The Los Angeles Clippers were an afterthought when we knew that Kawhi Leonard was unlikely to play at all during the season. Then, Paul George suffered an injury and missed significant time as well. That should all change as the Clippers enter the 2022-23 season as a title contender with Leonard and George back at 100%. Since signing with the team in 2019, the Clippers have had their eyes on winning a title and were likely one player away from Leonard winning it all in 2021.
The Clippers had the third-highest payroll in 2021-22 at over $168 million. Owner Steve Balmer could potentially pay a luxury tax bill close to $55 million. The Clippers are set to have one of the most expensive rosters next season but are looking to add free agents to make the roster even better.
Leonard and George are set to make a combined $85 million next season. Then, you have Marcus Morris and Norman Powell set to make a combined $37 million. Luke Kennard, Robert Covington, and Reggie Jackson are set to make more than $10 million and will make a combined $36 million. The rest of the roster includes Ivica Zubac ($7.5 million), Terrance Mann ($1.9 million), while Jason Preston and BJ Boston making $1.5 million. The payroll could stretch if Nicolas Batum picks up his $3.3 million player’s option and if the team gives the qualifying offer of $1.5 million to Amir Coffey and Jay Scrubb.
Let’s say that Batum does pick up his option and the team does not give the qualifying offers. Then, the Clippers let Rodney Hood, Semi Ojeleye, Isaiah Hartenstein, Xavier Moon, Wenyen Gabriel, James Ennis, and Moses Wright all leave via free agency. That would give the Clippers 12 guaranteed roster spots. Realistically, the team would need at least three more players to fill out the roster.
With limited money to spend, but a championship-caliber squad, the team could still bring in some players. It would just have to be for the right price, or the team would need to make a few extra moves to free up cap space.
These are the 10 players that the Clippers could realistically bring to the team.
Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception Free Agents
2021-22 Statistics: 8.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.3 SPG, 1.6 BPG
Over the last two years, Whiteside has transitioned towards being a backup center. He has produced solid numbers in about 17 minutes of action, while his field-goal percentage of 65.2% was a career-high last season. For his career, he has been a quality rim protector that owns a career average of 2.2 blocks per game.
For the Clippers, Whiteside would be a quality backup to Zubac. Whiteside is the larger option if Zubac was unable to guard bigs with more strength than him. Not to mention, the Clippers are lacking in size for now. Leonard is pegged as the starting power forward, while Robert Covington, Morris, and Zubac are their other bigs on the roster right now. Whiteside would fill a hole of the size that the Clippers need.
Gary Payton II
2021-22 Statistics: 7.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.3 BPG
If the Clippers were able to pull this off, this would feel like Patrick Beverley 2.0. While Payton II is not as boisterous as Beverley, his defense is nearly on point with him. In 17.6 minutes of action, Payton II provided 1.4 steals per game, while shooting the ball 61.6% from the field. Call it the Warriors way if you want, but Payton could give the Clippers an option at guard for when Reggie Jackson needs to come out.
Jackson is not a great defender either, so if the second unit featured Payton handling the ball, he could provide some quality defensive minutes. With Payton, George, and Leonard on the floor, that would not be a bad defensive tandem for the team. With that said, with the Warriors winning the title, that could make Payton a more expensive player.
2021-22 Statistics: 6.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG
For similar reasons as Whiteside, Looney would be a great addition to backup Zubac. Looney would push Zubac for starter minutes, especially after his showing in the NBA Finals right now. Looney is coming off a season that saw him average a career-high in rebounds, while he shot the ball 57.1% from the field.
The Warriors and Clippers have a similar style when it comes to smaller lineups. While Zubac. Is 7-foot-0 and 240 pounds, this was the first time that he averaged double digits in points, and is coming off a career-high in rebounds at 8.5 for the prime reason that Leonard and George were out. Looney could help take the pressure off both of their stars and provide minutes for the first or second units. Like Payton though, winning a title could make Looney more expensive.
2021-22 Statistics: 9.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.9 BPG
The Clippers could get Boucher for cheap if he is looking to prove himself on a one-year deal. Boucher played in 80 games last season but played 21.1 minutes per game. His three-point shooting took nearly a nine percent nosedive last season where he finished 29.7% for the year.
Boucher is about the same as Looney when it comes to rebounding, while Boucher is a slightly better finisher around the rim. Boucher can play the power forward, but with Covington on the roster, he would likely have to switch back to the center. That was where he had his best season with the Raptors in 2020-21 when he shot 38.3% from three-point range. Making a move back to the middle could see a replication of those numbers.
2021-22 Statistics: 9.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.7 BPG
With Kyrie Irving out for most of the year, Brown was forced to play like a starter. Brown would be a great addition behind Jackson if the team was purely looking at offensive help. Brown averaged 24.6 minutes per game and shot 50.6% from the field while shooting a career-high 40.4% from three-point range.
Here is the most impressive stat for Brown. He made 41% of his corner threes last season. With Leonard and George being great players that can drive to the rim, that opens up places in the corner for a spot-up shooter. Some of that responsibility was dished to Morris, who made 37% of his corner three-point attempts. Having a player on the other side wouldn’t hurt.
