Although there’s nothing but utter chaos between Mr. and Mrs. Sterling in court, inside the Los Angeles Clippers front office the weather is sunny and calm. The Clippers filled two major holes on their roster by signing guard Jordan Farmar and big man Spencer Hawes recently, and will now turn their attention to a final need.
The Clippers are still in search of an upgrade at the small forward position. All of their primary targets have been signed to deals with other teams, and while they’re not in a panic, the Clippers still need more production from that position to get over the hump in the very-competitive western conference.
Last season Danny Granger didn’t produce the fruit head coach Doc Rivers would’ve hoped, and Jared Dudley transitioned from the player who received fan optimism to the guy who received the most fan hatred. Matt Barnes provided a lift in production in the starting unit, however he’s better served on the second unit giving energy and defensive intensity when the Clippers need it most.
Paul Pierce, Trevor Ariza and Luol Deng are all off the Clippers free agent board. Each player has signed a deal with a team not in Los Angeles. After resigning Glen “Big Baby” Davis to a one-year deal, the Clippers find themselves just an inch under the tax apron of $80.8 million. They’ll look to add at least one extra big man and one small forward.
Below are the creme de la creme of the remaining available small forwards.
After the Dallas Mavericks secured the services of Chandler Parsons, stealing him from the Houston Rockets, Shawn Marion is the odd man out in Dallas. Also known as “The Matrix,” Marion was a central piece in the Mavericks 2011 championship run.
After 15 years in the league, Marion still has adequate quickness to guard the wing, and the physicality to defend the post.
He’s the perfect fit for the Clippers because despite Mavs coach Rick Carlisle rarely ever running a play for him, he was a constant stat sheet stuffer. Marion has career averages of 16 points and nine rebounds. His addition to the Clippers would require more than the veteran’s minimum, which may prevent the Clippers from signing him. Marion’s worth about $2.5 million on a contending team, the Clippers can only offer him close to $2 million using the combined trade exceptions they own from former players Antawn Jamison and Byron Mullens. It would require Dallas resigning Marion for the amount of combined exceptions and afterwards dealing him away.
Who knows what kind of series it would’ve been between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs if Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra hadn’t placed splinters in Beasley’s rear-end. With career averages of 13 points and five rebounds, it’s fair to say Beasley is one of the NBA’s most recognizable underachievers. Six years into his professional career, Beasley still hasn’t found a good fit, and although the Clippers haven’t upgraded the roster enough to entertain a risk – Beasley’s upside is hard to resist.
In recent years it seems playing with a championship caliber team hasn’t been a major priority for Beasley. He hasn’t had the payday he thinks he deserves. At the pinnacle of his monetary hoops crusade, Beasley made around $6.2 million during the 2011-12 season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. His last deal with the Heat was for the minimum. He’d most likely ask for more from the Clippers.
Crowder isn’t the upgrade the Clippers truly seek, but should Jared Dudley have a performance similar to the one he gave last season, Crowder would contribute good minutes off the bench. His last two seasons were spent with the Mavericks where Crowder put up five points and 2.5 rebounds.
He logged 11 minutes with Dallas in last year’s playoffs, and is known for doing all of the little things to help his team win. If he’s signed by any team, let alone the Clippers he’ll receive the minimum.
Although he’s had his share of off the court issues, Dante Cunningham is another forward the Clippers should look at. He has the ability to play the small through power forward positions, and last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves he contributed six points and four rebounds.
The former second round pick logged 20 minutes last season and with his long wingspan and defensive upside, could serve as a nice defensive centerpiece in the second unit.
My dark horse favorite is Jordan Hamilton. He’s one of those young players with tremendous potential, albeit sub par production thus far in his career. He had career-highs in points last season with the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets (seven points per game), but with a his great shooting touch, Hamilton’s capable of being a 15-point, six-rebound per game reserve.
Hamilton is one of those guys who needs a coach that will take him on as a project. He has great size for his position and good ability to defend power forwards and quicker small forwards on the wing.
The greatest upside to Hamilton is that although you know what you’re getting from a few of the aforementioned, he’s a guy you can get on the cheap who might surprise you with his production. He also has the greatest long-term upside. For a semi-young Clippers team Hamilton could be a great role player and future sixth man.
It’s possible the Clippers will enter the season with Barnes as the starting small-forward. Without upgrading the position, Rivers and staff will be forced to hope Dudley has anything but a second nightmarish season. It’s a possibility, however should they receive the same amount of production from Barnes and Dudley, the Clippers will continue to feel the sting of their lackluster small-forward personnel.