When word first came out that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement would include an Amnestly Clause, I felt a little bad for the Clippers. The one bad contract they had—Baron’s—they successfully traded away. Hindsight now shows the Baron trade to be even worse, since there were rumblings of an Amnestly Clause. But whatever, they rid themselves of the burden just in case.
Many teams around the NBA were giddy to get the AC. The Magic get to pay off Gilbert Arenas. The Wizards get to pay off Rashard Lewis. The Nets will rid themselves of Travis Outlaw. The Blazers may do the same for Brandon Roy. There are more, but the point is that the cap crushing implication felt by teams with weighty contracts will be allayed (at least for a time).
The Clippers don’t appear to have one of those contracts. Ryan Gomes played terribly last year, but his contract only has two years and $8 million left on it. He can’t be as bad this year as he was last year, right? Kaman has a year and $11 million, but he’s a valuable player and would most likely be part of any blockbuster trade. But relatively little has been said about Mo Williams and his two years and $17 million dollar contract.
This is not to say that Mo Williams is a bad player, nor does it mean that the Clippers should immediately excise his contract from the books.
Mo Williams was a critical part of the Clippers’ relatively strong 11-11 finish last year. Sure, he’s got a lot of work to do on defense, and he’s an average passer, but he did provide some big shots late in games as well as some veteran leadership and professionalism that buoyed the Clippers.
Starting the season, Mo Williams should be the starting point guard of the squad. But what if the Clips have a chance at Chris Paul next season? Or Deron Williams?
When the team is doing well, Sterling has shown some willingness to spend. How else do you explain Baron Davis’ 5 year, $65 million contract? And Chris Kaman’s 5 year, $52.5 million contract? And even the (thankfully) unsigned 5 year, $80-something million offer to Elton Brand? My optimistic guess is that Sterling knows that a winner will be way more profitable than a cheap loser, and that the real money pits are the teams in the middle.
Blake Griffin is a superstar. Eric Gordon is one of the best young shooting guards in the league. DeAndre Jordan is rapidly improving on defense (and slowly on offense, very slowly). As opposed to years past, the Clippers have reason to spend money. They have the foundation of a winner.
Rumors have swirled about Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, superstars that appear to want out of their situations. And uniquely enough, those rumors have included the Clippers. The odds of landing either of those players remain pretty unlikely, and getting both would be a ridiculous steal, but signing either D12 or CP3 (or Deron?) in free agency would still remain a possibility. But they’ll be expensive.
Taking a look at the Clippers caps situation shows that the team has about $24 million dollars allocated next year to Blake Griffin, Mo Williams, Eric Bledsoe, Ryan Gomes, and Al-Farouq Aminu. They’ll probably sign DeAndre somewhere in the $7-11 million range, and (I hope) Eric Gordon in the $11-14 million range along with the two minimum wage second rounders Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins. That’s 9 players and up to $51 million. If they sign a multi year contract to a small forward (one of the reasons I’m not set on chasing a SF this off season), and get a top flight draft pick from Minnesota, they’ll probably have about only a few million in cap space
The team could look radically different after a big shakeup trade, but assuming the contracts stay the same, there’s not enough money to pick up a big free agent.
If the Clippers use the Amnesty Clause on Mo though, that suddenly opens up another 9 million dollars. Then they could have enough to sign DJ, EJ AND a big time free agent, most likely a point guard. Even without the trades, imagine this team:
PG: Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe
SG: Eric Gordon, Willie Warren, Travis Leslie
SF: Al-Farouq Aminu, Ryan Gomes
PF: Blake Griffin, Trey Thompkins
C: DeAndre Jordan
Plus the Minny Pick (Andre Drummond? Anthony Davis? Harrison Barnes?)
They’ll need some bigs, but that’s a pretty awesome looking team. Granted, it’s a year away, but maybe the Amnesty Clause could help the Clippers after all.