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How Can the Clippers Improve?

Posted By Taylor Smith On Jan 28 2014 @ 3:06 pm In Los Angeles Clippers | No Comments

As of today, the Los Angeles Clippers sit at 32-15, atop the Pacific Division and just 4.5 games out of the Western Conference’s top spot. They just concluded their annual “Grammy road trip”, on which they finished 5-2, concluding Monday night with a blowout win over the hapless Milwaukee Bucks.

They’ll be getting Chris Paul back from his shoulder injury fairly soon, but their record doesn’t really indicate that they’ve struggled at all without their All-Star point guard. The Clippers have gone 9-3 since Paul went down in Dallas (a game they also went on to win without him), so they’re performed about as well as they possibly could’ve hoped.

However, L.A. has primarily feasted on the dregs of the league during that stretch. Beating teams like the Bucks, Magic, Pistons, Bulls and Celtics isn’t much of an accomplishment. They lost both games they played against truly elite competition (San Antonio and Indiana), with the other loss coming on the road against a so-so Bobcats club.

So, 9-3 is 9-3, but if you look a bit deeper it isn’t an overly impressive 9-3.

Once CP3 does return, there are still plenty of question marks about the Clippers. DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin have each been fantastic this season, but beyond those two, the team has exactly zero reliable big men on the roster. Byron Mullens? Antawn Jamison? Ryan Hollins? Stop me when one of these guys sounds like a real difference-maker. Frontcourt depth is absolutely the No. 1 concern with the team, but how can they improve?

There’s always the possibility of a trade. One thing that complicates matters, though, is the fact that the Clippers aren’t able to trade their upcoming first-round draft pick. With the way teams are valuing picks these days, even a late first-rounder has pretty substantial value. But because L.A. agreed to part with its 2015 first-rounder in order to snag Doc Rivers from the Celtics, the rules don’t allow them to part with consecutive first-rounders.

There are plenty of non-competitive teams out there with likely available big men the Clippers could covet. Outside of draft picks they aren’t allowed to trade and their big-name players, L.A. doesn’t really have a lot of appealing assets to offer via trade. Matt Barnes? Darren Collison? Jared Dudley? The Clippers would surely trade any of them, but there likely isn’t a massive market out there for them, anyway.

L.A.’s best option may be the eventual veteran buy-outs. They already scooped Hedo Turkoglu off-the-streets following his buy-out with the Magic, and he’s made minimal impact, as expected. Teams like the Celtics and Heat in recent years have beefed-up their frontcourts using role players that were casted-off of future lottery teams. The main issue here is that there don’t appear to be many candidates out there likely to be waived. There really isn’t a P.J. Brown type out there to be had.

It may all come back to good ol’ Andrew Bynum. The Bulls waived the former All-Star following the trade from Cleveland earlier this month, and there’s been very little news regarding his status since. Miami was said to have interest, but they’re suddenly getting pretty solid minutes out of the rejuvenated Greg Oden. Do they really need to risk bringing Bynum in there?

Bynum certainly enjoyed the majority of his time with the Lakers, and if he’s willing to play again in a supporting role, the Clippers are a pretty nice fit. He’s obviously the first big off-the-bench, and would actually give the Clippers’ second unit the offensive punch it sorely needs. Right now, L.A.’s bench offense consists of Jamal Crawford and exactly nothing else. Having a back-to-the-basket talent like Bynum there to anchor the reserves would be a luxury few other teams have.

Is Bynum too much of a baby to be worth the risk? Possibly. He was run out of Cleveland due to excessive baby-ness. He’s a major health risk, as well, so there’d be no guarantee that he can even stay on the court enough to help the Clippers.

But the Clippers have very little flexibility at this point, and, as presently constructed, they probably aren’t strong enough to beat teams like the Spurs and Thunder in a long playoff series. They’re going to have to tinker with the roster somehow, and Andrew Bynum may be the rare opportunity they can’t afford to miss.

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