State of the Cap: Los Angeles Clippers
By Josh Redetzke
2007/08 Los Angeles Clippers Payroll: $58.8 million
2007/08 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $55 million
Roughly: $3.8 million over cap
[img_assist|nid=3790|title=Elton Brand|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=449]The Good: The dependable Elton Brand continued to earn his hefty paychecks. Though his numbers were down slightly from last year, it’s hard to complain about 20.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, and 53.3% shooting. Brand will be paid $15.3 million next season and $16.4 million the season after that (a player option). Having one of the most consistent and talented forwards in the entire league is worth the high price. Although, will Brand opt out next summer if the Clippers can’t right their suddenly sinking ship?
He was a constant presence in trade rumors all season, but Corey Maggette is still in L.A. and is still playing well. It’s not surprising to hear his name come up so often in trades because his contract is affordable and Maggette puts up nice numbers when he is healthy. For only $7.8 million next season, the Clippers have a guy who put up 16.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 2.8 assists this year, which were actually lower than his career highs. That’s a pretty good value. Maggette has an option on the following season for $8.4 million. If he hasn’t been traded by then, he’ll likely opt out and seek employment elsewhere. The Clippers should be able to get something useful out of a deal involving Maggette.
The Bad: After putting up 12 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game last year, Chris Kaman looked like the perfect center to compliment Elton Brand on the frontline. Then, Kaman regressed to just 10 points and 7.8 rebounds this season while his shooting plunged to 45%. Normally, this wouldn’t cause much of a stir if it wasn’t for the fact that Kaman is beginning a five-year, $52 million contract extension. If he doesn’t turn things around in a hurry, this could be a gigantic waste of cap space for a very long time.
Shooting guard Cuttino Mobley will average $9.1 million each of the next three seasons. Mobley is still an excellent three point shooter (41% this season), but his scoring average dipped to 13.8 and his rebounds and assists per game dropped as well. If Mobley wants to earn that kind of money, he needs to either up that scoring average or contribute in other areas.
Tragedy struck the Clippers this season when Shaun Livingston, the point guard of their future, tore ligaments in his knee during a horrific injury. The extent of the damage could end Livingston’s playing career and will at least set it back a long time. With the aging Sam Cassell entering the final year of his contract, the team is forced to find a new point guard as soon as possible. Livingston’s potential will be hard to replace.
The Future: After enjoying one of the best and most memorable seasons in franchise history, the Clippers followed it up with one of their most disappointing and forgettable. There were a few reasons for their decline, but I chalk it up to the Sam Cassell Effect. Wherever Cassell has gone in recent years, the same pattern has occurred. He went to Milwaukee and played well, eventually leading them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Soon after, he clashed with the coach, the team went down the tubes, and he was traded to Minnesota. While there, he played well and led the Wolves to the Western Conference Finals. The following season, his play declined, he suffered through injuries, and he complained enough to be shipped off to the L.A. Clippers. It now appears that, once again, Sam I Am has brought his new team to successful heights only to let them down afterwards. Cassell played in just 58 games due to injury (not surprising since he is 37 years old) and averaged 12.3 points and 4.7 assists, his lowest totals in ten years. At least Cassell only has one year left on his contract for a friendly $6.1 million.
So, where do the Clippers go from here? They no longer have a point guard to lead the team and they don’t have a star in the backcourt that can take big shots down the stretch. This team is in need of a big trade and they have the assets to do it. Corey Maggette and Cassell’s expiring contract could land them an All-Star caliber player looking for a fresh start in a major market. The Clips have plenty of cap space to work with in the future, so money shouldn’t be a problem. With all the superstars asking for trades these days, perhaps the Clippers can work a little magic and get one of their own.
Free Throw: Does anyone think Kobe is reconsidering his decision to decline the Clipper’s free agent offer? I certainly do. Instead of running the floor with Brand, Maggette, Mobley and friends, Kobe has had to listen to Phil Jackson and try to win with a motley crew that features Lamar Odom and not much else. As it sits now, both L.A. teams are suffering from mediocrity. If only Kobe could turn back time.
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