This is the first of 30 instalments that will serve the dual purpose of being both offseason recaps and poorly thought-out predictions for next season, for all 30 NBA teams. These will be done in an order: that order is the order that I choose to do them in. There won’t be an alphabetical approach, nor one based on standings. They’ll be truly random. Randomness is the future.
Players acquired via free agency or trade:
Players acquired via draft:
Quinton Ross (exercised team option)
James Singleton (declined team option, signed in Spain), Jason Hart (signed with Utah), Yaroslav Korolev (initially agreed to re-sign with the team right back at the start of free agency, but hasn’t done it yet, and now reports are flying about him signing in Europe instead), Daniel Ewing (waived, signed in Russia), Will Conroy (waived, signed in Italy)
In amongst all the weird and strange things that have gone on throughout the league during this offseason, it seems to have escaped the attention of most people that the Los Angeles Clippers had one of the most economical and shrewd offseasons out there. After not getting ridiculously lucky and moving up in the lottery, the Clippers ended up drafting a consensus good pick, and also managed to draft a player in the second round who seemingly has trade value before he has even taken the court.
Not stopping there, the Clippers waited for a while as other teams overspent for players, before making their own free agency splashes. Somehow, in Knight and Patterson, they managed to acquire via free agency two players who could very realistically be in the top eight of the league’s best team, and who are fringe starters/quality backups anywhere in the league, all for only a combined price tag of three years and roughly $4 million.
That’s pretty amazing, really, given that this current NBA climate is one predicated on wildly overpaying for people who aren’t worth it, just so that you can get them. But more on that later. (Hint: Orlando.)
And yet, it’s likely all for nothing. No matter what they do in terms of bringing people in, the Clippers aren’t going to win anything this season, nor in the foreseeable future.
They may have been a mid-to-low seed playoff team, even in the strong Western Conference, had all of the above taken place in conjunction with a run of good luck with injuries. But that’s not what has happened: superstar Elton Brand is almost certainly out for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon, and guard Shaun Livingston is also out indefinitely with all manner of bad times going on in his left leg. And by “indefinitely”, they really do mean indefinitely. Not the sort of “indefinitely” that seems to be labelled to people who are day-to-day with back spasms, in which scenario “indefinitely” is basically a byword for “we wouldn’t like to say when he’ll be back for fear of retribution, but it won’t be long”. This is the sort of indefinitely that is truly indefinite, where it’s far from definite that a return is even possible. He really did carnage up that thing.
Without those two, the Clippers aren’t going anywhere. OK, so that’s more of an endorsement of Brand than it is Livingston, but the point remains – the Clippers could have been a good team. But now, they won’t.
Indeed, it’s only because of the injuries that the Clippers were able to acquire Knight and Patterson in the first place. With Livingston down, the only remaining options at point guard left were the unsuitable Conroy, Ewing and Hart (all since allowed to leave or, in the case of Ewing, actively encouraged), and the aged Sam Cassell, who is entering what is probably his final season before he retires to tend to his colony. Even if it’s not on a very good team – a concept with which he is entirely familiar – this presented an opportunity for Brevin Knight to play good minutes, something that seems to be very dear to him. (Note: Knight signed after Brand’s injury had occurred, and its extent widely publicised. So apparently the playoffs weren’t that important to him.) Similarly, Patterson signed after Brand’s injury – unable to get a contract that he deemed sufficient from any other team this offseason, Patterson took the next best thing in big minutes and a probable starting spot filling in for Brand. (Who’s going to stop him starting? Tim Thomas? Paul Davis?)
For once, the Clippers were too competent for their own good.
None of the Clippers’ other moves figure to impact the lives of anything or anyone in the world today. They replaced a small guard with shoot-first tendencies (Ewing) with a small guard with shoot-first tendencies (Diaz), and swapped a 26-year-old tweener forward with some fairly decent all-around skills (Singleton) with a 24-year-old tweener forward with some fairly decent all-around skills (Powell). And once again, the Clippers will find that they don’t have minutes for either of them when at full strength, despite having signed the pair for a combined six years. The Powell signing, when combined with the drafting of Thornton and the Patterson signing, pushes their guy-who-can-play-either-forward-spot-but-who-is-probably-better-at-small-forward quotient back up to a healthy four people – we await news on whether Korolev will make this five. Given that they’re now out of roster spots, it is doubtful. There isn’t even a spot for Jared Jordan, unless he beats out Guillermo Diaz.
And they still have no one at backup centre. Hmmm. I think somebody overlooked this bit.
Depends. If they keep things as they are with the current roster, this team probably limps to a 30-33 win season – even in spite of not having a power forward that is actually a power forward – and gives it another hearty go next year. Yet if they choose to go the other way and blow the doors off of this thing, then they could be the worst team in the league. It’s one of those. It’s one more significant injury and a Cassell buyout away from being a certain tank job.
If Elton Brand opts out next offseason – which he might – the Clippers will have max cap room. Corey Maggette also has an opt-out, and is perhaps the more likely of the two to do so. Should this happen, that leaves them with the majority of the remaining players under contract being doddering old farts (Knight, Thomas, Cuttino Mobley), and with not much of a youth moment. Given that they’re not going anywhere this year due to injury, and given that they’re staring down the barrel of a very unpleasant situation next offseason that is out of their current control, it’s a fair assumption to say that the roster that they will begin this season with, is pretty unlikely to be the one that they end it with.
Now watch as they stand pat and show me up. How spiteful.