“Bet on yourself” has become the prevailing mantra among NBA players taking gambles in the present for a bigger payoff in the future. It has defined much of Jimmy Butler’s career, while Dennis Schroder became a cautionary tale after his dismal playoff performance this year.
For the Los Angeles Clippers, they seem to have taken a ‘bet on the whole team’ approach.
The majority of the core Clipper band is back together again at least for the near future and all signs point to them betting on what they have in pursuit of that elusive NBA championship. They’ve gone down the road less taken so far this offseason and retained the players that helped them reach the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
|Los Angeles Clippers’ 2021 Free Agency Signings|
|Previous Team||Terms of the Deal|
|Kawhi Leonard||Los Angeles Clippers||4 years, $176.27 million|
|Reggie Jackson||Los Angeles Clippers||2 years, $21.60 million|
|Nicolas Batum||Los Angeles Clippers||2 years, $6.50 million|
|Justise Winslow||Memphis Grizzlies||2 years, $8.00 million|
Eric Bledsoe was also brought back in a trade last August 16 that sent Rajon Rondo, Patrick Beverley, and Daniel Oturu to the Memphis Grizzlies. His contract is also partially guaranteed after this coming season, so his cap-friendly deal could help them in the future if things don’t work out. Nevertheless, Bledsoe has the capabilities of becoming a serviceable backup point guard and will add more depth to the backcourt, but his injury history and shoddy playoff performances in the past give a cause for pause.
Los Angeles could still sign and perhaps even trade for more players as they have spots left on their roster and still haven’t signed some of their own free agents. With that, the final look of this roster will most likely be decided by the preseason. But considering the transactions so far, you’re looking at most, if not all of the players that will get a lion’s share of minutes and make the most contributions at least for this season.
Outside of Bledsoe and Winslow, the Clippers also acquired Keon Johnson, Jason Preston, and Brandon Boston through draft-day trade in the 2021 NBA Draft, and the initial reaction was that they got solid value considering that Preston and Boston were both second-round picks.
|Los Angeles Clippers’ 2021 NBA Draft Results|
|College||Draft Position||Trade Details|
|Keon Johnson||Tennessee||21st Overall||From the New York Knicks|
|Jason Preston||Ohio||33rd Overall||From the Orlando Magic|
|Brandon Boston||Kentucky||51st Overall||From the Memphis Grizzlies via the New Orleans Pelicans|
Boston in particular, has impressed in summer league to the point that the Clippers front office immediately signed him to a two-year deal with $2.5 million guaranteed and an option for a third year.
How they will all contribute will depend on a number of factors, most of which surround the team’s health. The amount of time Kawhi Leonard will sit out as he recovers from a partially torn right ACL he suffered in the playoffs will be of note considering the void he leaves on both ends of the floor. It doesn’t just completely hinge on Leonard though, as George has had his own share of injuries. The seven-time all-star sat out for parts of 2021 due to, among others, foot injuries and the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Bledsoe and Winslow also present their own injury concerns so Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue will have his hands full working through an 82-game season weathering through some medical concerns.
Leonard’s health and that of Paul George will be crucial in the next few seasons considering that they both take up virtually 70 percent of the 2021-2022 salary cap. If Los Angeles opts for some load management for George, Leonard, and some of their older players during the season, this could also open up minutes for rookies and their other younger players.
The time Leonard, George, and some of the Clipper players sat out last season opened up more opportunities for players like Reggie Jackson, Nicolas Batum, and Terance Mann to step up, and while they did advance all the way to the Western Conference Finals, the overall outcome still goes to show that the best ability is availability.
Even with all the familiarity they’ve had with one another, the key for them will be to get to work early. Some teams work best when they build up during the season, while others would rather round into form just once opening day comes. Official team work usually begins when training camp is held, but similar to the NFL, players can gather up and begin work on their own.
NBA teams typically upgrade by bringing in new players but the Los Angeles Clippers are challenging that philosophy by running it back with a few additions on the side. Historically, it’s not something uncommon, but considering their injury history, it may be easier said than done.