Five morsels to chew on after an eventful draft and the start of free agency:
Pick 25 of the 2013 NBA Draft
Reggie Bullock, UNC
Fred Katz has already gone whole hog on the draft and even nailed the Clippers’ solitary pick in a pre-draft ClipperBlog Live on his first try. I have to admit, though, behind the scenes, the CB staff was a bit excited to see that another potential “D & 3” prospect, Jamaal Franklin of SDSU, had fallen enough for the Clippers to select him. After being crestfallen that the Clippers would also pass on Franklin, I looked up the draft order to see another prospective draftee taken with pick 20: Tony Snell by the Bulls.
Snell bore similar traits and characteristics to many of the prospects the Clippers were seeking: athletic wing with shooting ability, because the primary objectives was shore up the wing position with defenders and shooters. But Snell was also evaluated by many to be an inconsistent defender, something incongruent with Thibodeau’s philosophy and style of play.
Why would two teams that employ the same defensive schemes pass on one of the best wing defenders and rebounders? This may be a case of both organizations feeling more confident in their ability to develop the defensive abilities of said prospects versus their ability to fix and improve shooting. In the case of the Clippers, Griffin has shown steady progress under Bob Thate, but DeAndre Jordan has been all over the chart.
When assessing the selection as taking the prospect a franchise has the best chance to develop into a contributor that fits the needs of a team, Reggie Bullock starts to make a lot more sense. And it certainly seems like elite shooting is beginning to trump other skills. Regardless, Los Angeles’ pick was still a delight as Bullock was the second player on my board for the Clippers.
The ‘All In’ Mentality
Observing Brooklyn’s trade for Garnett and Pierce
What does a team 3,000 miles away and in the Eastern Conference have to do with the Clippers? Two things:
- 1. The Nets traded for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, players the Clippers have flirted with not once, but twice in the past year – most recently in association with the Doc Rivers exchange that some would qualify more as heavy petting than mere flirtation.
2. By sending out three first-round picks, Brooklyn boldly announced they were going “all in” on this iteration of the Nets.
Brooklyn’s gamble to augment their roster with the old war horses of Boston presents a unique bit of voyeurism for the Clippers. The Nets were a cap-strapped team constructed around a young big and top-level point guard. Sound familiar? They struggled on the defensive end and the big opposite Lopez, often Reggie Evans, struggled to defend. The acquisition of Pierce and Garnett theoretically spackles the flaws of the Nets. And fans of the Clippers, twice stopping short of making a similar trade themselves, can witness the results; the “what if” of the long term in favor of immediacy. While the comparisons between the Clippers and Nets rosters/style of play are not exact, they are close enough to get a vague sense where the road not travelled would lead Los Angeles without the risk of the future. Granted, regret may set in should Brooklyn become an unlikely juggernaut, but it’s an interesting thought simulation, nonetheless.
Which brings us to the second point. As best as I can tell, “all in” is a no-limit poker term to denote that a player has put all their chips at risk. Some poker players only declare it when they are holding the absolute best hand. Others as a bluffing mechanism to drive out the opposing party. In basketball, once a team goes all-in, there is no bluffing an opposing team out of a game. If the goal of going all-in on a move is to merely be a top-four team in a conference, I’m of the opinion that it’s not good enough. If the Clippers decide to cash in all their assets, move all-in like the Nets have (or like their playoff motto from two seasons ago), the firm belief should exist that such a move will catapult them as the favorite to at least represent the West in the Finals. “All-in” means championship or bust. And if you don’t want to go bust, it behooves a team to be patient and wait for the right hand to play.
The Littlest Big Deal
Chris Paul agrees to re-sign with the Clippers
Maybe it’s the uncertainty and dramatics in the “other Los Angeles,” but the best point guard in the league simply stated to other interested teams not to bother; Chris Paul would be re-signing with the Los Angeles Clippers. The two parties didn’t even partake in the traditional pomp and ceremony of free agency, where the wooing team shows up promptly at midnight, dutifully presenting the max contract to the superstar. Paul was attending the BET awards.
