The Los Angeles Clippers did their heavy lifting over the summer. After negotiations fell through to acquire Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers, the team did the sensible thing and focused in where they needed the most help, settling on Rivers alone. The acquisition of a coveted head coach, tagged with acquiring off-ball specialist J.J. Redick and three-point sniper Jared Dudley made the Clippers a preseason favorite out of the Western Conference.
The team has seized control of the Pacific Division even with Chris Paul missing significant time with a shoulder injury. It hasn't been a smooth transition, however, and the team has tweaked it's roster throughout the season with veteran's minimum additions like Hedo Turkoglu and Sasha Vujacic while also trying out players on 10-day contracts.
The Clippers were expected to be good, though. Their core of Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan was enough to get them the no. 4 seed last season, and the expectations have risen to become a great team after strong personnel moves over the summer. The team could be in the market for a true upgrade as opposed to the temporary patches they've tried to implement through the first half of the season.
The biggest need the Clippers have is in their frontcourt. Beyond Jordan and Griffin the team simply does not have enough depth to be considered a serious contender. The team signed Antawn Jamison and Byron Mullens over the summer and held onto Ryan Hollins.
Their backup trio has been woeful, though. Jamison has played in just 22 games, averaging 11.3 minutes per game. Hollins has played the most total minutes and games out of the group but is averaging just 2.4 points and 1.6 rebounds per game. Mullens has appeared in 27 contests, averaging 6.3 minutes per game.
How can the team upgrade their power forward and center depth? By cutting some of the excess wingman depth they've accumulated. The team is reportedly open to trading either Jared Dudley or Matt Barnes for immediate frontcourt help. Dudley hasn't lived up the expectation of being one of the team's three-point specialists, shooting an average 35 percent from beyond the arc.
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Barnes' all-around hustle game continues to translate into production for the Clippers. He's averaging 7.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game as a reserve. With Redick back in the fold, Jamal Crawford filling in as the team's volume threat from the perimeter and plenty of depth built up it could create an opportunity for the team to seek out a big man.
It's unclear what the market for either player is, or what kind of frontcourt help they could yield, but Dudley could be an attractive option to a team needing small forward depth. He's a proven shooter on a friendly three-year, $12.7 million contract. Sending Dudley elsewhere is a gamble, though, as the Clippers were interested in him for the same reason any team trading for him would be. He should be a great outlet target for Chris Paul and helps space the floor for Griffin and Jordan. Moving on from a player they were able to acquire when they sent Eric Bledsoe to Phoenix just half a season in would be a fast turnaround for someone expected to be a huge contributor.
The Clippers aren't in a terrible position as a team and don't need to pick apart their core. The 12-4 record they put together without Paul is reason to believe this team is still learning how to play together under a new head coach. Instilling a new offensive and defensive system is a process, and the Clippers removing one of their starters could slow down the progress they've made.
Still, with the clear need to upgrade their frontcourt reserves, Los Angeles should be in discussions with teams that could have an available big man to spare for a wing player. It's hard to imagine the Clippers don't find a way to improve their power forward and center depth before the deadline passes