The Clippers grabbed headlines at the beginning of the abbreviated NBA season, snagging Chris Paul, after a deal to the Lakers was nixed by David Stern. The Clippers then added Chauncey Billups, after the Knicks used the amnesty clause. It seemed like the Clippers were poised for big things, but ultimately they were swept out of the playoffs by a deeper, better team in the San Antonio Spurs.
The Clippers have many question marks going into the 2012-13 season: Will Chris Paul sign an extension? Will Blake Griffin accept a maximum contract extension, if offered? What will the roster look around those two players? This offseason will be critical to ensure the Clips return to the playoffs. Here are the players that can leave as free agents after this season.
Billups is a guy the Clippers should attempt to bring back. Billups was solid at the #2, until he tore his ACL. He provides stability, and would give the Clippers another clutch performer late in games. The question with Billups will be cost, and what his market value will be coming off of a serious injury. Martin was ok as a backup, but he seemed to take far too many jumpers. If the Clippers can sign him for the $2.5 million they paid him in 2012, it would be a wise investment.
Who doesn't love Reggie Evans? While watching him play offensive can be painful at times, he played well against the Grizzles in the first round, and is still a prolific rebounder. The Clippers should attempt to being him back in a reserve role. Bobby Simmons is bench filler, and is easily replaced.
Options: Mo Williams(player), Trey Thompkins(team), Travis Leslie(team): Mo Williams was solid in his sixth man role, but he could decline the option, is search of more playing time. However, it may be difficult for Williams to find a better deal, so he may hang around as a capable sixth man. Thompkins and Leslie were both 2nd round picks, who could fill out the roster. Neither made a large impact last season.
The Clippers already have $57 million committed to the roster next year, with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Caron Butler, Deandre Jordan, Ryan Gomes, and Eric Bledsoe under contract. The Clippers will need some depth. Here are a few intriguing names that the Clippers could target.
Marco Belinelli, SG, New Orleans: The Clippers need shooters, and Belinelli is decent from outside, connecting on 38% of his threes. The cost should not be prohibitive, and he would be a decent option coming off of the bench.
Lamar Odom, PF, Dallas: Dallas still holds the rights to him, but it would not cost much to pry away Odom. His contract would be an obstacle, as he is due nearly $9 million in 2012-13, but he would be an intriguing fit. If Lamar is right, he would be an interesting reserve, capable of playing the 3 and the 4. Perhaps a trade to Los Angeles would revitalize him, and give the Clippers a solid reserve.
Jamal Crawford, PG/SG, Portland: He has a player option of $5 million, but he would be a great fit for the Clippers. The Clippers did not have enough shooters this year, and were too dependent on Chris Paul, the Clippers desperately need guys that can hit the outside shot.
Draft: Don't expect any help here, the Clippers have only one pick, currently #53 overall. Likely training camp filler at that spot.
The Clippers had an amazing season, and feature two superstars on their roster. However, they have much work to do before they can bump chests with the big boys of the NBA. The Clippers must get better, not only to win games, but to ultimately keep Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the fold.