For several years now, analysts, fans, readers, writers have all been checking off boxes, accumulating milestones and building reasons to bury the idea of “It’s the Clippers.” The catch-all adage of a laughingstock franchise; a simple phrase to justify the unjustifiable, make sense of the illogical. But with a superstar player choosing the Clippers of his own volition, coming on the heels of a highly-regarded coach leaving the Boston Celtics to come coach in Los Angeles, the Clippers can lay to rest all the past incompetence and transgressions. Even if nothing results of these moves, the franchise has strung together several consecutive moves, choosing wisely over and over again to put the team in a position any organization would be envious and respectful of.
As a new generation of fans discover the game of basketball, and see the game through youthful eyes, the sordid and embarrassing past of the Clippers will ebb from the public consciousness. The muck will recede leaving only the long-suffering fans, bitter of a new crop reaping the spoils of a team they’ve never known to be bad, while at the same time envious of fandom unfettered by shame. At least that is the hope.
Nature of the Business
The market for Matt Barnes
Matt Barnes had a banner year this past season. An integral part of the Clippers’ bench, Barnes was often touted as one of the best contracts in the league (he played on a veteran’s minimum contract). His role and contributions to the team were so critical, one could argue that Barnes was the most deserving candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. And yet instead of being rewarded with a larger contract he is absolutely deserving of, the Clippers find themselves handcuffed.
Barnes would like to return to the Clippers. The Clippers would like to bring Barnes back. But because the Clippers do not own Barnes’ Bird rights (or even Early Bird rights), they are limited to offering him 120% of his minimum contract the previous season. Theoretically, Barnes could be offered a portion or all of the Mid-Level Exception, but this is the only tool left for the Clippers to attract any players of need in free agency. Barnes is also aware of this and he should know it is absolutely not a personal matter. If he were to return to the Clippers, he would want them to be as deep as possible to compete for a championship. It’s just unfortunate that Matt Barnes’ payday may have to wait an additional year for him to chase the ring if he wants to rejoin the Clippers.
Putting the Pieces Together
Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler traded for J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley
I won’t go into the breakdown of the trade until it’s official and all the details are announced, but I did want to just spend a moment and wax nostalgic about Bledsoe. He’s essentially the last part of that young core we all thought would grow around Blake Griffin. DeAndre Jordan is still on the roster, but he’s already on his second contract; for him, the scale has tilted from expected potential to expected results.
Bledsoe was to helm that hyper-athletic team of Gordon, Aminu, Griffin and Jordan, a home grown starting lineup with all the potential in the world. And Bledsoe can still realize his potential, only now it won’t happen in a Clippers jersey. The Clippers solidified their lineup with two savvy, high basketball-IQ shooters. Exactly the kind of reliable, stable supports the theatrics of Paul, Jordan and Griffin require.
I mentioned this in the marathon ClipperBlog Live, but I’ll put it here again for posterity: in the nascent period of CBL – when it was still on Vokle, I believe – D.J. Foster spend a great deal of time soothing the lamented hearts of Clippers fans everywhere. Eric Gordon, instead of the expected Eric Bledsoe, had just been traded for Chris Paul. Gordon had that silky stroke and a fearless attitude driving the lane. But it was probably his shy persona that endeared him to so many fans. EJ didn’t covet a spotlight off the court. He only cared about how he performed on the hardwood.
And, ironically, two years later, fans again have mixed emotions as another Eric departs. Bledsoe, too, wasn’t gregarious in front of a microphone. But his game carried all the boisterous exuberance, the freedom of pure athleticism that expressed his spirit in a way words could not. It’s not a shock that the staff of ClipperBlog is a bit bittersweet about this moment (Bledsoe had a dedicated section in the game recaps for crying out loud). But it’s a move for the best. The Clippers can afford no luxuries as there is clear intent to join the class of perennial contender. And if the sentiment within the organization was that Bledsoe was simply an athletic point guard, it’s in his interest that he get the opportunity to test his metal in another environment.
No one’s at fault. The right decision was made for both parties. And it’s those situations when the melancholy is deepest.