The Clippers have had one winning season in the past 17 years. No wonder they are the laughing stock of the NBA. But with building blocks like Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon, the franchise is inching its way in the right direction and hoping to shake their losing culture.
By: David Kay
Los Angeles Clippers (29-53 in 2009-2010)
2010-11 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Chris Kaman/DeAndre Jordan/Jarron Collins
PF: Blake Griffin/Craig Smith/Brian Cook
SF: Ryan Gomes/Al-Farouq Aminu
SG: Eric Gordon/ Rasual Butler/Willie Warren
PG: Baron Davis/Randy Foye/Eric Bledsoe
Head Coach: Vinny Del Negro (1st season)
2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $50.5 million
-Clippers re-sign G/F Rasual Butler to 1-year deal
-Clippers re-sign PF Craig Smith to 1-year deal
-Clippers sign PF Brian Cook to 2-year, $2.5 million deal
-Clippers sign SF Ryan Gomes to 3-year, $12 million deal
-Clippers sign G Randy Foye to 2-year, $8.5 million deal
-Clippers acquire PG Eric Bledsoe (18th pick) from Thunder for future 1st round pick
Off-Season Grade: C
The Clippers entered the off-season with only five players under contract and a good amount of cap space to spend. Rather than landing an impact free agent, the Clips added complimentary players to surround their nucleus of Griffin/Gordon/Davis/Kaman.
LAC needed to find a small forward through the draft and ended up doing so by taking Al-Farouq Aminu. He may not be ready to jump into the starting line-up right away but is nice piece to the future. The same can be said of Eric Bledsoe who the Clips acquired for a future first round pick. I think Bledsoe is going to be a very good NBA point guard once he matures and really like this deal along as the pick the Clips are giving up does not end up being a top five selection.
Free agency was disappointing in Clipperland. The team was unable to sign a major player despite having the cap flexibility do so. Instead, the team focused on bringing in Ryan Gomes, Randy Foye, and Brian Cook for reasonable contracts while also re-signing Rasual Butler and Craig Smith. These players will bring some stability to the bench but are not anything to get too excited about.
The Clipper curse and a kneecap injury cost Blake Griffin his rookie season, ultimately dooming LAC’s post-season chances from the opening tip of the season. Now that Griffin is healthy, there is a cautious optimism that he can help this organization compete for a playoff spot.
Griffin obviously cannot do it by himself. Third-year shooting guard Eric Gordon is coming off a summer in which he helped Team USA win the gold medal at the World Championships. Gordon was a solid contributor on that team showing off his ability to knock down threes but also stepping up his man-to-man defense. If he can carry that over into this season, I expect him to make a nice jump and provide a nice inside/outside tandem with Griffin.
Chris Kaman is coming off a career year in scoring and will partner up with Griffin to form a talented post duo. Baron Davis has been a free agent bust since coming over two years ago. He will probably take a backseat to Griffin and Gordon and if he embraces that role rather than sulking which has sometimes been a Baron-issue, the Clips will have a pretty talented starting five.
Where the problems pop up is with the bench. As I mentioned earlier, there is some stability with the off-season signings but not an overwhelming amount of talent compared to other benches in the Western Conference unless Aminu and Bledsoe prove to be NBA-ready from the get-go.
With win totals of 29, 19, and 23 the past three season, this Clippers team should surpass that total assuming they can stay healthy. With building blocks like Griffin and Gordon, LAC is heading in the right direction but still not a playoff team out West.
Looking Ahead to Next Summer:
By signing Cook, Foye, and Gomes to multi-year deals this summer, the Clippers handcuffed themselves for next off-season. They will still have some cap space to spend in free agency but will probably be more focused on trying to sign Gordon to an extension assuming he has another solid year this season.
NBA Power Ranking: 21st
Other NBA Previews:
#22 Indiana Pacers
#23 Golden State Warriors
#24 Washington Wizards
#25 Detroit Pistons
#26 New Jersey Nets
#27 Sacramento Kings
#28 Cleveland Cavaliers
#29 Toronto Raptors
#30 Minnesota Timberwolves