The L.A. Clippers have an exciting one-two punch in Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon, and one heck of an asset in the Wolves' 2012 first-round pick. Can the team put the right core in place and launch into the playoffs?
The Los Angeles Clippers have the star the team has long needed in Blake Griffin. They also happen to have a stud two-guard in Eric Gordon and a killer asset in the Minnesota Timberwolves' unprotected 2012 first-round pick. Now is the time for the Clips to make their move, right?
Right? (Is this thing on?)
Here's a look at the Clippers' salary cap levels over the past six seasons.
Guess what? The Clippers don't like to spend money! It's true!
Heading into free agency, the Clippers have a cap figure of $45 million with the leaguewide team salary cap set at $58 million and the luxury tax line at $70 million. L.A. can't chase one of the players looking for close to a max deal, but should be able to stay in the mix for second-tier free agents.
The Clippers' free agents are:
L.A. is expected to match anything Jordan signs, supposing the Clippers don't lock him up first. That should soak up anywhere from $4 million to $8 million in the Clippers' space. Smith is a player worth keeping, but the team's priorities are more likely to be wrapped up at point guard and small forward.
Caron Butler has been a popular name for the Clippers, as the team desperately needs a player in front of Al-Farouq Aminu while the youngster learns the NBA game. Tayshaun Prince, another veteran, could be a different option; both are outside-in players that could mesh pretty well with a Griffin-Jordan-Chris Kaman interior.
Speaking of Kaman: he is always on a trade block, and entering the final season of his contract, he could draw interest from capped-out teams looking for frontcourt help. But all the same, he looks like a pretty important third big for the Clippers, assuming the team aspiring to land in the playoffs this season. Again, the Clips hold the rights to Minnesota's 2012 first-round pick, which is completely unprotected. That pick should almost certainly land in the top 10; some would bet heavily on it landing in the top five. This is expected to be a really, really good draft. Keep that in mind once superstars land on the rumor mill.
For more on L.A.'s alternative to pure evil, visit SB Nation's Clips Nation.