July 21, 2008
It is, admittedly, still a bit premature to take a step back and break down the revamped rosters of the Clippers and Warriors. Both teams still have plenty of business to take care of—especially the Warriors—and by the ball is jumped on opening day this fall there likely will have been additional player movement on both sides.
That said, the Warriors and Clippers as we last saw them have been rendered asunder, with the Clips pillaging their California rival of its big ticket (as well as one of its breakout role players) and netting a former Defensive Player of the Year in exchange for pocket lint and a stick of wax-pack gum.
For their part, the Warriors have been pithy in response, luring ex-Clipper and unrestricted free agent Corey Maggette to the Bay Area, signing former LA Laker Ronny Turiaf to a somewhat puzzling four-year, $17 million deal as a restricted free agent, and attempting to again return the favor to the Clippers after they “stole” Baron Davis by throwing a lucrative offer at Elton Brand. Brand ultimately said ‘thanks, but no thanks’ and latched on with the Philadelphia 76ers, but the Warriors are now rumored to be planning a spiteful kick-to-the-shin of the Sixers by signing their promising young PG Louis Williams to a generous offer sheet. As a restricted free agent the Sixers would have a week to match, but they still have to worry about resigning franchise cornerstone-ish G/F Andre Iguodala, so who knows. As I said, the dust has yet to fully settle.
Baron Davis Photo Credit: Icon SMI
As we move into the dog days of the NBA offseason, however, it’s clear that the Clippers and Warriors, two lottery teams in 2007-08 trying their damnedest to keep pace in the increasingly competitive Western Conference, will be dancing to a different drum next season. The question is, which team has better set themselves up for success in the short- and long-term, and which is just California dreamin’?
ETB takes an early look at the “new” LA Clippers and Golden State Warriors after the jump…
Golden State Warriors
GM Chris Mullin is doing just about anything he can right now to save face, and we’re starting to wonder if his actions are revealing a cohesive master plan or just a badly bruised ego. Defying all odds, his starting, All-Star caliber PG Baron Davis left enough money on the table to feed Eddy Curry for a whole week by opting out of his contract, then signed a $65 million deal with the Clips. Mullin responded by throwing gobs of silly money at the Clippers own All-Star caliber free agent, Elton Brand… only to be rebuked in his attempt at bloody revenge on his cross-state rival when Brand headed East instead.
Mullin settled for the next best Clippers thing by inking Corey Maggette (22.1 points, 5.6 boards, 9.7 free throw attempts/per last year with LA) to a five-year, $50 million deal. On the surface the soon-to-be 29 year old seems a bit redundant to others on the roster (namely Stephen Jackson), but in Don Nelson’s uptempo offense he could very well average something like 20 free throws a game for the Warriors (okay, not really, but you get the point).
It actually is starting to look like a rather smart signing, though questions linger in our minds over whether or not Maggette is a winner. The Warriors have since lost swingman Mickael Pietrus to the Orlando Magic and, it seems, another versatile wingman in Kelenna Azubuike, who as a restricted free agent signed an offer sheet from the—wait for it—LA Clippers. My guess as of today is that he’s allowed to leave… though Mullin’s ego might say otherwise.
Corey Maggette and Stephen Jackson Photo Credit: Icon SMI
The 6-10 Turiaf was inked to give the Warriors some muscle and hustle in the post, and the team used its lottery pick on lanky 6-10 power forward Anthony Randolph, who had a strong showing in the Las Vegas Summer League in averaging 20.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks/per. (Dude’s top priority the rest of the summer is obviously to hit the weight room.)
Baron’s gone and Brand didn’t come—that’s water under the bridge now for Mullin and the Warriors as they still need to resign restricted free agents Monta “ETB Favorite” Ellis and Andris Biedrins to new contracts. The longer this process drags on without a favorable conclusion, the more Warriors fans prepare their flaming bags of shit for Mullin’s porch. Given what’s happened thus far, I’d be surprised, though not shocked, if both weren’t with the Warriors next year. (Biedrins has been mentioned in sign-and-trade rumors involving the Pistons, but I personally think there’s nothing to it. Another team… perhaps.)
Assuming Ellis and Biedrins are back—and that they find a trade partner for Al Harrington, who is no longer in their plans—the Warriors will be fielding a potential starting lineup of Ellis and Maggette in the backcourt and Biedrins, Jackson, and second-year forward Brandan Wright. That’s pretty heavy on athleticism, but short on consistent outside shooting. The main bench players figure to be Randolph, Turiaf, second-year swingman Marco Belinelli, and… it gets a lot murkier from there. Matt Barnes could return as well.
Is this a playoff team in the West next season? Maybe a low seed, but my thought is probably not. Too much competition and too much internal uncertainty. That said, this team is stacked with young, promising, pure athletes with talent to spare, and if they all make good on it the Warriors could make some noise in another season or two. Either way, this should still be a fun team to watch, win or lose, in 2008-09.
Los Angeles Clippers
At this point in the Clippers’ long, mostly painful history, fans have learned they’ll have to take some bad with the good. Yes, signing Baron Davis was a coup for this franchise, but losing Elton Brand was a big blow. Spending the 7th overall pick on G Eric Gordon could address the glaring hole at SG, but he’ll have a lot of early pressure to help replace Maggette’s 20 points/per.
Let’s give credit where credit is due, however: instead of burying their head in the sand after losing Brand, the team feverishly worked to find a replacement and got one for literally nothing in trading for Denver Nuggets center Marcus Camby, who averaged career-bests of 13.1 boards and 3.6 blocks/per last season and is just one year removed from being named the NBA’s top defensive player. It was a salary dump for the Nuggs, plain and simple, and the Clips were one of just a few teams with the cap room to oblige their intentions.
With Chris “Caveman” Kaman entrenched at center, Camby will slide over to the starting power forward spot, combining with second-year forward Al Thornton to potentially make the Clips’ frontcourt one of the best in the West—and perhaps the league—as far as rebounding goes. Davis will be logging heavy minutes at PG with little to no depth of consequence at the moment behind him, while the team probably hopes that Gordon will supplant uninspiring incumbents Quinton Ross and Cuttino Mobley as the starting SG sooner rather than later.
Baron Davis and Corey Maggette Photo Credit: Icon SMI
That’s a pretty competitive starting lineup for the Clips and clearly an upgrade over last year’s unit, but depth is a major question mark at this point and they’re putting a lot of faith in a few guys who’ve had injury problems in the past. Assuming Azubuike joins the fray, head coach Mike Dunleavy will have him, Tim Thomas (groan), raw rookie DeAndre Jordan… um… Paul Davis… um… Josh Powell… uh… Brevin Knight… yeah. If the Clips had their druthers they’d add a few more free agents later this summer. (Ricky Davis? Jason Williams? Royal Ivey? Bonzi Wells?)
There’s the injury thing too: last season was the first time 29-year-old Davis played in all 82 games since 2001; Camby has never done it. Kaman hasn’t done it since his rookie season in 2003, Knight is as fragile as can be, and Gordon missed most of the Summer League games with a strained hamstring. You’d like to think the long-suffering Clippers will catch lightening in a bottle with this crew, but this is the Clippers, so…
Have either of these teams done enough to join their California breathren the LA Lakers in the 2009 NBA playoffs? Time will tell, but both seem to still have a lot of work to do for that to happen.