Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
The Los Angeles Clippers are gambling that Lamar Odom's lost year in Dallas was a blip on the radar. Will that gamble pay off?
After a 2011 offseason that saw sweeping changes to the roster, the Clippers took it a bit easier in 2012, electing to plug some holes and maintain the core that got them to the second round of the NBA Playoffs for just the second time since the franchise moved out west. Operating without an official general manager, the Clippers nonetheless fortified their bench with veterans that were mostly recruited by star Chris Paul. However, they also lost a few contributors from last year's squad in the process.
Did the Clippers come out ahead in these moves? We'll evaluate the newcomers side-by-side with the men they replaced.
TRADED FOR LAMAR ODOM, LET KENYON MARTIN GO
Acquiring Odom is risky, but it's the kind of move a team like the Clippers simply has to make to try to keep up in the deep Western Conference. Odom's lost season in Dallas shocked everybody, and frankly, there's no historical precedent to a top-50 NBA player sinking into one of the worst in the league. How Odom bounces back now that he's returned to Los Angeles is anyone's guess.
But from the Clippers' perspective, imagine if he just gets back to 75 percent of what he once was with the Lakers. Suddenly, the Clippers have one of the best backup big men in the league and a guy they can use to finish games when DeAndre Jordan is ineffective. Martin was supposed to be that guy last year, but he's not the same player he was two years ago. Odom has a much better chance of bouncing back than Martin has.
The one potential roadblock: how Vinny Del Negro uses him. Odom often takes a while to adjust to new surroundings because coaches just aren't quite sure what to do with him. Once a solution is figured out, Odom is a huge asset, but will Del Negro figure out the solution early enough to make the trade worthwhile? Even Phil Jackson needed some time to allow Odom to find himself. I'm a little worried about how Del Negro fares.
All these concerns aside, the trade was a no-brainer. If Odom bounces back, the Clippers have the best second-line big man in the league. You make that acquisition 100 times out of 100 if you're in the Clippers' spot.
SIGNED JAMAL CRAWFORD, TRADED MO WILLIAMS
This move was a little more questionable. Dealing Williams was a necessary cost to acquiring Odom, and Williams grumbling about his limited role was only going to get louder with him being in a contract year. However, signing Crawford doesn't really add a new dimension to the Clippers' attack and replaces an awkward fit with the same awkward fit on a longer-term contract.
To be fair to Crawford, the Portland Trail Blazers were not a good fit for his skills. Nate McMillan prefers a controlled, slowed-down offensive style, and Crawford needs some latitude within half-court sets to be at his best. He had that latitude with the Atlanta Hawks, and I suspect he'll also have that latitude with Del Negro. The price also isn't terrible -- he technically signed a four-year, $22 million contract, but only $1.5 million is guaranteed in each of the last two years.
At the same time, what does Crawford add that the Clippers don't already have? Chauncey Billups is healthy again, and Eric Bledsoe will probably play a lot more after his emergence late last season. Instead of signing Crawford, why not make a bigger push to nab Courtney Lee, who is an elite spot-up shooter that can space the floor for Paul and make defenders pay for leaving him? Why not try the same with any of the other bigger wings on the market, like Brandon Rush or Danny Green. Heck, why not re-sign Nick Young for less money?
Instead, for the second straight year, the Clippers will start an undersized combo guard with Paul and bring another one off the bench. It seems like a waste of a roster spot.
SIGNED GRANT HILL, LET NICK YOUNG GO
An obvious upgrade here, even if Hill's body is starting to betray him again. At the very least, Hill will provide leadership in the locker room. At the most, he plays a full season, continues his transition into a spot-up shooter and elite defender and provides stability to the second unit. Young is more talented than Hill, but the Clippers needed certainty and Hill provides it.
SIGNED WILLIE GREEN, LET RANDY FOYE GO
I thought Foye had a pretty good year, all things considering, and the Clippers may miss him more than they think. But there's also not a huge difference between Foye and Green, and Green was cheaper.
SIGNED MATT BARNES, LET RYAN GOMES GO
Barnes never sticks with one team because he has a reputation for being a hothead and because he often forgets plays, but Gomes was doing nothing for the Clippers last year. Barnes at least can provide some bench help in a pinch if Hill and Caron Butler continue to struggle with injuries.
SIGNED RONNY TURIAF AND RYAN HOLLINS, LET REGGIE EVANS GO
Evans is an incredibly limited player, but he's also the kind of guy you want stashed deep on your bench to unleash when you're desperate to change the tide of the game. Turiaf used to be that guy, but he had some major health issues last season and isn't the same player he was a couple years ago. Hollins, meanwhile, is a center that can't rebound or hold his position in the post. I'm not sure why he is an NBA player.
OFFSEASON GRADE: B-