NBA Power Rankings: #17 Los Angeles Clippers

blake-griffin-clippers-jersey

by: David Kay

2008-09 Season Summary:
The Clippers were the most depressing team in the NBA last season. After signing Baron Davis away from Golden State on the first day of free agency last summer everything has been downhill. Elton Brand basically double crossed the team and Davis as he bolted for Philly. They traded for the terrible contracts of Marcus Camby and Zach Randolph and never won more than 5 games in any month of the season. Davis had his worst statistical season since his second year and only led the team in scoring 9 times all year. Basically, it was an all too familiar season in Clipperland.

Depth Chart:

C: Chris Kaman/Marcus Camby/DeAndre Jordan
PF: Blake Griffin/Craig Smith/Brian Skinner
SF: Al Thornton/Steve Novak
SG: Eric Gordon/Rasual Butler/Mardy Collins
PG: Baron Davis/Sebastian Telair

Head Coach: Mike Dunleavy (7th year)

2009-2010 Team Salary: $58.9 million
Projected 2010-2011 Team Salary: approximately $39.1 million

Off-Season Grade: Aced
zach-randolph1Clips GM/head coach Mike Dunleavy might have pulled off the steal of the summer, dumping head case Zach Randolph’s terrible contract for the expiring deal of Quentin Richardson, who was in turn traded for Sebastian Telfair, Craig Smith, and the king of towel waving Mark Madsen (who has since been cut by the Clips.)  This move saved L.A.’s other team more than $8 million in cap space this season and almost $15 million next year.

Getting rid of Randolph made sense since the Clips picked Blake Griffin first overall in the draft.  With Griffin, Randolph, Marcus Camby, and Chris Kaman under contract, someone needed to be dealt to open up playing time up-front.  Randolph was the least likely to be shipped out of L.A. due to his enormous contract and questionable character, so major props to Dunleavy for finding a sucker like Memphis general manager Chris Wallace to take on one of the worst contracts in the league.

L.A. also pretty much stole away Rasual Butler from the Hornets in exchange for a conditional 2016 second round draft pick.  Butler is in the final year of his deal so it was a logical one-year rental for a team in need of some depth on the wing.

2009-2010 Outlook:
They are the Clippers, so historically, bad things should happen to this team once again.  But if the curse of the Clips can be avoided this season, this team should compete for a playoff spot.

They are solid up-front, have scorers on the wing, and an experienced point guard running the show in Baron Davis.  Davis pouted through most of last season after signing a monster deal with the Clips last off-season.  If Griffin can provide some fire for this franchise and motivate Davis to play to his potential, good things should happen for Hollywood’s red-headed step child.

lebron-james-dunk1Looking Ahead to the Summer of 2010:
I cannot stress the importance of the Randolph trade enough.  As I mentioned, it saved the Clips almost $15 million in cap space and put them in a position to be major players next off-season.  Free agent-to-be LeBron James keeps finding his name attached to teams like the Knicks and Nets, but I seriously believe the Clippers could be a darkhorse in the running to sign King James.

Even if they don’t land LeBron, they should be able to sign a big name free agent.  There is a solid nucleus of Davis, Gordon, Thornton, Griffin, and Kaman which is more than can be said for other teams expected to make a splash next off-season (i.e. the Knicks.)  For the first time in quite some years, the Clippers are making the right moves and leaving their franchise excited about the future.