Last week, it seemed like the Los Angeles Clippers were mostly done with the big free agency decisions. C Marreese Speights was signed from Golden State to go along with incumbent bench pieces SG Jamal Crawford, PG Austin Rivers, and SF Wesley Johnson. The re-signing of SF Luc Mbah a Moute brought the starting lineup under contract for 2016-2017. And 2016 1st round pick PF Brice Johnson signed his contract, with C Diamond Stone soon to follow.
— All Eyes On Me (@Diamond_Stone33) July 14, 2016
Things were shaken up a bit in the last few days. The Clippers signed former Los Angeles Lakers PF Brandon Bass to a one-year deal. Now, I always thought Brice Johnson would be a third-stringer to start his rookie year, but that was mainly dependent on what Paul Pierce would do. Now, the addition of Bass (along with Speights) keeps Johnson and Stone locked into the third-unit.
Bass was stuck playing center for the Lakers while sharing the court with young PFs Julius Randle and Larry Nance. He averaged 20.3 minutes per game in 2015-2016, a six-year low, while coming off the bench in all 66 appearances. Bass scored only 7.2 points per game, though he made a career-high 54.9 percent of his field goal attempts, the result of a career-high 59.6 percent of his attempts coming within three feet of the basket. Bass averaged only 4.3 rebounds per game, and he’s not really known as a plus rebounder. Bass also had to defend his game against the “No Pass Bass” moniker, and he’s never averaged more than one steal, block, or three-pointer per game in his 11 NBA seasons. Bass is a career 82.9 percent free throw shooter, and he has experience playing with PG Chris Paul (New Orleans, 2005-2007), SG J.J. Redick (Orlando, 2009-2011) and for head coach Doc Rivers (Boston, 2011-2013). Of course, the fact that Bass played for Rivers is only one reason to invite the trolls…
*when you realize Doc Rivers has a penchant for acquiring former Celtics players* pic.twitter.com/ecRNrwtIWU
— Pro Hoops History (@ProHoopsHistory) July 17, 2016
The fact that Bass is a useful player on a reasonable contract doesn’t satisfy the folks that enjoy shooting the fish in a barrel that is Los Angeles’ transaction pattern. Yes, Bass played his most significant NBA minutes for Rivers’ Celtics. Yes, Bass is over 30 and past his prime. And yes, while Bass and Speights should complement each other well enough in the second unit, they will also block rookies Johnson and Stone from seeing the light of day next season.
That’s not as big a deal for Stone, who is a younger 2nd-round pick. For Brice Johnson, it’s maddening. After all, I keep going back to JaJuan Johnson and the 2012-2013 Celtics. Even though Rivers didn’t make the decision to bring JaJuan Johnson to Boston (that was GM Danny Ainge, who apparently can do no wrong since he has all of these draft picks), Rivers may be creating a similar situation with a slender, four-year college PF picked in the 20s who will be buried on the bench. By the way, Bass was acquired by Boston the same offseason that JuJuan Johnson was drafted.
I’m NOT saying Brice Johnson is JaJuan Johnson. I’m just saying Brice Johnson’s situation is unideal and comparable to JaJuan Johnson’s. Best case scenario for Brice Johnson sees him beat out Bass and Speights to be the first big man off the Clippers bench at some point in 2016-2017. It’s just that Rivers hasn’t had a rookie average at least ten minutes per game in the playoffs since his first year in Boston (2004-2005 with 1st round picks Al Jefferson, Tony Allen, Delonte West) and hasn’t had a rookie average at least 20 minutes per game in the playoffs since his last full season in Orlando (2002-2003 with Drew Gooden and Gordon Giricek).
But wait, there’s more.
The last two Clippers rookies, SF Branden Dawson and SG C.J. Wilcox, are no longer on the roster. That’s not something to look forward to if you’re Brice Johnson or Diamond Stone. Dawson, a late 2015 2nd round pick that the Clippers paid New Orleans to acquire, was waived Sunday. That came on the heels of Friday’s trade that sent 2014 1st round pick Wilcox and cash to Orlando for a 2020 2nd round pick, the right to waive F Devyn Marble, and a $1.2 million trade exception.
Officially, Devyn Marble was a member of the #Clippers for one hour and 44 minutes.
— Law Murray ❎ (@LawMurrayTheNU) July 15, 2016
BTW – by my math, Clippers used the Josh Smith trade exception to take on Marble – to generate a trade exception for Wilcox @BBallInsiders
— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) July 18, 2016
The Clippers got even less out of Wilcox than they did out of 2013 1st round SF Reggie Bullock, who was sent away along with Chris Douglas-Roberts and a 2017 2nd round pick in the trade that brought Austin Rivers to the Clippers in 2015. And all of that D-League shuttling the Clippers did with Dawson and Wilcox didn’t amount to much. It’s a very disappointing return for the Clippers.
That leaves PG David Michineau, the 39th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Michineau was unimpressive in Orlando Summer League, and he still hasn’t been signed. The Clippers have reportedly agreed to terms with G Raymond Felton as well:
Free agent guard Raymond Felton reaches agreement with Clippers, league sources inform @clevelanddotcom.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 14, 2016
Felton played for Dallas the last two seasons, bouncing back from a 281-minute 2014-2015 to appear in 80 games in 2015-2016, a six-year high. The only thing Felton does well is pass (3.6 assists, 1.5 turnovers in 27.4 minutes per game in 2015-2016), but that skill is definitely needed with Austin Rivers (1.5 assists, 0.9 turnovers, 21.9 minutes per game in 2015-2016) and Jamal Crawford (2.3 assists, 1.4 turnovers, 26.9 minutes per game in 2015-2016) as the backup guards. Felton is 32, but Pablo Prigioni, Felton’s former teammate with current Clippers assistant Mike Woodson’s Knicks from 2012-2014, was 38 last season. Felton is solid injury insurance for Paul, who battled Felton in the ACC (Paul at Wake Forest, Felton at North Carolina). Felton was also on the same team as Crawford with the 2011-2012 Trail Blazers, although that season was a forgettable one for both Felton and Crawford.
What’s next for the Clippers? Well, they could use a SG since they traded Wilcox. Felton’s three-point shooting has declined three seasons in a row, and he made only 28.2 percent of his 213 attempts. Dallas was foolish for having Felton shoot that many threes – only Corey Brewer and Marcus Smart (who plays for a head coach who encourages bad threes) shot worse from three-point range with at least 200 attempts. There are SGs out there like Gerald Green and Gary Neal who can shoot, but Doc Rivers does not need the locker room issues that would likely come with those players. Who knows, maybe Doc Rivers goes with another former Celtic…
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) July 20, 2016