Los Angeles Clippers president of basketball operations and head coach Doc Rivers has said that he would like to bring back as many of the team’s core players as possible, but it looks more and more like he will have to get creative in order to do so.
Doc Rivers: "We have to try to sign as many of our guys back as possible."— Ben Bolch (@latbbolch) May 2, 2016
Los Angeles is already up against the cap despite having just six players with guaranteed contracts for next season, according to Basketball Insiders. The reason the Clippers have very little wiggle room is that Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan are all making over $20 million apiece, and it is very likely all three will be back with the team for the upcoming season. J.J. Redick, Paul Pierce, and C.J. Wilcox are the other players currently under contract, but the Clips would have an extra $3.5 million to play with if Pierce retires.
Pierce wasn’t as effective as the Clippers had hoped he would be after signing the 38-year-old this past offseason. He averaged 6.1 points and 2.7 rebounds while shooting just 36.3 percent from the field in 68 games. Pro Basketball Talk is reporting that Pierce is 50/50 about playing next season.
“‘For each year the last couple of years, I’ve thought long and hard about walking away from the game,’ Pierce told Comcast Sports Net Northwest. ‘The process will continue this summer as I think long and hard, as I get older in age, talk to my family, see how my body feels. I don’t want to make an emotional decision right now, so I’ll sit down with my family and think about it. It’s just gotta hit you one day. You just never know. You don’t know. Right now, it’s 50/50. I’ll see how I feel when I wake up, if I feel like getting ready for next season. If I don’t feel that feeling, that fire’s not there, it’s going to be tough.'”
The Clippers now know that Wesley Johnson and Austin Rivers will be unrestricted free agents come July 1, meaning that the Clips will have eight unrestricted players this offseason. Rivers and Johnson each elected to not pick up their player options a few days ago, as expected. Johnson has said he wants to return to the Clippers, according to Los Angeles Times’ Brad Turner, and it is assumed that Rivers would also like to return.
Clips Wes Johnson will not pick up his player option for next season at $1.2 million, per agent. But Johnson would like to return to Clips— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) June 1, 2016
Rivers is expected to draw a lot of attention from teams during free agency and should at least double his 2015-16 salary of $3.1 million. The 23-year-old combo guard produced 8.9 points a game while shooting 43.8 percent from the field in the regular season. He also earned a lot of respect for his Game 6 performance against the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, putting up 21 points to go along with eight assists and six rebounds despite barely being able to see.
Johnson is a good player to have coming off the bench because he is a veteran and has the ability to score in bunches. He won’t likely draw too much attention in the open market because he doesn’t really do anything besides score. That said, he is not going to cost a team a bunch of money to sign him. The 28-year old produced 22 double-figure games and averaged 6.9 points a contest last season.
Rivers and Johnson join Jamal Crawford, Cole Aldrich, Jeff Green, Jeff Ayres, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Pablo Prigioni as free agents. Aldrich declined his $1.2 million player option on Thursday, per the Los Angeles Times. He reportedly has an interest in re-signing with the Clips.
Aldrich is coming off a solid season, averaging 5.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in 13.3 minutes per game. The 27-year-old is a defensive-minded center who is an excellent rebounder and good rebounder. However, he is very limited offensively. As SBNation suggests, the Clips would be wise to attempt to sign him but not for any more than a portion of their mid-level exception ($5.628 million).
Green and Crawford, in addition to Rivers, are the players Los Angeles need to re-sign the most. Both seem open to returning to the Clippers as well. However, Noah Coslov of CineSport tweeted that free agency is all about the money for Crawford.
Los Angeles owns Green’s and Crawford’s Bird Rights, meaning the Clippers can go over the salary cap to sign them.
The Clippers have two draft picks in the upcoming 2016 draft. The Clips own the No. 25 and No. 33 overall selection. Their biggest need is a backup point guard, and they have done their due diligence with draft picks, inviting several prospects in for workouts.
Chad Ford of ESPN has the Clippers filling the need by selecting Notre Dame point guard Demetrius Jackson with the No. 25 pick.
Jackson is very quick, athletic, and an explosive leaper. The 21-year-old is a good decision maker and a good shooter with range. However, he does need to improve his three-point shooting.
Jackson improved his scoring and assists totals in each of his three years at Notre Dame. He averaged 15.8 points and 4.7 assists last year, but his field goal percentage dropped to 45.1 percent and his three-point accuracy dipped to 33.1 percent.
[Photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP Images]