Friday, May 29, 2009

On the Clock: Los Angeles Clippers


The Clippers have been the butt of jokes around the NBA for decades, and they find themselves in familiar circumstances, with the top pick in the lottery in 2009. With the 2009-2010 NBA salary cap expected to drop to around $57 million, the Clippers are already over the cap by nearly four million dollars, not to mention the $4.9 million they will soon owe the top pick.

The Clippers have a number of bad contracts on their books, including Zach Randolph ($33 million over the next two years), Baron Davis ($54 million over the next four years), and Chris Kaman ($34 million over the next three years). Finding a way to move any one of these contracts would be a great first step, but with the salary cap dropping for the first time in seven seasons, this seems more and more unlikely.

Short of moving one of those monster contracts, the best course of action for the Clippers would be to shop Marcus Camby and his expiring deal ($7.65 million) for some cap flexibility and future draft considerations. It’s always nice to get a player in return, especially for a guy who was once the Defensive Player of the Year, but given the economic climate in the NBA and Camby’s age, the Clips aren’t really in a power position. Getting under the cap and putting some future pieces in place would be compensation enough, considering that no one player would be able to single-handedly turn things around in La-La Land (at least this year).

For all the struggles that LA’s second team has endured during the Donald Sterling era, one can’t help but to cheer (at least a little) for the NBA’s ugly ducklings. After all, the last two drafts have been relatively kind to the Clippers. 2007’s first-rounder, Al Thornton, has been very promising, averaging nearly 17 points per game in his second season, while approaching nearly a steal and a block per game. Last year’s first-rounder, Eric Gordon, answered questions about his size and toughness by averaging over 16 points per game, while making 131 three-pointers, and being named to the NBA’s All-Rookie 2nd team.

Adding a dominating low-post presence would be a great fit along with two athletic scorers on the wings. Assuming that Griffin measures out around 6’8” rather than 6’6”, as some fear, he should be capable of filling this role for a long time. (Whether in LA or elsewhere.)

If Davis and Kaman can stay healthy next season and Griffin can manage not to pick up bad habits from Randolph, the Clippers should be well on their way to being competitive. They’ll probably be a lottery team again in 2010, but a lineup of Davis, Gordon, Thornton, Griffin, and Kaman would be a huge improvement over the Clippers of 2008-2009.

THE PICK: Blake Griffin- PF (Oklahoma)
THE OUTLOOK: D (27- 55)

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