After a Game 7 loss in Houston, the Clippers are going home early. A large part of the reason for this is their thin bench, which wasn’t able to step up in the second-round series against the Rockets. Depth has been a problem all year for the Clippers, who have essentially six NBA-caliber rotation players on their roster. If they want to contend going forward, they need to add more pieces, and coach and GM Doc Rivers knows it.
“We’re talking about the bench,” Rivers told a throng of reporters who continually made it a talking point, “so I have to do a better job.”
The Clippers will have limited resources to bolster their reserve corps regardless of whether they re-sign center DeAndre Jordan to a maximum five-year contract for an estimated $108.3 million, something that Rivers reiterated was his top priority.
“We don’t need to go and get a max player, except for the one we have,” Rivers said, referring to Jordan, who becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1. “We need to add pieces, and it’s going to be hard, because we are restricted.”
If the Clippers re-sign Jordan, which they need to do in order to remain a contender, all they’ll have to add talent are minimum deals and the taxpayer’s midlevel exception, which is for approximately $3.3 million per year for three years. If they lose Jordan, they’ll still be over the salary cap, but they’ll be able to use the regular midlevel exception, which is closer to $5.4 million per year. It’s a more attractive chip, but it comes with the cost of losing their third-best player.
If Rivers keeps the Clippers’ core together, he just has to hope that he can find better values on the scrap heap than he was able to this season. That’s the position he’s put himself, and the team, in.