When the Los Angeles Clippers today signed free agent veteran forward Ruben Patterson, it got me thinking about the strategy that Elgin Baylor and the franchise have decided to take on.
With Elton Brand possibly out for the entire season after undergoing surgery to repair his left Achilles tendon, the Clippers should consider this season a loss and begin to look forward. Brand has a player option after this season where he is set to be owed $16,440,000. If he opts out of his contract and becomes a free agent, the Clippers are immediately right back to the bottom of the NBA.
With this season a loss, the Clippers should look to build for the future rather than salvage this season. Meaning, they should look to trade the expiring contracts of Sam Cassell and Aaron Williams. Combined, these two players are set to make nearly $8,000,000 this season. Cassell is most likely in his last season and could be a big help to teams looking for a veteran point guard, like the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Miami Heat, or Orlando Magic. Each one of these teams would give up assets to bring in Cassell for his last season in the NBA.
Trading Aaron Williams and Cassell to the Heat for Michael Doleac ($3,120,000 with one year remaining), Chris Quinn ($687,456 with one year remaining), Dorrell Wright ($2,040,746 with one year remaining), and a future draft pick would be beneficial to both teams. The Heat would bring in another veteran who could help them in the playoffs and the Clippers would receive a young, promising player in Wright. Wright is a 6'8" small forward, who is still only 21 years old. They would have a full year to evaluate his abilities and then have the opportunity to resign him to a longer term deal once the season ends.
This season, coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. needs to give significant playing time to many of their young players, such as: Shawn Livingston, Jared Jordan, Quinton Ross, Guillermo Diaz, Al Thornton, and Paul Davis. Ideally, going into next season the Clippers can mix some of these players with the remaining veterans like Corey Maggette, Cuttino Mobley, and Chris Kaman, plus Elton Brand if he returns.
The additions of Brevin Knight and Ruben Patterson are two moves I certainly do not agree with. Both of these players are veterans and would be a nice addition if the team were a true competitor. However, without Brand for most of this season, they will not have this opportunity. Although both of these players signed short and relatively small contracts, their playing time should go to younger players. Targeting younger free agents who still can develop like Anderson Varejo, Sasha Pavlovic, Mickael Pietrus, Hassan Adams, James White, or Dee Brown would have been more sensible.
The Clippers caught a bad break with the Brand injury, but they made it worse by making later moves that were illogical. When Brand injured his Achilles tendon on August 3 during a regular daily workout, Elgin Baylor and the Clippers should have decided that this would be a rebuilding and development season. Without Brand, the Clippers may only be better than Minnesota, Sacramento, Portland, Seattle, and Memphis in the Western Conference. They should have focused on bringing in more young players to develop and gain future salary cap flexibility.