May 23, 2012, 1:54 PM EDT
It’s still odd to think of the Clippers as a team that could enter next season as a contender — this has been the worst franchise in the league for decades.
But Blake Griffin started to change the culture and perception around the team, then Chris Paul arrived before the season and added rocket fuel to the changes. The Clippers went 40-26 and made it to the second round of the playoffs. It was a big step forward.
Now come the next steps. GM Neil Olshey said the Clippers targets will be wing players, according to the O.C. Register.
Olshey said the Clippers would like to add a shooting guard with some size and a back-up forward with shooting range and passing ability. Olshey and the Clippers will also have to make a lot of decisions regarding their own free agents.
With the Clippers right now at the salary cap line for next year, they will be looking to find a starting two for the mid-level exception of about $5 million, plus bring back some of those role players like Young and Evans. They could use depth everywhere, save for maybe the point (Eric Bledsoe killed it in the playoffs when Paul sat).
Free agent two guards out there who might come for the mid-level (with the promise of going into the playoffs with Paul and Griffin): Ray Allen, Jamal Crawford, J.R. Smith, Courtney Lee… and from there the list gets less impressive. The good news — CP3 said he would play lead recruiter.
There are bigger issues facing the Clippers this offseason — offering Griffin a max extension to his rookie deal and starting discussions with Chris Paul about his future (he will be entering the last year of his deal). Then there’s what to do with Vinny Del Negro?
But this is now a team that needs tweaks not big moves to contend. This is a team that needs its players to learn the lessons of the playoffs. Their weaknesses were exposed by the Spurs, now is when you start to work on improving those. Come back better next fall. The Clippers will be more about the steps and improvements they make, about improved maturity of game, than they will be about moves off the court.
But look for a new starting two in LA next year. Likely one who can defend well on the perimeter.
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