We’re now just hours away from the opening of the free agent market.
Know what I want to see from the Clippers?
As little as possible.
The organization is obliged to make its pitch for LeBron James, as well they should. The Clips should also inquire about Paul Pierce’s demands because a pick-and-roll practitioner with Pierce’s skills could probably take them to the postseason, but the organization would be wise to resist the temptation to overpay for any veteran not named James.
As D.J. Foster writes at ESPN Los Angeles, the Clippers have done a lot of smart things to strip their spreadsheet down to a collection of young assets. Just as Oklahoma City has done under the direction of general manager Sam Presti, the Clippers should proceed with discipline and patience:
With the draft completed, it’s become clearer that the Clippers are no longer entrenched in win-now mode and truly are rebuilding. After drafting a raw 19-year-old talent in Al-Farouq Aminu and trading for one-and-done Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe, the Clippers have indicated through their actions that they’re willing to be patient for their core to develop. The youth infusion has been quiet but definitely real six of the eight players on the Clippers’ roster are 21 years old or younger. After garnering poor results from their last big foray into free agency with Baron Davis, the team has seemingly shifted priorities to the development of the 21-and-under club.
The Clippers likely will retain that same youth-based focus throughout the summer. Their pitches to the big free agents will be out of pure obligation more than anything else. Instead of going big, they’ll likely maintain a frugal approach to spending by bringing in players who are sure not to endanger the development of their young core.
But what of that precious cap room the Clippers worked so hard to acquire? In today’s NBA, unused cap room is no longer a waste, but instead a valuable asset. The aforementioned Marcus Camby and Rasual Butler were both cap casualties that the Clippers acquired for little more than second-round draft pick swaps. Washington recently picked up Kirk Hinrich and a first-round pick from Chicago and gave up nothing in return. The possibilities with cap room in a cash-starved league are seemingly endless.
The Clippers’ adopted formula appears to be based on patience and the slow acquisition of assets, and as the Oklahoma City Thunder and GM Sam Presti have proven, it’s been shown to work for teams that may not be able to attract the biggest free agents due to small-market or ownership concerns.
If the Clips’ opening night roster is nothing more than the current group with some functional, intelligent complementary parts with limited talent and manageable contracts, then Neil Olshey will have done his job well.