As the Clippers build their new lineup for next season, the fans noticed a nice blend of savvy veterans mixed with younger superstars. The went from a team that was at a height disavantage last season to a team that was taller and better able to defend both at the perimeter and in the paint. But where did all the shooters go?
With Mo Williams, Bobby Simmons and Randy Foye departing, the Clippers lost their two best shooters from the 3. They were replaced with players whose forte was not shooting from downtown. Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford, and Grant Hill are definitely upgrades to the roster, and they are all veteran players who shoot well, but just not from the 3. And for a team that says they need to spread the defense to make room for Blake Griffin to work down low, they would be relying on Chauncey Billups and CP3 to provide the 3 point shooting.
The Clippers made a major move to bolster the bench with the free agent who had the highest 3 point shooting percentage of any free agent on the market this summer......Willie Green. At 6'3" Willie is a 31 year old shooting guard who shot 47% from the field and 44% from the 3 last season for the Atlanta Hawks. Somehow the Clippers traded the rights to Sofo while using one of their trade exemptions to sign Willie to a one year deal at the vets minimum. Along with shooting a very respectable 86% from the line, Willie Green also has a 38" verticle leap. Willie, who played one season with Chris Paul in New Orleans just two years ago, also enjoys the moniker.....Superstar Defender. Whether or not that nick name is deserved remains to be seen.
So the Clippers added the one thing to the roster that seemed to be the biggest need in another shooter. That brings the roster to 14. There is no immediate need to add another player at this point. The team seems to be deep at every position now. The Clippers still have one more trade exemption and a 15th player could be added at some point, but I am betting that this will only be done if a young player with a great future could be acquired. Another veteran we don't need and we are not weak at any particular position. A player could be added later if the Clippers suffered a major injury to a key player. Depending on who is doing the math, the Clippers appear to have a team payroll at about 63 Mil, which is over the cap, but not over the Luxury tax of 70 Mil.
The big elephant in the room that nobody is talking about is Dwight Howard. The Clippers are not part of any rumors or discussions regarding Howard at this time. But as the trade deadline approaches, Orlando is going to feel increasing pressure to do something. Howard already makes his summer home in LA. So far he is reluctant to commit to the Lakers. Some people speculate that he doesn't want to follow in the footsteps of other great Centers. He wants to make his own legacy.
The Clippers do not have any such heritage at center. And if the Clippers come out of the gate strong and are looking like a team that could possibly win a championship, the Clippers could become a part of the conversation. Having a very deep team with key tradeable pieces is key. DJ would definitely be a part of any package for Howard. Other players who would be included are not going to be CP3 or Blake Griffin. But the Clippers have enough other enticing pieces to possibly make the best offer that Orlando is going to get.
It will then be all about whether or not Dwight Howard would agree to sign a max extension with the Clippers moving forward. Having a deep team would allow them to move 3 players and still have a competitive bench. I would imagine Eric Bledsoe would be gone, so their biggest concern would be at PG. Am I just dreaming here? Let's wait and see. I don't know how the Clippers can afford the contracts of CP3, Blake Griffin, and Dwight Howard and stay under the luxury tax. But I do know that this trio of players is a championship waiting to happen.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS VS CLEVELAND CAVALIERS - MARCH 1, 2013