Welcome to the Next Step. Your favorite team was eliminated in the first round and now you’re sitting on your palms. What’s next for them though? Can they improve their lineup in the offseason? This series is taking a look at all eight of the teams eliminated in the first round and looking forward past the playoffs to the offseason. Specifically, the following paragraphs will be looking at free agency, draft, and other possibilities for the team to improve.
This article will be focusing on the Los Angeles Clippers. This is going to be a fun one. The Clippers were eliminated in the first round with a 4-2 loss to the Warriors. The fact they took one from the reigning champions was surprising, the fact they took two was downright impressive. After the Warriors beat Houston in six and swept the Blazers, there is a real argument saying that the Clippers pushed them more than any other team so far in these playoffs. They’re primed to dramatically improve this offseason as well. They are one of the most attractive free agent landing spots, have ample money to spend, a hoard of draft picks and trade chips, and the most ruthless businessman in basketball (Jerry “already built two dynasties” West). The Clippers may have the easiest jump to contention in the league this offseason. Lets look at free agency.
The Clippers have six free agents this summer. The only one of them the Clippers will REALLY go after is Patrick Beverley. He started more than half their games and is a proven top tier guard defender. When his three is hitting he looks the part of a borderline all-star. All respect to JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple, both are very solid players but the Clippers have much grander plans for that cap space. The Clippers have space for two max contracts this offseason and they intend to fill them. They have been rumored for Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, basically every free agent star. I fully expect them to sign two of those players (Klay is the one I’m penciling). They don’t have to be done building their team there, though.
The Clippers have just two second rounders in this draft (#48 and #56). There isn’t much history of the Clippers hitting on recent second rounders recently as they’ve only drafted in that round once since 2012. However, I don’t think they’ll be using these picks in this draft anyways. They’ll either be used in a trade to dump some salary (Danilo Gallinari) or as pieces in a much bigger trade. I’ll detail those options more in the next section.
The Clippers have a ton of trade pieces. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander made the rookie first team this season and looks to be at the least a legit starter in this league. Landry Shamet made the rookie second team and appears to be a real offensive talent. These two could make a formidable future backcourt pairing (something to sell other teams on). Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are both in the top three for Sixth Man of the Year and are on the most team-friendly contracts in the entire league. They could swing trades. However, the Clippers don’t have to add all their current players to swing a trade for a star, they have a hoard of draft picks that would make Danny Ainge blush. They have three second round picks and two first rounders incoming from other teams. Included in those picks is the Miami Heat unprotected 2021 first rounder. This pick has been heralded as the best trade chip in terms of draft picks in the league.
The Clippers have been rumored for Anthony Davis and they certainly have the resources to bid for him. They could include Danilo in any trade for a star and not sacrifice their two max slots, meaning they could add three top tier players this offseason. Even if they miss out on AD, they could add other stars and not have to give up as much. The Heat pick and one of their young players attached with Danilo could potentially net you Bradley Beal. They could even reach out to the Pelicans for their second star if they lose out on AD (someone free Jrue!). Regardless of what exactly they do, there are more probabilities involving them improving greatly than not. We may see the eight seed move up to the one seed in the West next season.