I’d say, “they’re back” but let’s be honest; the Los Angeles Clippers were never truly here to begin with. For just the fifth time since the franchise made the move across country to the west coast, the Clips made the post-season, even advancing to the semifinals. The arrival of Chris Paul played a major role in the team stepping out of the shadow of the Lakers. However, there are still some moves to be made this off-season if the Clippers are going to take the next step of emerging as a legit Western Conference title contender.
Los Angeles Clippers (40-26 last year)
2011-12 Season Summary:
With one transaction, the outlook of one of the most scrutinized franchises in all of professional sports took a turn for the better. Chris Paul certainly did not disappoint in his first season with the Clippers. His ability and leadership was the answer L.A. had long been searching for.
Of course, CP3 couldn’t do it all by himself. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan combined to form one of the most athletic and explosive frontcourts in the NBA, capitalizing off Paul’s court vision to throw down monstrous alley-oop dunks that dubbed the Clips “Lob City.”
L.A. also got significant contributions from a number of valuable role players. Chauncey Billups was brought in to start in the backcourt alongside Paul. He played well until an Achilles injury ended his season just twenty games into the year. That increased the workload for Mo Williams and Randy Foye, and also forced the team to trade for scorer Nick Young. Eric Bledsoe ended up as the odd man out during the regular season but had some big moments in the post-season that reminded fans why his future is so bright.
Free agent acquisition Caron Butler added some scoring punch at small forward but wasn’t as effective as some would have hoped. Veterans Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin were brought in to add some depth in the frontcourt. Evans was his typical junkyard dog-self inside but Martin never really found his groove after spending the beginning of the season playing professionally in China.
All in all, it was a very successful 2011-2012 campaign for the Clippers who improved their win/loss mark by 22 games. Now it’s a matter of carrying that success forward into next season…
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
C: DeAndre Jordan
PF: Blake Griffin/*Trey Thompkins
SF: Caron Butler/Ryan Gomes
SG: #Mo Williams/*Travis Leslie
PG: Chris Paul/Eric Bledsoe
NBA Free Agents:
#G-Mo Williams (TO)
SG-Nick Young (UFA)
PF-Reggie Evans (UFA)
PF-Kenyon Martin (UFA)
SG-Randy Foye (UFA)
PG-Chauncey Billups (UFA)
SF-Bobby Simmons (UFA)
2012-13 Team Salary: approximately $50.7 million
1. Shooting Guard:
With Nick Young, Randy Foye, and Chauncey Billups both hitting the open market, that leaves Mo Williams as the starting shooting guard (assuming he doesn’t opt out of the final year of his contract which is unlikely to happen.) Williams is capable of scoring from the off guard spot but becomes a liability on the defensive end. The Clips can also play Eric Bledsoe alongside Paul/Williams but again, that’s a small backcourt. Therefore, finding a bigger shooting guard who can bring some defense to the floor should be a must for the Clips.
2. Frontcourt Depth:
Reggie Evans brought physicality and energy to the floor last season and Kenyon Martin was signed to add depth. Both guys are free agents though so L.A. should look to add some size and depth inside. Ideally, one of those bodies should be somebody who can stretch the floor with his mid-range game (not a strength of Griffin or Jordan.)
3. Extend CP3 & Blake:
The duo has played a huge role in the revival of the Clipper franchise but will both be free agents next summer. Paul is an unrestricted free agent while Griffin becomes a restricted free agent. It won’t be cheap, but the Clippers need to be proactive in trying to sign each player to a long-term extension before then to keep this team trending in the right direction.
OTHER NBA TEAM NEEDS PAGES:
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
NEW YORK KNICKS
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.