Amidst all the constant chatter about Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and the rest of the superstar free agents, there’s the knowledge that 200 other NBA players are available this summer, and can help swing the fortunes of teams like the Clippers, whether they get their star or not. Yesterday, Chris wrote about a handful of mid-level guys who could either supplement Kawhi, or be suitable replacements if he’s not brought in. Today, I want to look at 10 different players who I think the Clippers should target this summer, under various scenarios.
The first group are players who could be cheap replacements for Danilo Gallinari if he is traded one way or another – or backups for him if he stays. For example, if the Clippers are able to get KD and Kawhi, Gallo will have to be traded – and because KD will be out for a year, the Clippers will have a hole at forward. These guys could step in as stop-gap starters for a year, or at the very least hold down a bench spot. The next group are guys who will probably be too expensive if the Clippers land stars, but could be alternative options in the next couple years to keep them competitive until the 2021 free agency class. Finally, there are three young players with some upside who could be available for cheap, and could work as development projects on a contender, or as fliers on a rebuilding team. Without further ado…
Danilo Gallinari backups or replacements:
Anthony Tolliver – The Clippers have loved Anthony Tolliver for years. They’ve been linked to him nearly every summer and trade deadline for what feels like eons, but have never been able to close the deal. Could this be the year? The Clippers have a need at backup power forward, and Tolliver perfectly fits the bill. He’s tough, incredibly well-respected around the NBA as a teammate, is a better defender than you’d think, and can hit threes. For the room exception, or potentially even on the minimum, Tolliver would be an excellent 15 minute a game backup.
Mike Scott – The Threegional Manager has become somewhat of an NBA legend over the past year, and it all started with his “ain’t no bitches” comment on signing with the Clippers last summer. Despite his shooting being somewhat inconsistent as a Clipper, he’s just a competent reserve who can play up to 20 minutes in legit, playoff games (as he did for the Sixers last year). He fits the Clippers culture to a tee, can shoot, and provides great quotes.
Jared Dudley – I know, I know. Jared Dudley did not leave the Clippers under ideal circumstances, and rumors were that he was upset at Doc and the Clips for not managing his injury well. However, the Clippers front office and coaching staff is much different than it was five years ago, and the entire team has a much different feel and ethos. Dudley was a crucial role player for the Nets last year, as his smarts enable him to play solid positional defense despite a severe lack of athleticism. He can hit threes, moves the ball well, and is playoff-ready. If he’s open to a reunion, I think he’d fit well.
Players on 1-2 year deals to keep Clips competitive
DeMarre Carroll – Carroll’s numbers fell last year, but he’s still a solid 3 and D wing who can play 25 minutes for a good team. He’s big enough to defend the larger wings that the Clippers have always had such trouble with, and is capable enough from deep to punish teams who leave him open. Older and somewhat injury prone, Carroll could be available for something like 2/12, which would be excellent value for a guy who’s at worst a 7th man at a vital position where the Clippers are weak. DeMarre also had his best years playing for Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta, a coach who uses a similar free-flowing offense with lots of ball movement to that of Doc Rivers. Carroll is not a game-changer, but would certainly be a nice stabilizing force. Additionally, he might just be cheap enough to nab even if the Clippers do get Kawhi and KD, and would be a much better stop-gap starter than the players above.
Rudy Gay – Gay would be yet another stepping-stone on the Clippers’ quest to acquire wing players who were greatly desired in the Lob City era. Unlike say Wilson Chandler, however, Rudy Gay is aging well, a large wing who has improved his rebounding, defense, and playmaking late in his career. He’s no longer the premium bucket-getter he once was, but is more well-rounded than ever, and can still score quite capably if needed. If the Clippers trade Gallo for assets, or even if they keep him, but miss on top-tier guys, Gay would be an excellent get on a 2 year, $24 million deal as a starting-level wing who can fit in several different kinds of lineups.
Tomas Satoransky – Satoransky is quietly one of the better role players in the NBA, a large combo guard who can run the point, play off-ball, and defend several positions. He’s not great at any one thing, but is a capable shooter, ball-handler, and defender, and is absolutely beloved by teammates. If Pat Beverley leaves in free agency, Satoransky could be the nominal backup point guard while also receiving minutes on the wing alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Lou Williams. Sato is versatile, competent, and would fill several holes for the Clippers. The problem might be Sato’s price tag, but if the Clippers strike out on Kawhi, they could afford to shell out for Sato on a two year deal – even if they need to clear space next summer, his deal would be easily movable.
Khem Birch – I love Khem Birch. He doesn’t possess much upside and doesn’t do anything flashy, but he’s a good rim protector, rebounder, and finisher around the basket – a very solid traditional big man. His defense was one of the reasons why the Orlando Magic surged down the stretch last season, and I think he’d be just as good in a larger role. If the Clippers want to move on from Ivica Zubac, Birch would be a great candidate to replace him in a similar stop-gap starting role in front of Montrezl Harrell.
Young Players to Take a Flier On
Stanley Johnson – Johnson has been a bad player in his NBA career thus far. However, he was drafted 8th just four years ago, and has strong size and athleticism for an NBA wing. Johnson turned 23 a month ago, and if he’s able to improve his shooting to at least an acceptable level could be a solid rotation player. There’s not a ton of upside here anymore, but Johnson is worth a shot, especially if the Clippers miss out on top-tier free agents.
Luke Kornet – Kornet is another 23 year old, yet is far less seasoned than Johnson, having been in the NBA only two years, and not playing a ton in that time. A 7’1 center, Kornet’s field goal shooting % is scarily low, but less so considering that over two-thirds of his shots were from deep. He’s a 36% shooter from three-point range on a solid 4.1 attempts per game, which is pretty good for a big man. Better, he’s shown the ability to block shots, and is a decent passer who doesn’t turn the ball over much. Big men who can shoot and protect the rim are a valuable archetype, and while Kornet needs to work on his finishing and rebounding, he’s an interesting flier.
Cheick Diallo – Diallo is a big man too, but on the exact opposite spectrum in terms of style of play from Kornet. A 22 year old who stands only 6’9, Diallo has no ability to shoot the three, and lives around the basket. He’s an extremely effective finisher, using length and athleticism to power over and through defenders with thunderous dunks. Diallo also utilizes that athleticism and bulk to snag rebounds at a high rate, and is a fantastic board-man for his size. He doesn’t shoot or make plays for others, and is undersized at center, but the offense and rebounding is legit.
Are there any names on here you’d be particularly interested in? Names you want to shy away from? Let me know in the comments below!