2012 NBA Off Season Preview: Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles Clippers

2011-2012 Record: 40-26, 2nd in Pacific
Stat Leaders: Blake Griffin, 20.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg. Chris Paul, 9.1 apg. DeAndre Jordan, 2.1 bpg.

Depth Chart

C - DeAndre Jordan
PF - Blake Griffin, Trey Thompkins (TO)
SF - Caron Butler, Ryan Gomes
SG - Eric Bledsoe, Travis Leslie (TO)
PG - Chris Paul, Mo Williams (PO)

Unrestricted Free Agents: G Nick Young, G Chauncey Billups, F Kenyon Martin, F Reggie Evans, G Randy Foye, GF Bobby Simmons

The Good: The Clippers had the highest winning percentage in their 42 year history and advanced to the second round for only the second time since 1976. Thanks to David Stern, they were able to land All Star point guard Chris Paul. He was as good as advertised, and he and Blake Griffin were one of the best duos in the NBA last season. Griffin averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds and Paul averaged almost 20 points and 10 assists. This team can contend in the future by building around these two players. DeAndre Jordan is a great shot blocker and rebounder and continues to develop. Due to being a second round pick, he already was able to sign a contract for over 10 million dollars a year. People are going to expect big time results, but he is only 23 years old and still very raw on the offensive end. He will only continue to get better. Eric Bledsoe spent the entire year buried on the bench, but was probably the teams third best player in the playoffs. He needs to play more minutes next year.

The Bad: Only Griffin and Paul showed up in the playoffs. Jordan was a complete non factor and the rest of the role players looked old and over matched. Only Griffin and Paul averaged more then 10 points per game. There are also questions as to whether Vinny Del Negro is the type of coach that can lead a team to a championship. The Clippers need to get younger and more athletic at the shooting guard and small forward positions. Caron Butler is simply a mediocre option as your teams best wing player. He was signed just because the Clippers had to sign somebody. Nick Young was not as much of a factor after coming to Los Angeles, as he was not allowed to simply chuck it all day and add to his scoring totals.

Key Free Agents: Nick Young, Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans and Randy Foye were all key players for the Clippers last year. They will probably want to resign a couple of these guys. I would try to resign Young and Evans. Young offers scoring off the bench and Evans is a tough, hard nosed rebounder that can get under the opposing big man's skin. Billups was a good scorer for the team before being injured, but he is coming off a serious injury and I don't know if his ego would allow him to be the fourth or fifth guard off the bench, even at this stage in his career.

Projected Cap Space: $252,955. The Clippers would love for Mo Williams to decline his 8.5 million dollar player option, but that is not going to happen. The Clippers are right at the cap and will be well over next season when they give Chris Paul a new deal and extend Blake Griffin. DeAndre Jordan is making over 10 million dollars a year, which is way too high but goes to show the lockout and the new CBA changed nothing, teams are still going to overspend to land 7 footers.

Amnesty Possibilities: If the Clippers are confident they can find a replacement, they could choose to use the amnesty clause on Caron Butler. He is due 8 million dollars a year over the next two. However, the team would be very thin at small forward and this is not a great free agent market. They might just cut loose Ryan Gomes, who is owed 4 million next year and is not a rotation player, to save some money to go after free agents.

Free Agent Possibilities: The Clippers will have their mid level exception and will be a popular destination for veterans looking to get a ring. Los Angeles really needs a reliable big man to come off the bench and spell Griffin and Jordan. Could they entice Kevin Garnett to come in and play 25 minutes per night as a backup? Spencer Hawes has shown flashes of ability and could make a nice backup big man. Antawn Jamison is searching for a ring and still has plenty left in the tank as a backup stretch four off the bench.

Draft Possibilities: The Clippers do not have a first round pick so they would need to get lucky with their 53rd overall pick. The team drafted well in the second round last year with Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins, not to mention Jordan was a former second round pick, so they could find someone to develop.

Contending, Rebuilding or Status Quo?: Any team that has a duo as good as Griffin and Paul is a contender, but I don't think they have the depth or coaching to truly battle the likes of San Antonio and Oklahoma City. They need some more scoring and Jordan really needs to step up and be good enough to play 32 minutes a night. But Griffin is still young and Paul will be play at an elite level for a few more years, so if the front office makes some sound decisions, the Clippers could take the next leap.

All logos courtesy of www.sportslogos.net.

Jonathan Carrano

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