The Clippers made major upgrades to their bench this summer, bringing in Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith and Cole Aldrich. But they’re still looking around for depth, and the Los Angeles Times‘ Brad Turner reports that they’ve had discussions with three-year veteran forward Chris Singleton:
Singleton hasn’t played in the NBA since 2013-14, and hasn’t really proven himself to be a consistent rotation player. It couldn’t hurt to give him a training camp invite, but if the Clippers are looking to add another player that might stick around beyond training camp, the one position they’re still a little thin at is point guard. Beyond Chris Paul, their main options are Pablo Prigioni and Austin Rivers, neither of whom is really a viable full-time backup. Signing Singleton wouldn’t really help them there, but they could do worse if they’re just looking for bodies for camp.
Doc Rivers the GM tied the hands of Doc Rivers the coach last season — their lack of depth caught up with the Clippers. Players emptied their tanks into beating the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, then got up 3-1 on the Rockets with a big lead in the second half of Game 5 — then just ran out of gas. Houston played better and played desperate, but the Clippers had energy left to match them.
This summer Doc the GM did well. The Clippers added Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith, Pablo Prigioni, Cole Aldrich and others who can take some pressure off a Clipper starting five that played 972 minutes more than any other Clippers lineup last season.
Blake Griffin, for one, is pumped that he will get to sit more. He told Rowan Cavner of the Clippers’ official site why it matters.
“It’ll help a lot,” Griffin said. “My third season in the league when we had that unbelievable bench, I think I dropped to like 32 minutes a game in the regular season…You definitely feel fresher toward the end, but you have to find that right balance of not holding back too much, being able to give everything. Having an elite bench is going to help us tremendously, especially come playoff time.”
Last season Griffin averaged 35.2 minutes a game to lead the Clippers, while (because they didn’t miss much time due to injuries) Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan were both in the top seven in the league in total minutes played. In his third season, Griffin did play “just” 32.5 minutes a night, the lowest in his career.
As Griffin notes, for the Clippers it is all about being right come the playoffs.
Doc Rivers is not afraid to rest players, and now he can do it and still win, still get a high seed. Do that and the Clippers are serious title contenders.
The challenge is there are at least four other teams in the West alone that can make that claim.
The Clippers have been pretty good the last four seasons, going 40-26, 56-26, 57-25 and 56-26 the last four seasons. But they’ve also won only one, zero, one and one playoff series in that span.
What do they need to get over the hump?
Newly acquired Clippers guard Lance Stephenson, via Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times:
“They’re just missing that guy that’s tough and doesn’t bow down to no one,” Stephenson said of the Clippers.
I suppose Stephenson thinks he’s that guy.
But I don’t think the Clippers had a huge need for that guy. Matt Barnes, traded for Stephenson, was pretty tough. So is Chris Paul. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have made huge gains in that area.
The Clippers need a better bench. More to the point, they need Stephenson to play closer to his final season with the Pacers than his lone season with the Hornets. If he does, he’ll provide a huge boost as a reserve.
Stephenson’s toughness is a nice asset and a big part of who he is. But his productivity is questionable – and that’s what the Clippers really need.
The could also use someone who doesn’t alienate his new teammates by saying they aren’t tough enough. I’m not sure Stephenson is off to the best start.
If he plays well, though, I’m sure everyone will forgive and forget.
There have been no shortage of – somewhat self-fueled – trade rumors involving Jamal Crawford this summer.
The Cavaliers and Knicks are reportedly interested in the Clippers guard.
Add one more team to the list.
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:
Miami is another team that is also interested in Crawford.
The Heat lack dynamic playmakers off the bench, and staggering the minutes of Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic is one solution. So is hoping Mario Chalmers bounces back from a down season.
Another: Trading for Crawford.
However, it’s tough to see a logical deal.
Miami has a couple players with similar salaries to Crawford – Chalmers and Chris Andersen – that it probably wouldn’t mind trading. Andersen would particularly fit with the Clippers, who could use another backup center besides Cole Aldrich.
But how would the Heat sweeten the pot? They can’t trade a first-round pick and have no unprotected second-rounder before 2021. Unless the Clippers really like Tyler Johnson or James Ennis, it’s hard to see Miami making this worth the Clippers’ while.
Still, with Lance Stephenson, Pablo Prigioni and Austin Rivers, Crawford is a little more expendable. The Clippers would be more balanced with Andersen rather than Crawford (and save in luxury-tax payments). Is that enough to warrant the talent downgrade? I don’t think so, but it’s at least worth a conversation.
The Clippers both see a value in former Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford and realize that he remains their best trade chip. That’s why he was shopped around at the draft and early in free agency.
The fact the Clippers went out and got Lance Stephenson this summer adds to their wing depth and, in theory, makes Crawford more expendable. At least if you believe in bounce-back Lance. Crawford has been frustrated by what he sees written on the wall, but the Clippers are not just going to give him away so there has been no deal.
Who wants Crawford? How about the Knicks, reports Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.
On the surface you can see the logic there for the Knicks, adding that kind of scoring depth gives them a boost, and for a bubble playoff team in the East that could be enough to put them over the hump. Maybe. It certainly makes it an interesting discussion. For the Clippers, the question is who would they want off the Knicks roster? And do they trust Stephenson to be their sixth man on the wing?
All that may not matter — making this deal happen is very difficult.
The Knicks renounced their trade exception from the J.R. Smith deal this summer to get under the salary cap and go after Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez. That means the Knicks have to send salary back to the Clippers in this deal. And they don’t have players that work for that under the cap. Former Nets exec and Twitter star Bobby Marks laid it out well:
Calderon may make some sense for the Clippers if they do not trust Austin Rivers — and based on past performance they should not trust Austin Rivers. (Clips fans, do not let a couple decent playoff games cloud your judgment.) But making this deal happen is challenging at best. The two sides likely have to wait until the guys signed this summer can be added to the deal, which means December at the earliest. Even then, I wouldn’t bet on it.