The Clippers surprised a lot of people when they matched big offer sheets on both Elton Brand and Corey Maggette in the summer of 2003 when the consensus was that the two budding stars would follow historical precedent and bolt the Clippers for better money and a chance to win elsewhere. In the summer of 2005, free agent Cuttino Mobley signed a contract worth 5 years and $42M with the Clippers. It was the kind of mid-range deal that goes off without much fanfare during the league's summer slumber. Sure, Mobley was a 17 ppg guy and a reputable defender, but he was a rung below the elite shooting guards of that free agent class, which included Ray Allen, Joe Johnson, and Michael Redd. For the Clippers, though, it was a huge acquisition. Mobley was the first free agent of any stature who willfully chose the Clippers as his destination. And it's likely that Mobley was one of the first free agents of any stature whom the Clippers didn't lowball or outright ignore. Whatever you thought of Mobley’s game or the length and size of his contract, signing him was another milestone. It proved that the Clippers were a franchise that a solid NBA starter in the prime of his career might, you know, want to play for.
But Baron Davis exists in an entirely different orbit. He's a premier, image-conscious athlete who is militantly protective of his brand, which makes his choice of the Clippers all the more remarkable. I don't think Davis-Mobley-Thornton-Brand-Kaman with a thin bench puts the Clippers on par with the very best teams of the West, but it makes them competitive almost every night, a playoff team [if they stay healthy], and infinitely more fun to watch. Mechanically, Davis fits Dunleavy's preference for big guards. It does something the Clippers have never been able to do for Elton Brand -- even with Sam Cassell -- which is legitimately spread the floor. Davis at the point will also allow the Clips to nurse Gordon and Thornton on the wings.
More than anything, the Davis signing would reverse the downward trajectory the franchise has been charting the past 18 months, and would guarantee that Elton Brand plays another five years for a franchise in need of some totems.