Off-Season Grade: C
The Clippers entered the offseason with only five players under contract and a good amount of cap space to spend. Rather than landing an impact free agent, the Clips added complementary players to surround their nucleus of Griffin/Gordon/Davis/Kaman.
The Clippers needed to find a small forward through the 2010 NBA Draft and ended up doing so by taking Al-Farouq Aminu. He may not be ready to jump into the starting lineup right away, but is a nice piece to the future. The same can be said of Eric Bledsoe whom the Clippers acquired for a future first-round pick. I think Bledsoe is going to be a very good NBA point guard once he matures and really like this deal as long as the pick the Clips are giving up does not end up being a top-five selection.
Free agency was disappointing in Clipperland. The team was unable to sign a major player despite having the cap flexibility do so. Instead, the team focused on bringing in Ryan Gomes, Randy Foye and Brian Cook for reasonable contracts while also re-signing Rasual Butler and Craig Smith. These players will bring some stability to the bench, but are not anything to get too excited about.
The Clipper curse and a kneecap injury cost Blake Griffin his rookie season, ultimately dooming the Clippers' playoff chances from the opening tip of the season. Now that Griffin is healthy, there is a cautious optimism that he can help this organization compete for a playoff spot.
Griffin obviously cannot do it by himself. Third-year shooting guard Eric Gordon is coming off a summer in which he helped Team USA win the gold medal at the World Championships. Gordon was a solid contributor on that team showing off his ability to knock down threes but also stepping up his man-to-man defense. If he can carry that over into this season, I expect him to make a nice jump and provide a nice inside/outside tandem with Griffin.
Chris Kaman is coming off a career year in scoring and will partner up with Griffin to form a talented post duo. Baron Davis has been a free agent bust since coming over two years ago. He will probably take a backseat to Griffin and Gordon and if he embraces that role rather than sulking which has sometimes been a Baron-issue, the Clips will have a pretty talented starting five.
Where the problems pop up is with the bench. As I mentioned earlier, there is some stability with the offseason signings but not an overwhelming amount of talent compared to other benches in the Western Conference unless Aminu and Bledsoe prove to be NBA-ready from the get-go.
With win totals of 29, 19, and 23 the past three seasons, this Clippers team should surpass that total assuming they can stay healthy. With building blocks like Griffin and Gordon, the Clippers are heading in the right direction, but still not a playoff team out West.
Looking Ahead to the Summer of 2011:
By signing Cook, Foye and Gomes to multi-year deals this summer, the Clippers handcuffed themselves for next offseason. They will still have some cap space to spend in free agency but will probably be more focused on trying to sign Gordon to an extension assuming he has another solid year this season.
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