of 15.5 points and 10.7 rebounds a game read like a near all-star’s, and his two-way versatility screams modern NBA. He does have some injury history and will be 30 this season, but he would be an upgrade over Zubac, and is the type of veteran, team-first guy that front-offices and fans love. He also shouldn’t be too expensive.

Jeremy Lamb - SG, Charlotte Hornets

Stats (2018-19): 15.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists in 28.5 minutes. Splits of .440/.348/.888

Previous Contract: 3 year/$21,000,000

Free-Agent Status: UFA

Needs Met: Wing depth, athleticism

Summary: No one is talking about Jeremy Lamb, but he would provide great value to teams in 2020 and beyond. Lamb is coming off a 2018-19 campaign where he averaged career highs in points, rebounds, steals and blocks. This after a 2017-18 season where he had previously set a career high in points and assists. His rapid ascension bodes well for his future, as from 2016-17 to now, he has upped his scoring by six points per game. Lamb is only 27 and is now a seven year veteran of the league. He put up 15 and 5 averaging less than 30 minutes last season and fits the Clippers need for wing depth. He could start right away and is also active enough, and long enough defensively, to help on that end as well. If the Clips strike out on KD and Kawhi (which is beginning to look likely), Lamb would be a great wing to bring in who wont cost a crazy amount and could contribute right away.

Honorable mention: Kevon Looney (UFA), Danny Green (UFA)

Do any of these guys sound intriguing to you all?