2021-22 Statistics: 13.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.8 SPG 0.4 BPG
Monk’s 41 points in the final game of the season might have helped his stock go up for a multi-year contract. Altogether, Monk had the best season in his career last season. He played 28.1 minutes per game and averaged a career-high in points. He also shot a career-high 47.3% from the field, while nearly topping 40% from three-point range for the second year in a row.
The Clippers like efficient players who can shoot the three-ball. The team was 20th in the league in three-point field goal attempts but was the third-best three-point shooting team at 37.4%. Only the Heat and Hawks had a better percentage. With what the Clippers like to do offensively, Monk would be a great sixth man potentially.
2021-22 Statistics: 7.9 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.9 BPG
If the Clippers want to have the best size in the market, then the answer would be Drummond. When Drummond was given a chance to play freely, he averaged 11.8 points and 10.3 rebounds with the Nets. When he played for the Lakers in a similar role, he averaged 11.9 points and 10.2 rebounds.
What the Clippers are lacking is an offensive rebounder. The Clippers were 27th in the league in offensive rebounding. Drummond averaged 3.9, which is quite higher than the 2.6 Zubac average. First or second unit, Drummond could clean up the missed shots and provide some of the star players second chance opportunities.
2021-22 Statistics: 12.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 3.5 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.1 BPG
It’s been a while since we have seen a healthy Victor Oladipo. The last time that Oladipo played more than 70 games was the 2017-18 season. Since then, he played 19 games in 2918-19, 32 games the following year, and then eight regular-season games with the Heat. Luckily, the Heat made a long run in the playoffs and we got to see Oladipo even more. In 24.5 minutes per night in 15 playoff games, he averaged 10.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.3 steals, and 0.3 blocks.
Assuming that Oladipo gets a full offseason to prepare and he is fully healthy, this could be a massive pickup for the Clippers. Oladipo could return to the Heat and try to run it back, but he is probably one year away from getting another multi-year contract. If he wanted to take a chance and roll the dice on the Clippers, this would be a great addition.
Minimum Contract Free Agents
2021-22 Statistics: 7.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 4.1 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.2 BPG
At this point, Dragic knows what his role for a team is. He will be 36 years old next season, so the time in his career is ticking. The Clippers need a backup point guard. For a cheap price, the team could get an experienced player, who is a respected leader in the locker room. Dragic also has experience playing in the NBA Finals, having played for the Heat in 2020. That kind of experience can go far.
With the Clippers having only so much money to spend, Dragic could be a steal. Dragic averaged 7.3 points and 4.8 assists in 25.5 minutes per game while playing for the Nets. Dragic is going to sign with a team that can contend for a title. The Clippers will likely be an option for him.
2021-22 Statistics: 13.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.8 BPG
It’s well-documented that Anthony has never played in the NBA Finals. With his age also getting up there, he is running out of time. On paper, the experiment with the Lakers looked like he could finally get that chance. However, age is not just a number when it comes to the league and the Lakers were too old. With questions surrounding Russell Westbrook’s fit and Anthony Davis’ injury history, Anthony could go against his good friend in LeBron James and jump shit to the other side of Los Angeles territory.
Anthony had a solid season as a reserve. He shot 44.1% from the field and 37.5% from the three-point range. He is just one year off of averaging 40.9% from the three-point range with the Trail Blazers. Back in the day, the Clippers had a strong offensive wizard in Lou Williams. While Anthony is not on that same level now at 37 years old, he could be a cheap option that could provide some quality scoring with the second unit.
Who Would Be The Best Fit For Or With The Clippers?
Let’s start with the backup point guard spot. While the addition of Brown or Monk would be nice, it feels like those two options could go elsewhere. Brown has chemistry with the Nets, while Monk could get more money. With that said, the idea of Payton playing a role similar to Pat Beverley has to get fans excited. Payton is one confident player who trusts his shot and his instincts. He has the tools to be an All-Defensive Player like Beverley and provide a role to this team as he does with the Warriors. When Beverley played in Los Angeles, the fans loved him. The problem was that he got older, so the team went in a different direction.
George had a great season as a shooting guard, but Powell makes too much money to be coming off the bench. With that said, Powell, George, and Leonard give the team three efficient long-ball shooters. With Leonard playing at the power forward position, the team would have a smaller lineup but would have two exceptional defenders on the floor. As mentioned, with Payton in the mix, this could be a solid defensive unit with these three headlining it.
Bringing in Oladipo could make this a tight defensive group. Oladipo would be a great fit because of his ability to play perimeter defense. With Oladipo and Payton in the backcourt, this second unit would be able to hold its own defensively, which would allow George or Leonard to take over offensively. Altogether, the matchups that this team could deploy would be unstoppable.
Bringing Drummond into the mix would give the team an offensive rebounder that the team desperately needs. It also would help ease the load on Zubac. With Leonard and George back in the lineup each day, Zubac is not likely to have the same rebounding total he did last year. With that said, you could split the time at the center between two solid big men that would help keep each player healthy for the year. Drummond was a former rebounding champion and is skilled at that role. There is no denying that.
If Leonard and George can stay healthy, this team is a title contender. In 2021, the Clippers made the Conference Finals and took the Suns to six games. Leonard didn’t play a single game. The Clippers have an owner that has no issue paying the luxury tax bill. He is all in on bringing the Clippers to their first appearance in the NBA Finals and first championship. With a few additions, that dream could be a reality in 2023.