Offseason Outlook: Los Angeles Clippers

Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA TODAY Sports Images

Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA TODAY Sports Images

Hoops Rumors is looking ahead to offseason moves for all 30 teams. We’ll examine free agency, the draft, trades and other key storylines for each franchise as the summer approaches.

Keeping the stars around

Coach/executive Doc Rivers made it clear after the Clippers’ first-round playoff ouster that he isn’t inclined to trade any of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan, in spite of remarks he made before the season indicating that he would considering doing so if the team came up short in the playoffs again this year. Injuries had much to do with the latest postseason disappointment for the Clippers, who played without Paul and Griffin for the final two games of their series against the Blazers. It was Griffin’s left quadriceps that ultimately ended his season, but it was the right hand he broke when he punched assistant equipment manager Mathias Testi that brought trade rumors to the forefront. Nearly every team reportedly inquired to see if the Clippers would trade the former No. 1 pick, but Rivers wouldn’t budge, tabling the decision until after the season, and now it appears he’s chosen to ride it out with him. So, Rivers must shift his focus toward finding a way to keep Griffin and Paul in the summer of 2017, when they can both opt out.

Free agency ahead for supporting cast

Paul, Griffin, Jordan and J.J. Redick are the only members of the Clippers rotation who aren’t on expiring contracts, don’t have player options for this summer and aren’t pondering retirement. Paul Pierce, who turns 39 in October, is 50-50 on whether to play another season, and while Rivers feels he has one more season left in him, Pierce seemed to be running on fumes this year. Jeff Green can play the same positions, but he’ll be a free agent in July, and his market value is difficult to peg. The 26.3 minutes per game he saw for the Clippers after they traded for him at the deadline would have matched a career low if extrapolated over a full season.

Jamal Crawford saw an uptick in minutes, and while his production was off, he won his third career Sixth Man of the Year award after restoring Rivers’ faith in him. Crawford wished he was a free agent last year amid trade rumors, and while he said after the season he’d like to be back with the Clippers, it remains to be seen if he’s truly comfortable in L.A. Austin Rivers calls Crawford his favorite teammate, but regardless of whether Crawford stays or goes, the presence of Doc Rivers is probably enough to keep his son in a Clippers uniform, even if he opts out, as his father expects him to do. Doc Rivers also thinks Wesley Johnson and Cole Aldrich will opt out, and while Rivers indicated he’d like to re-sign all the team’s soon-to-be free agents, a group that includes surprise starter Luc Mbah a Moute, it’s reasonable to suspect the Clippers rotation will look different next year, given the volume of players hitting the open market.

Free agent targets

The Clippers will probably be one of the few teams around the league this summer that’ll be unable to open cap space, so they’ll rely on the $5.628MM mid-level and $2.203MM biannual exceptions to sign outside free agents. That will make for slim pickings, with such exceptions becoming progressively less valuable to free agents as the cap surges. So, the Clippers will likely seek players for specific roles, with small forward and a backup big man the most likely needs. Dewayne Dedmon, Jared Dudley, Maurice Harkless, J.J. Hickson, Jordan Hill, Solomon Hill, Joe Johnson, David Lee, Jon Leuer, Nene, Tayshaun Prince, Robert Sacre, Luis Scola, Jason Smith, Marreese Speights, Amar’e Stoudemire, Mirza Teletovic, Lance Thomas and Anderson Varejao are candidates to fall within the Clippers’ price range.

Potential trades

Rivers is reportedly determined to try to convince Kevin Durant to put on a Clippers uniform, a move that would require the team to trade one of Paul, Griffin or Jordan, but short of that long-shot scenario, Rivers’ commitment to his three stars makes it unlikely the team pulls off a significant trade. Redick and Pierce are the only other Clippers with guaranteed salaries of $2MM or more for next season, so the team lacks trade fodder.

Draft outlook

  • First-round pick: 25th
  • Second-round pick: 33rd

If the Clippers do make a trade, it’ll probably involve one or both of their picks. Rivers said it’s foolish to expect the team to come away with a player at No. 25 who could drastically upgrade the team next season, as Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times notes. Given the ability of Griffin and Paul to hit free agency in 2017, it’s reasonable to suspect the team might want to trade its tightly bunched selections for a veteran who could pay immediate dividends for a critical season ahead. Barring that, the Clippers seem likely to go with either NBA-ready seniors or draft-and-stash candidates who could prove steals far down the road but would stay off the team’s books in the near term.

Other decisions

Age seemed to finally catch up to Pablo Prigioni, who was the NBA’s oldest-ever rookie when he was 35. He turns 39 this month and is coming off his worst NBA season thus far, so it’s tough to see the Clippers re-signing him. Fellow soon-to-be free agent Jeff Ayres was an insurance policy who saw only two minutes of action in the playoffs even amid all the injuries, so he’s probably a goner, too. Branden Dawson played 29 games in the D-League and just six at the NBA level this season, and while the Clippers can’t afford to ignore player development, he’s no sure bet to stick on his non-guaranteed contract.

Final take

Rivers initially cast this past season as a make-or-break year for the team’s core, but he didn’t expect that the breaks would happen to his players’ bodies. The Clippers seem content to take a mulligan for 2015/16 and make only cursory changes for the season ahead, when it looks like this group will truly get its final chance to make it past the second round.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

  • None

Unrestricted Free Agents (Cap Holds)

Other Cap Holds

Projected Salary Cap: $92,000,000

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

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