With robust roster in place, Clippers eyeing star free brokers to construct true contender | NBA


Final summer time, the Clippers approached ahead Tobias Harris with a proposal of a contract extension, one price $80 million over 4 years. Harris turned it down, however he was hardly the one piece the staff was seeking to lock up for a long term. LA gave two-year offers to protect Avery Bradley ($25 million) and ahead Montrezl Harrell, a cut price at $12 million, and gave an in-season extension of three years and $24 million to protect Lou Williams.

Moreover, a supply advised Sporting Information, the Clippers additionally mentioned an extension with guard Patrick Beverley, whilst he was rehabbing from knee surgical procedure. Like Harris, Beverley opted to play out his ultimate season and take a look at free company subsequent summer time.

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However the Clippers’ strategy to their roster over the previous yr reveals that, even earlier than the staff acquired off to a formidable 16-7 begin that has landed them in a tie for first within the West, the franchise was dedicated to this group of gamers and foresaw a base from which the remainder of a contender might be constructed.

That’s a outstanding flip for the Clippers, anticipated to want time to dig out of the underachieving wreckage of the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin-DeAndre Jordan period, which overlapped with the ugly, scattershot and tight-fisted reign of former proprietor Donald Sterling, who was eliminated in 2014 after recordings of him making racist remarks went public.

Seems, after blockbuster trades to dump Paul and Griffin, plus the free-agent departure of Jordan, the Clippers didn’t have to do all that a lot digging. Credit score to teach Doc Rivers and common supervisor Lawrence Frank for recognizing that, and being aggressive in attempting to maintain the present roster in place.

Simply earlier than the beginning of the season, Rivers identified that even with out the star energy of Paul, Griffin and Jordan, the Clippers had been properly arrange for each current and future. The staff has rebuilt its energy construction, added a pair of 2018 lottery picks (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson) and cleared out future cap room to pursue free brokers.  

“In a wierd manner, in my opinion, that is the healthiest this franchise has been so far as now and sooner or later,” Rivers stated. “From my vantage level, I like the place we’re at proper now. I take a look at the totality of what we now have accomplished. Take into consideration, after I took over this job and the entire Sterling factor occurred, I believe we had 4 folks upstairs making choices. Now we now have a gaggle of 20. We’ve by no means had flexibility, ever. Now we now have flexibility.

“As a franchise, I believe that is the healthiest it’s ever been.”

That flexibility might yield the most important affect within the coming yr. The Clippers ought to have about $50 million in cap house subsequent summer time, greater than sufficient to make a run at one of many league’s high free brokers.

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Prior to now two months, because the Timberwolves scrambled to discover a deal for guard Jimmy Butler, league sources stated the Clippers made no important push to accumulate him, although he listed the Clippers as considered one of his most popular locations. Minnesota was reluctant to commerce Butler throughout the convention, and in the end despatched him to Philadelphia.

The Clippers had been dead-set in opposition to sending Tobias Harris to Minnesota in a Butler deal, a call that’s paid off: Harris is having a profession yr, with 21.6 factors and eight.four rebounds per sport, plus 42.2 p.c capturing from the 3-point line. He might be a first-time All-Star this yr.

LA’s unwillingness to be aggressive in going after Butler was telling. The Clippers didn’t wish to give away their flexibility by committing to Butler long-term earlier than getting a way of his match, and they didn’t wish to surrender any belongings to accumulate him. Most of all, Rivers and Frank wished to see how this staff — a pleasant mixture of promising children, a budding star in Harris and tough-minded veterans — got here collectively heading into 2019 free company.

Moreover, the Clippers might have larger targets of their sights. The staff is conserving shut watch on Kevin Durant’s happiness stage with the Warriors and, in keeping with league sources, has each intention of constructing a pitch to Durant in July. Durant is predicted to present the Clippers a listening to. Transferring to Los Angeles and organising a crosstown rivalry with LeBron James and the Lakers is one thing Durant would a minimum of have to think about.

There’s additionally Raptors ahead Kawhi Leonard, a Southern California native who has excelled in Toronto within the early a part of the season. Warriors guard Klay Thompson, too, shall be a free agent, as will Bucks wing Khris Middleton.

The Clippers might want to fork out far more than the $80 million they supplied to Harris this summer time to maintain him in free company, however they’ll nonetheless signal a high free agent and re-sign Harris. They’ll additionally look to re-sign heart Boban Marjanovic and Beverley, who may even be free brokers.

It’s a great place for the franchise — set as much as be a contender within the close to future, however already profitable now. Clippers brass foresaw the success. Simply take a look at how they’ve handled their gamers within the final year-plus.

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