The early termination deadline for Elton Brand and Corey Maggette is June 30, 2008. Let’s assume – though Clipperblog puts nothing past the front office – that both Elton and Corey make their decisions known to the brass prior to the NBA draft the previous Wednesday. And, hypothetically, let’s assume also that Elton plays out his deal, while Corey Maggette exercises his option to leave.
This leaves the Clippers with the following:
PG Brevin Knight
PG Shaun Livingston [qualifying offer]*
SG Cuttino Mobley
SF Al Thornton
SF/PF Tim Thomas
PF Elton Brand
PF Josh Powell
C Chris Kaman
Quinton Ross is a free agent and, given Mike Dunleavy’s affinity for his defensive game, it seems reasonable that he’d re-sign with the Clippers, though it’s likely that Q will have his tires kicked by a few other teams. The qualifying offer on Shaun is a hefty $5.8M. One tack the Clippers could take would be to pass on the 5th year and try to ink Shaun to a cheaper deal. Any way you slice it – provided Elton returns – the Clippers will be looking to fill a gaping hole in the backcourt.
The NBA being the NBA, the Clips’ draft position is absurdly elastic. The Clippers have a 7.5% chance of scoring the first pick…and a 4% chance of falling as far as 8th or 9th:
It’s patently obvious that Derrick Rose is the Mother Lode. Unfortunately, Rose has risen from the consensus #2 to a possible #1, stretching the likelihood that the Clippers could nab to…well…let’s say about 10%.
Given the breadth of outcome, let’s break down the scenarios:
Clippers choose 1st: Rose -- for all the reasons stipulated by virtually everyone who writes about, follows, digests, plays, or narrates basketball. Preternatural court vision, an ability to run both deliberate halfcourt sets and feverish transition play, an excellent mid-range game and – just as important – an ability to find the spot where he can get an open 15-footer. With the possible exception of Russell Westbrook, he pressures opposing PGs better than any collegian – and has the size to match up against most shooting guards. Simply put, Derrick Rose knows exactly where he’s supposed to be on a basketball court to maximize his team’s fortunes.
Clippers choose 2nd: If Memphis snags the first pick, it’s likely they’ll go with Beasley because they have no fewer than 14 point guards under contract. Miami is a question mark. But it’s safe to assume that Minnesota and Seattle would both go with Rose as their #1 picks. The question is: Do the Clippers take Michael Beasley with the second pick if Rose is off the board? The answer is probably yes. Even if Elton exercises his option, there’s absolutely no guarantee that he returns in 2009 when he’s an unrestricted free agent. Beasley is unique: A 6’ 10” power forward who can power in the post, shoot the 3, rebound with reckless abandon, and slash. Imagine the Clips with two ambidextrous big men.
Clippers choose 3rd: Now we’re into the Land of the Combo Guards: Jerryd Bayless, O.J. Mayo, and Eric Gordon. In the minds of people who follow this stuff the closest, Gordon’s stock has fallen measurably behind the other two. Narrowed down to Bayless and Mayo, Bayless is the more capable point. But Mayo plays much bigger, even though he has only about an inch on Bayless. Mayo critics claim he dozes on defense, but he blanketed Bayless when the two matched up during the PAC-10 season. Bayless isn’t a defensive slouch either, as Kevin O’Neill pushed him hard on that end. It’s a coin flip, but I’d go with Bayless because with Thornton situated at the 3, an Al-OJ duo on the wing would produce a lot of inefficiency on many a night.
Clippers choose 6th: This is the Clippers’ most likely position and they’ll probably miss out on both Bayless and Mayo, leaving them with Eric Gordon. At the outset of the college season, Gordon was grouped with Mayo and Rose as the top guards in the nation. But after he injured his wrist in a late-January practice, he lost a bit of his luster. Clipperblog hasn’t seen too much of Gordon, but a quick look reveals a solid NBA body, and a fluid shot with a quick release and beautiful follow-through. That much is certain, even with limited viewing.
Clippers choose 7th: A lot of fans like D.J. Augustin and feel that [the lack of] backcourt size is underrated. But the best lesson in the hazards of a 5’ 11” point guard – even one with Augustin’s quickness – came in the Texas v. Memphis game in the South Region final. Rose destroyed Augustin every which way an opposing point guard can. The better choice here would be Russell Westbrook – arguably the best defensive guard on the board. Like Bayless, Mayo, and Gordon, Westbrook is a combo. But watching him perform throughout the season and into the tourney, his vision and judgment suggest a player who can grow into a PG role – though he’s better in transition than in the halfcourt. It’s a testimony to Ben Howland that among Westbrook’s strongest assets is his smart off-the-ball work. There’s just an undeniable NBA-style tinge to Westbrook’s game – and, oh, some freaky athleticism to go with it.
Clippers choose 8th or 9th: Shudder at the thought. And it would take two leap-frogs by teams behind the Clips for it to happen, so let’s hope that probability wins out. But if it comes to this, the pickings become very, very slim. There’s Augustin who – again – I think is an NBA backup PG with glaring liabilities. The Clippers could go with a shooting guard here like Chase Budinger, but the big guard’s iffy defensive game doesn’t conform to Mike Dunleavy’s style. Do you take a chance with Chris Douglas-Roberts at the 2? He ranks well below the Top 10 in most mock drafts. But at Memphis, CDR put up the kind of collegiate stats that ESPN guru John Hollinger believes are solid predictors of NBA success. He’s certainly more of a transition maven than a creator, but he’s also a top-notch defender with some serious length.
Will Elgin take the podium in Seacaucus? I’d send a Fazekas-Thornton unity ticket.