The Los Angeles Clippers are at a crossroads between their past 6 mostly successful season and their increasingly unshaky future. After being dispatched in 6 games by the Utah Jazz, Doc Rivers and the Clippers front office have many difficult decisions to make. With their two key franchise cogs entering free agency as well as only 6 players under contract for next season, what the Clippers decide to do moving forward may greatly shape the course of the team for years to come.
Expired Contracts/Potential Free Agents (8) Chris Paul (Player option worth $24.3 million) Blake Griffin (ETO of $21.4 million) Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (Player Option of $2.3 million) Marreese Speights (player option of $2.1 million) JJ Redick, Raymond Felton, Brandon Bass, and Alan Anderson are all unrestricted.
The two biggest priorities are undoubtedly Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. 32 year old Paul is definitely most likely to return, thanks to a change in the CBA that allows him to get a 5 year $205 million contract (no other team can offer him as much) Griffin is four years younger, but his situation is also different due to his injury history and the fact that he is considered more likely to leave L.A. than Paul. However Griffin can get more money and an extra year if he re-signs with the Clippers as opposed to any other team, so he also seems due to come back.
JJ Redick is the one free agent who is most likely to leave. The market for a sharpshooter of Redick’s caliber is through the roof, and after a series of disappointing playoff exits Redick may be ready to look for a fresh start. Entering age 33 as he heads into free agency, Redick knows this is more than likely his last big deal and he will most likely seek the highest bidder that also matches his playoff contending ambitions.
The Clippers are in a tough spot this offseason. Merely re-signing Griffin and Paul will push them up over the cap, and even if and/or after they decide to retain Redick they still have to fill out the rest of their roster outside of their starting five. Different projections have the Clippers spending upwards of $250 million just to keep Paul-Griffin-Redick, and once the Clippers retain/”reload” their bench they could potentially have the most expensive team of all time.
L.A. has largely resorted to patchwork benches the last few seasons, mostly with players on the fringes of rotations that could be grabbed with minimum contracts (See: Spencer Hawes, Glen Davis, Jordan Farmar) or washed up players who can no longer produce when it counts the most (See: Hedo Turkoglu, Stephen Jackson, Paul Pierce, etc) speaking of these players, a chief concern of the Clippers heading into the offseason is acquiring a competent wing player.
Mbah a Moute has played well the past two seasons and the Clippers may want to bring him back as they hold his early bird rights, However he may be in line for a big payday with the way his three point shooting has come around this season (39.1 % on the year) and the fact that teams will surely be willing to take fliers for above average defenders who can at least hit occasionally hit an outside shot. If the prices get too high the Clippers will move on as they can’t go over the cap too much so that they can attend to their more pressing priorities.
As for the backup wings, the situation is just as bleak. Wesley Johnson has disappointed on a grand scale, and Austin Rivers has battled, but at 6-4 he isn’t big enough to play small forward outside of select small ball lineups. Alan Anderson completely disappeared three months into the season, and Paul Pierce’s swan song is complete, so look for Rivers and Co to scrap together what little resources they have to address this dire need.
Players returning under contract: DeAndre Jordan ( $24.1 million player option for 2019) Austin Rivers ( $12.6 million player option for 2019) Jamal Crawford (non-guaranteed contract (only $3 million guaranteed) for 2019) Wesley Johnson ($6.1 million player option for 2019) Brice Johnson (2 year team option through 2020) Diamond Stone (contract expires in 2019)
Draft Picks: none
Doc Rivers and the Clippers are going to have to look in the mirror and determine if they are legitimate contenders in this western conference landscape. Once they determined that they can move forward with their offseason plans. Maybe the Clippers re-sign Griffin, Paul, and Redick. Maybe they let Redick walk and rebuild around Paul and Griffin, or even let Griffin walk and use that extra money to get an upgrade at small forward to play off of a Paul/Jordan pick and roll. It is sure to be a contentious summer for the Clippers, and when the dust settles it will be interesting to see the end result.
Position that needs to be addressed immediately: Small Forward