With the NBA Draft just a few days away on the 28th and some important deadlines right around the corner, let’s take a look at what’s coming up this offseason for the Clippers.
Mo, The First Domino:
Mo Williams has a player option for 8.5 million dollars this season. Although he has said in the past that he will be opting in to that contract, he has yet to do so. Here’s Mo Williams’ agent, Mark Bartelstein, talking about Mo’s situation, courtesy of this report by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLA.com:
“Mo’s a professional and I think he showed that last season,” Bartelstein said. “He had a great year under difficult circumstances. That said, he’s a starting point guard. He’s an All-Star starting point guard. So we’ll look at everything and see what makes sense.”
Williams has until June 30 to make a decision on the final year of his contract. Bartelstein said both he and the Clippers are “kind of exploring everything” in the hopes of finding a solution that works for both sides before June 30.
Comical bits aside (Jameer Nelson is an all-star point guard, too, I guess), this sounds like a soft trade request, which makes sense. If Williams opts out, he leaves millions of dollars on the table this year in hopes he can land a long-term deal and find a team who will start him at point guard.
Of course, an over-saturated market doesn’t help Mo’s cause should he opt out. Steve Nash and Andre Miller are more attractive stop-gap solutions, and guys like Goran Dragic and Ramon Sessions offer much more upside. That’s not to say Mo couldn’t find a home in free agency, but there are only a small combination of teams who would want him as a starting point guard and would have the cap space to offer him anything over the MLE. It’s my impression that any real contender would view Mo similarly to what the Clippers do — a 6th man type scorer. Again though, that niche market is just as saturated with guys like Jason Terry, Lou Williams, and Jamal Crawford all available as free agents.
What’s that all add up to? Probably a trade somewhere down the line. It’s highly unlikely the Clippers would do a trade for a first round pick in this year’s draft, given that their search for a GM is not completed. It also seems unlikely that they’d stick with Williams, especially if they really do want Billups back. What seems most probable is that Mo Williams will opt in to his contract and be traded once the point guard musical chairs around the league is done. See who is left out, and then let whoever the GM is at that point (still Rosner Del Sackgro?) negotiate a deal. That seems to fit right in line with the Clippers wait and see approach. Maybe Williams goes to a contender who whiffs in free agency like Dallas, or to a team in need of a stopgap and confused as to what the hell they’re doing like Phoenix.
Since using the amnesty on Williams makes little sense, the smart money seems to be on Williams opting in, and then the Clippers searching for a trading partner throughout the offseason.
What about LO?
Ah, another ghost of the Clippers’ past. Lamar Odom’s name has been floated around a bit, quite fittingly, by gossip sites projecting his return to Los Angeles. Are the Clippers interested? What’s it going to take?
I’ll do my best to summarize all the points Jeff Caplan of ESPNDallas.com broke down quickly: The deadline for the Mavs to waive (and pay the 2.4 million dollar buyout) or trade Lamar Odom is June 29th. However, it appears Dallas could negotiate with Odom and his agent to extend the deadline — a move Neil Olshey just did with Jamal Crawford. The extension would provide Dallas with the opportunity to agree to get a real commitment from Deron Williams, and THEN waive or trade Odom. As it stands right now, they’ll have to move on Odom (and amnesty Brendan Haywood) before June 29th to clear the necessary cap room to sign Deron Williams.
What’s that all mean for the Clippers? It’s highly unlikely anyone wants Odom at the full 8.2 million dollar salary given his disastrous effort last season, although it’s not implausible. It does seem likely that Odom will be bought out by the Mavericks, or alternatively, he’ll be traded to another team to do it so that Dallas can avoid the 2.4 million dollar cap hit. If that happens, Odom will hit the open market, and the Clippers could use their MLE to bring him back after all these years.
Should the Clippers want Odom, though? Does Odom really want to go back to a franchise he hasn’t seemed particularly fond of over the years? That’s something we’ll explore over the next few days.
Billups and Bird rights
Although reading the entire CBA FAQ by Larry Coon (like Andrew Han does nightly) is most recommended, I’ll do my best to explain why Billups getting Bird rights doesn’t matter for the Clippers.
Chauncey Billups’ full salary number for last year was 14.2 million dollars. Of course, the Clippers only paid $2,000,032 of that, but for cap hold purposes, his full salary was $14.2 million. Billups was an unrestricted free agent with no Bird rights heading into this offseason, but, he could have been retained under the Non-Bird exemption, which allows teams to exceed the salary cap to retain their own free agents for up to 120% of their full salary. Since Billups’ full salary was $14.2 million, the Clippers were always going to be able to exceed the cap to retain him since they could technically offer anything up to $17 million. Now that he’s been granted full Bird rights, Billups can be retained for 150% of his full salary ($14.2 million) — which is meaningless since he won’t get anywhere near either percentage.
(I think that’s all right. I’m pretty sure. I don’t know, ask @andrewthehan on Twitter just to make sure.)
Feels weird not being in the lottery, doesn’t it? The Clippers have only the 53rd pick in this year’s draft, and I wouldn’t expect that to change. Although the Clippers have traded into the first round in the past (Eric Bledsoe to the Celtics for what is now the 22nd pick in this year’s draft), I wouldn’t hold your breath for it to happen again. Although it would be an impressive first move from the three-headed GM known as Rosner Del Sackgro, I wouldn’t count on it. The Clippers aren’t known for having a big scouting staff, and with the guy who headed up the effort in Portland right now, it’s my feeling the Clippers will just stay out of it. If they do move into the first though, it’s much more likely coming via trade. The Clippers, to my knowledge, have never once purchased a draft pick under Donald Sterling’s reign. Another thing to keep in mind — the last foreign player the Clippers selected was way back in 2005. If the Clippers bought a pick or drafted a foreign player, I would be stunned.
Better start naming names
That doesn’t have to mean the draft is a complete lost cause — this is a very deep class by all accounts, so maybe a good player can slide to 53. Although I’m having a hard time finding a published list of guys the Clippers have brought in for workouts, here’s a list of guys who the Clippers have worked out via Madelyn Burke from Clippers.com:
Henry Sims, Dominique Ferguson, Garrett Stutz, Kyle Fogg, Charlie Westbrook, Daryl Partin, Rakim Sanders, Chris Cooper, Eric Griffin, John Shurna, Eugene Phelps, Jet Chang, Greg Mangano, Travis Hyman, Chris Johnson, Dominique Sutton, Chace Stanback, and Kenny Gabriel.
Of those players, Georgetown center Henry Sims is the only player projected to be drafted by DraftExpress.com. With no big men outside of Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Trey Thompkins on contract, it would make sense for the Clippers to draft a true 7-footer, especially considering that Sims shot 70% from the line his senior season. Georgetown’s big men are almost always good passers (Hibbert, Monroe) because of John Thompson III’s Princeton offense, and this guy is no exception. Sims averaged an incredible 5.2 assists per 40 minutes in his senior year — one of the best numbers of ALL players in this year’s draft, not just big men. With great size, length, and facilitating abilities, Sims would seem to be a very good fit in the Clippers’ frontcourt.
We’ll have more on Sims and other draft prospects in preparation for the draft this week. Have a name we should be looking at? Drop it in the comments section.