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How Can the Clippers Improve in 2011?
Posted By Taylor Smith On Mar 7 2011 @ 1:51 pm In Los Angeles Clippers | No Comments
It’s hard to believe that there’s just over one month left remaining in the NBA season, but that’s where we are.
With the Clippers sitting at 23-40 as of March 7 with no realistic aspirations for nabbing a playoff spot this season, we can start to look towards next year a bit.
Despite the record, this season has to go down as an utter success, all things considered.
Blake Griffin has brought excitement that we’ve never seen with this franchise, and a productive couple of drafts have left the club in very good shape roster-wise heading into the future.
However, this team is not without its holes.
Let’s run through the current roster.
Jordan has emerged as a legitimate defensive force in the middle this season, and his production has skyrocketed as a result of a major increase in playing time. He’s still incredibly raw on offense, but even without any go-to skills on that end, he’s a very useful player.
He’s still just 22 years old, so, with his contract set to allow him to become a restricted free agent this summer (or whenever free agency winds up taking place), he’s likely due for a hefty pay raise.
Jordan has plenty of talent and physical ability, so there’s no reason to believe he can’t become a Marcus Camby or even Dwight Howard-like player on the defensive end of the floor.
The Clippers should do everything within their power (fiscally rational power, of course) to bring him back next season.
Kaman has missed the majority of this season due to injuries, but his play has started to come around of late. He’s averaging 13 points, eight rebounds and nearly two blocks per game in his last five.
He was an All-Star last season, so we know what Kaman is capable of when he’s at full strength. The problem is, however, that he’s been hindered by lingering injuries throughout his career to this point.
He’s played in all 82 games just once (his rookie season), and has played in more than 70 games just once in the last four seasons. His price tag is a problem, as he’s due over $12 million next season in the final year of his contract.
While you can certainly never have enough size in the NBA, the Clippers are going to have to try and save some of that money to eventually pay Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin, among others.
Kaman should have fairly strong trade value, so I would not expect him to return to Los Angeles next season in a Clippers uniform.
Do we really need to discuss him?
He was an All-Star in his first NBA season, and has taken the league by storm. He’s not going anywhere.
Smith’s season has been derailed by injuries, as well, but he’s a serviceable backup when he’s healthy.
His contract is up after this season, but, considering teams are likely not going to be throwing much cash at an undersized power forward averaging five points and three rebounds a game, I think the Clippers can bring him back easily.
Diogu was signed to a contract when Smith went down earlier in the season, and played extremely well in a limited role.
With Griffin logging the majority of the minutes, there isn’t really much sense in bringing back both Smith and Diogu.
With Smith having replaced Diogu in the semi-rotation since he returned, I’d expect Diogu to be the odd man out this summer.
Cook has actually played extremely well this season, shooting nearly 42 percent from three-point range.
He’s a big body at 6’10″, 250, but rarely uses that size to his advantage. He has a player option for about $1.4 million next season, which is pretty fair considering his limited productivity.
I’d imagine the team would be fine with him exercising said option.
Gomes has been the starting small forward for most of the season, and has been solid in his role. He’s a serviceable spot-up three-point shooter, and has shown the ability to take guys off-the-dribble from time-to-time.
He’s big enough to give you some minutes at power forward, as well, and is a decent on-ball defender.
The Clippers have been open about their desire to attract a high-caliber small forward, and, while Gomes is signed for two more seasons, he is certainly best-served in a backup role.
Al-Farouq Aminu should push Gomes for that spot heading into next season.
Aminu was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft, and has played better than many expected as a rookie.
He’s slowed down a bit of late, but the potential is evident. Aminu is extremely athletic, and uses his long arms to his advantage when on defense.
He seems like a player capable of becoming an all-around glue guy, and indispensable, above-average role player.
The Clippers have high hopes for Aminu, and rightfully so. I think he’ll head into next season as the starting small forward.
Moon was acquired along with Mo Williams from the Cavaliers in the Baron Davis trade right before the deadline.
He’s an unbelievable athlete and has shown OK ability on defense, but he doesn’t bring much more to the table.
With a team option for over $3 million for next season, I’d be surprised to see him back.
Griffin and Gordon has already become one of the best young “Batman and Robin” tandems in the league.
This isn’t going to change.
Foye was a disappointment through most of the first half of the season, but really caught fire when he was thrust into the starting lineup while Gordon nursed a sprained wrist last month.
He can score in bunches, and is a dynamite shooter when he’s able to get into a rhythm.
Foye is a bit of a combo guard, but he’s a great guy to be bringing off-the-bench.
Warren is a combo guard, as well, and has seen limited playing time this season as a rookie second round pick out of Oklahoma.
He was projected as a lottery pick had he come out after his freshman season at OU, so the potential is certainly there.
It can’t hurt to hang onto him.
Since coming over from the Cavs, Williams has played pretty well.
He’s averaged 16.7 points and seven assists per game in those three games, and has shot reasonably well from beyond-the-arc.
Williams is just 28-years-old and has player options for each of the next two seasons at $8.5 million per. He’s be crazy to pass that up.
You can win with him as your starting point guard, as we’ve seen with the Cavs for the last few years.
Bledsoe has been solid as a rookie, and has shown flashes of brilliance.
His speed in the open floor is incredible, and he’s a freak of an athlete.
He could stand to improve his shooting and court vision, but the ability is tantalizing.
Bledsoe seems to be the guy that the Clippers want to tag as the “point guard of the future”, so there isn’t much reason to expect that he won’t be back next year.
So, while the Clippers can certainly upgrade in a few areas, there’s clearly reason to be optimistic moving forward.
With the way the power in the league appears to be shifting towards the East, the West should be wide open within two or three years.
If Griffin and Gordon continue to grow together and the rest of the young guys (Jordan, Bledsoe) can complement them appropriately, there isn’t a team in the West (other than maybe OKC) in better position for the years ahead.
With so many dynamic young players, why can’t the Los Angeles Clippers be the ones to take advantage and rise above the rest?
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