The Clippers have been one of the more silent teams during the start of free agency. They have reportedly agreed to only one deal — a two-year contract for Nic Batum — while the rest of the league has moved at a frenetic pace.
But part of the reason the Clippers have been taking their time is there isn’t that much for them to do. Technically, Kawhi Leonard is an unrestricted free agent; however, unless he has a strong desire to play out a 2019 offseason what if and team up with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in Oklahoma City, Leonard can’t get paid anywhere close to the max by another team in the league. By default, he will be returning to the Clippers.
A similar situation exists for Reggie Jackson. Now that Danny Green has returned to Philadelphia, there aren’t any teams who can exceed the salary that the Clippers can offer Jackson, and there aren’t any better fits. Like Leonard, it seems like a matter of when — not if — Jackson is back in the fold.
With Leonard and Jackson, the Clippers will have 12 players under contract for the upcoming season, counting Jay Scrubb on a two-way. Presumably, their three draft picks will all make the team; let’s assume Keon Johnson and Jason Preston make the big club while BJ Boston gets a two-way. That puts the Clippers at 15, with two more slots to go.
We still haven’t accounted for Amir Coffey, who appears to be a part of the team’s future plans since he is in Las Vegas with the Summer League squad. Even if the Clippers decide that Coffey or Boston is better suited for the G League, they have at most two roster spots left. Those could go to known veterans like Patrick Patterson, Yogi Ferrell, or DeMarcus Cousins. Or the Clippers could have some fun.
Ideally, the Clippers could use their end of their bench on a project wing, which is kind of what Scrubb and Boston are already, but maybe a player with some more pedigree. Justise Winslow (25 years old) and Isaac Bonga (21) are both unrestricted free agents. Both have flashed rather impressive defensive tools — Winslow legitimately took the ball out of Kawhi’s hands in the paint last February — but need some offensive polishing, and the Clippers are good at that.
If the Clippers are looking for proven players who are more likely to contribute immediately, Andre Iguodala and Kelly Oubre are both available. Oubre even hits the rare sweet spot of being a capable rotation player who is young enough (also 25 years old) to still improve, and L.A. has its mini-midlevel open, even though that would still require Oubre to take a discount.
Unless the Clippers pull off a dramatic surprise, the rest of their free agency will be about as eventful as the start. That isn’t a problem, it’s by design for a team that already has enough pieces to compete for a title. It might be more fun as a fan for the Clippers to have more activity, but it wouldn’t necessarily be prudent.
More news for Thursday:
- The Clippers didn’t end up getting DeMar DeRozan, but Chris Haynes has a fun story about L.A.’s pursuit of the former USC wing on his Posted Up podcast.
- Nic Batum gave a hilarious scouting report ahead of France’s semifinal match against Slovenia at the Olympics.
- Ricky O’Donnell ranks the best remaining NBA free agents.
- In addition to their 2021 draftees and their 2020-21 two-ways, the Clippers reportedly have Jared Harper on their Summer League roster. The team will be coached by L.A. assistant Jeremy Castleberry.
- Coffey is on the squad even though he is a restricted free agent. It’s unlikely for a player to be on a two-way for three straight years, though it is legal by the CBA, so this could be a pivotal summer for him.