As I’m sure you’ve read [Jason Reid, Los Angeles Times]...

Moving to bolster the team at point guard, the Clippers are pursuing three-time All-Star Steve Francis, who could become a free agent this week, league and team sources said Sunday.

The Argument in Favor:

•    We all love the idea of having a Pass First PG who will always make the heady play.  But the truth is that when Cassell can’t play, the Clippers have an anemic scoring attack, even with Maggette on the floor.  If Francis is willing to play nice, he can provide the Clippers’ backcourt with a dynamic spark -- something the unathletic Cassell and relatively pokey Mobley can’t.  During his recent fall from grace in Orlando and New York, Francis was still a comparatively productive offensive player. His low-water mark PERs of 15+ eclipse anything you’ll find on Steve Blake’s or Jason Hart’s stat sheet.    

•    There’s a tendency to believe that ball hogs, by their very nature, don’t to the dirty work and phone it in on the defensive end.  But Francis, with his quickness and brawn, has always been one of the better rebounding guards in the game.  Even more important, Francis can dog opposing point guards and has quick feet. He’s got the size and strength to defend bigger shooting guards and can fight through perimeter screens when he feels like it.  

•    Francis has played the best ball of his career alongside Cuttino Mobley, both in Houston and Orlando. It wasn’t until Cat was shipped out to Sacramento that Francis began to pout in Orlando.  With Mobley as one of the Clippers’ co-leaders, it’s reasonable to hope that Francis will strive to be a good citizen.  

The Argument Against:  

•    Though he’s listed as a point guard, Francis lacks the distributive skills the Clippers need as a post team.  It isn’t that Francis can’t handle the ball; he’s pretty good in traffic and his crossover is still nifty.  Nor is Francis a fundamentally bad passer.  He just isn’t the kind of player who instinctively knows where the ball needs to go in a given possession.  And finding his big men has never been Francis’ strong suit.  Since elevating Chris Kaman’s game is the most elastic variable next season, this is an obvious shortcoming if Francis plays point on this particular team.  

•    From the moment he scowled at the indignity of having to don a Vancouver Grizzlies’ cap on Draft Night 1999, Francis has been one of the league’s most incorrigible malcontents.  Will a reunion with Cuttino Mobley and a house on the beach be enough comfort for Francis when Dunleavy realizes that Francis can’t deliver the ball into the post?

•    For all the manufactured drama, Francis has won exactly one playoff game over his eight year career.   While it might be a little reductive to say that Francis is a loser, it’s fair to question whether he can truly help elevate a team that needs to win an additional 5-10 games next season. 

With Portland buying out Francis’ contract, the Clippers will only have to give Francis something between the Veteran Minimum and the MLE.  In other words, there’s no reason to believe that the Clippers can get Steve Blake or Jason Hart for any less.

Clipperblog loves the idea of a formerly bratty star confronting his NBA mortality and realizing that, unless he cultivates a strain of humility, he’ll go down as a cautionary tale.  Empowered by his epiphany, said formerly bratty star decides that taking only 11 shots a night on a pretty good team with a very good front line endears you to your coach and teammates, and generally makes winning basketball games easier.  Then people will say nice things like, “A year ago, Steve Francis was persona non grata in this league.  But he’s really found himself this season in Los Angeles.”  

Can Steve Francis be the Great Reclamation Project of 2008?   Clipperblog has no idea, but it would certainly make for some good theater after a season that was as painfully boring as it was unfruitful.