Monday, August 3, 2009

Clippers off season so far, on the way up?

(Photo from Washington Post)
The Clippers, who have been the butt of most NBA related jokes seem to be maturing in front office decision making with some trades and of course, their number one draft pick. Could this be a turnaround season for them?

Read between the baselines:

The Clippers had a good starting lineup last year. Baron Davis, Rookie Eric Gordon, Al Thornton, Zach Randolph, and Marcus Camby/Chris Kaman.

Injuries: Baron Davis missed 17 games, Marcus Camby missed 20 games, Chris Kaman missed 51 games, after Zach Randolph joined the team from the Tim Thomas/Cuttino Mobley trade 11 games into the season, he missed 34 games.

Compared to the top teams in the NBA, this isn't the greatest lineup, but it's serviceable and worth at least a little better than the 19 win season they put forward last year. But on those rare nights when they did have everyone healthy and able to play, their bench was nothing to brag about:

PG Mike Taylor (now waived), PF/C Brian Skinner (yikes), F Steve Novak (nice 3 pt shooter), F Mardy Collins (missed 32 games), SF Ricky Davis (missed 46 games) C Deandre Jordan (good pickup last year in 2nd round).
(Photo from Binary Basketball)
But they've made some moves. They got a lucky bounce and won the Blake Griffin sweepstakes and now have a star to build around and already some nice complimentary young players in SG Eric Gordon (16.1 pts, 2.8 ast, 1.7 3PTM), Al Thornton (16.8 pts, 5.2 reb), and Deandre Jordan who produced well enough numbers for only 15 minutes a game (for 53 games). Add to that Baron Davis for four more years, Camby and Kaman playing Center, and finally...

(Photo from Yahoo Sports)
A BENCH in PG Sebastian Telfair (9.8 pts, 4.6 ast) and F/C Craig Smith (10.1 pts, 3.8 reb, 56% FG).

Let's look at the salaries for these new additions:

Sebastian Telfair: Owed $2.5 million in 2009-2010 season, player option for $2.7 million in 2010-2011
Craig Smith: Owed $2.5 million in 2009-2010 season, FA in 2010
Mark Madsen: Owed $2.84 million in 2009-2010 season, FA in 2010

So the Clippers are off the hook for about 5 to 8 million dollars next year which is money they would probably use to help pay for Al Thornton's predicted long term contract (Team Option for 2010 and then will probably sign an extension). But that doesn't take away the fact that Telfair and Smith can PLAY. Madsen, although it's known he's a good locker room presence, you just don't trade for that kind of player who can't do much on the court. The $2.84 million off of the books for the Clippers will benefit them in 2010 and they will have a banger who can provide energy should they need it in "Mad Dog" Mark Madsen.

Other contract notes: Marcus Camby and Ricky Davis are FAs in 2010, good for another $10 million they can spend on another FA in the grand 2010 FA class.

Regarding Allen Iverson:
(Photo from National Basketblog Association)

Fact: The clippers were interested in Iverson and it was widely speculated that Donald Sterling, the Clippers' owner, wanted to sign him to sell tickets. It would have done so. Allen Iverson is fun to watch and an awesome player (and a future hall of famer), but it's just not what the Clippers need right now. Signing Iverson would stunt the growth of Eric Gordon who needs to play to become a better player, not watch Iverson try and take over games. The Clippers don't need Iverson. Dunleavy reportedly talked to Iverson about coming off the bench, a position he was insulted by in Detroit. Iverson wants to be a star, and Iverson as the star on the Clippers is not what the Clippers need.

The Clippers so far have not signed Iverson and if Yahoo Sports reporter Marc J. Spears is correct, their interest is fading. Donald Sterling has respectable team that if healthy should definitely win more than the 19 games they won last year. Blake Griffin and Baron Davis can sell tickets. This isn't the old Elton Brand led Clippers anymore. These Clippers can run up and down the court and slam the ball like an in game dunk contest.

The decision to go away from Iverson (if it holds up) shows the Clippers' maturity and patience for a team that for the first time in a long time, has a future. No, the Clippers will probably not make the playoffs this year. But if healthy, can win more than 19 games.

Probable starting line up/bench:

PG: Baron Davis/Sebastian Telfair
SG: Eric Gordon/Mardy Collins/Ricky Davis
SF: Al Thornton/Craig Smith/Steve Novak
PF: Blake Griffin/Chris Kaman/Craig Smith
C: Marcus Camby/Chris Kaman/Deandre Jordan

Probable Coach: The Clippers should probably give Dunleavy two season to work with this young core. They've been patient, drafted wisely and added some good pieces. They just may need to wait a little bit more for Dunleavy to really bring out the best in this team, which may come in the 2010 season. But the 2009/2010 season sure has gotten off to a good start for the butt of most if not all NBA jokes.

Those are the facts. And that's one way to read between the [base]lines.


Mario said...

Clippes will make it to the playoffs this year. Watch!

Mario said...


VH said...

Uh, Thornton isn't getting an extension any time soon. He is one dimensional on O and can't play D.

ReadBetweenTheBaselines said...

Mario, DOUBTFUL, but they could surprise us, but doubtful

VH, I meant extension after next season, of course he's not going to get 20 million a year, but I see him getting a Luke Walton type salary of 5-6 million for 5 years. He's a good fit with the Clippers and I see them investing in him as a solid role player/above average role player.

KneeJerkNBA said...

Is it paranoid to think that Ricky Davis' mere presence will cause something disastrous to happen?

On the positive, I like Griffin more every time I see him. He's got a much better handle than I expected. His shot's still a bit wonky but everything else is there.