With Joe Johnson and Rudy Gay both off the table, it’s an increasingly likely scenario that the Clippers fill out their remaining roster spots with affordable guys who won’t jeopardize the development of the young core or squander the club’s future financial flexibility. While there are many free agents still up for grabs, here are four players who could fit snugly into the Clippers’ plans next season.
“It’s just a matter of reading the defense,” Korver said after his strong Game 1 and 2 performances in Utah’s first-round series against Denver. In Game 1, Korver took most of his shots from the top of the floor, but in Game 2, he darted off curls and baseline screens to set up shop in the corner. “They were chasing me in Game 1 on the down screens, but in Game 2 they were sort of cutting over the top, so I just flared toward the corner,” Korver said.
The 6-foot-7 sharpshooter is one of a few players in the league (though one of many on the Jazz) who will not only field a question about x’s and o’s, but build on the conversation. His 62 percent true shooting percentage can be attributed not only to his quick release and good size, but his court vision and intelligence. As we’ve seen with Ray Allen, long-range shooters with Korver’s proficiency aren’t frequently left open on the perimeter. They must work tirelessly for their looks and when those opportunities present themselves, there’s rarely more than a narrow window of daylight through which to get off a shot.
There’s a tendency to assume that spot-up specialists like Korver must be poor defenders. Some — like Steve Novak — are. But some — like Korver — aren’t. Watch him body up on the perimeter against opposing small forwards and you’ll see a strong, physical defender who yields very little and knows how to funnel his assignment to the right spots on the floor. As a help defender, Korver rarely makes a bad tactical decision. The data backs this up. In three straight seasons, the Jazz have not only been a better defensive team with Korver on the floor, but decisively better (3,94, 3.75, 2.49). He also posts solid rebounding numbers and an impressive assist rate for a guy whose primary responsibility is to shoot. While the Clips sculpt Al-Farouq Aminu into their small forward of the future, Korver’s range of attributes — from his ability to space the floor to his basketball IQ — would come in very handy.
There’s an old saying in basketball: If you can shoot, you can play. It wasn’t always clear if Morrow, an undrafted free agent out of Georgia Tech, could hack it in the NBA, but after two years of scorching the nets in Golden State, it’s pretty obvious he belongs.
Just how good of a shooter is Morrow? He’s an elite one. Morrow ranked fifth in the league last season in overall three-point shooting percentage, but first out of those who attempted more than four threes a game at 45.6 percent. In spot-up situations, Morrow was second in the league in points produced per possession at 1.37. Morrow’s true shooting percentage of 59.7 was fifth best among all shooting guards and just a hair behind one of the greatest shooters of all-time in Ray Allen. Pure shooters usually face an adjustment period in the NBA, but at age 24 and just two seasons into his career, Morrow has already vaulted himself into the upper echelon of snipers.
You’d expect Morrow to be awful defensively, but he’s not an absolute sieve. The Warriors were actually worse defensively last season when Morrow was off the court, despite the fact Morrow often played out of position at small forward. At 6-foot-5 with not a heck of a whole lot going for him athletically, Morrow isn’t a very good rebounder either. Still, he was decisively better at pitching in on the glass than both Rasual Butler and Eric Gordon last season in less minutes.
Morrow was truly one of Don Nelson’s guys — a player who could get shots up quick and knock a lot of them down. It’s been rumored that Warriors GM Larry Riley wants more defensive-minded guys on the floor and would be hesitant to match a substantial offer for Morrow. Teams can offer Morrow up to the mid-level exception, and as an restricted free agent the Warriors would have seven days to match that offer.
It’s not difficult to manufacture points when Morrow is on the floor. Run him off screens, plant him on the ball-side for post entries … the possibilities are endless. If you’re working under the assumption that Blake Griffin is a double-team drawing force on the block, there’s far worse basketball strategies than pairing him with one of the game’s purest outside shooters.
Although he’s one-dimensional, Morrow would give the next coach of the Clippers a legitimate offensive weapon to utilize.
Throughout the playoffs, when Jazz point guard Deron Williams was asked to comment on a heady play by one of his young wings, Wesley Matthews or C.J. Miles, Williams would reference former teammate Ronnie Brewer. For example, when Miles made a brilliant off-ball dive to the hoop during a crucial possession of Game 2, Williams commented, “It was a Ronnie Brewer read … He used to run that baseline.”
Williams was irate when the Jazz dealt the 6-foot-7 Brewer mid-season in a salary dump and you can’t blame him. In an offense that relies on sharp instincts and good decision-making, Brewer was a master. We often discuss how awareness of one’s limitations is such a valuable commodity for an NBA player. Brewer is a prime example. Though he can’t shoot very well from distance, Brewer is one of the strongest finishers in the league at the basket, which is how he’s been able to compile a career Player Efficiency Rating of 15.8 despite that iffy stroke.
As Williams says, Brewer has a knack for being in the right place at the right time on the court. He has an intuitive ability to make smart reads aside and work off the ball. Brewer isn’t a defensive stopper, but he can guard three positions with his length, quicks and intelligence and has improved each season as he’s matured.
In their successful attempt to make Rudy Gay one of the most generously compensated athletes in the world, the Memphis Grizzlies had to let Brewer walk as an unrestricted free agent. Memphis’ loss is the league’s gain. For a team trying to get more creative offensively, the Clippers could use a guy like Brewer with whom Baron Davis would have a field day (as Williams did) finding the speedy guard on basket dives. Although he’d be an unlikely starter in Los Angeles, he could be a valuable first-wing-off-the-bench for the Clippers.
Hockey and basketball don’t coincide a whole lot, but something to embrace about hockey is the defined roles players have on the ice. Teams are led by their playmakers and snipers, but after those guys there’s a lot of grinders and enforcers out there — guys to do the dirty work. In fact, hockey teams have whole units dedicated solely to hitting people. Obviously you can’t do that in basketball, but every team needs a guy who can go in and muck up the game a bit.
There’s no doubting Lou Amundson is one of those guys. During the playoffs Amundson stayed in the jersey of opposing star big-men, crashed the offensive boards with reckless abandon, and did his fair share of agitating along the way. To wit, Amundson is most noted for provoking Zach Randolph into punching him in the face. He’s pretty good at that sort of thing.
Amundson isn’t skilled by any means, but he’s a dogged offensive rebounder (fifth among centers in offensive rebounding rate) and a pretty good shotblocker at nearly 2.5 blocks per 40 minutes. Almost all of Amundson’s shot attempts (3.5 a game) come on putback attempts or cuts directly to the hole. If it’s not at the rim, Amundson is probably not shooting it.
Perhaps the best quality about Amundson is that he knows his role, and he’s hungry to fill it every single night. He’ll scrap to the final bell, and often times he’ll swing a game with his hustle plays if the opposing bigs don’t match his energy level. He’s not pretty, but he’s consistent, he’ll come cheap, he’ll work hard every day and push the other guys, and he’ll add a little nastiness to a big man rotation at the 4 or 5 spot.