Hard to Find An Upgrade to Clippers’ Roster

The 2015-2016 season was a major disappointment for the LA Clippers, but much of that was due to injury, in particular the injuries that kept Blake Griffin out for much of the season and then that knocked Chris Paul out of the playoffs. But also for much of the season, while featuring a solid front line and a couple of fine players coming off the bench, overall depth of talent just was missing. The early season injury to Spencer Hawes, from which he never fully recovered, and the putrid decisions to bring in guys like Lance Stephenson, Jeff Green and Josh Smith played a big part in the team’s demise. But the question now is whether or not new additions like Brandon Bass, Raymond Felton and Alan Anderson really step up?

One even has to wonder about Marreese Speights, who was a contributor to the Warriors for several seasons, but whose playing time and production fell during last season’s playoffs. But having a guy who can score coming off the bench to spell DeAndre Jordan is

a luxury the team has never really had, though Speights is far, far from being the rebounder or shot blocker that is Jordan. But seeing his lifetime 79% free shooting – almost double Jordan’s 42% – makes it a move worth the gamble, especially at his very affordable salary of $1.4 M.

Conversely, Bass was a total loss for the Lakers last season, with him recording six-year lows in both scoring per game and rebounding per game, and I fail to see any upside whatsoever in his signing. As the apparent number one backup to Griffin, I can see a potential need for Griffin to play more minutes per game on a regular basis, which would not bold well for the postseason. This was a spot the Clippers needed to fill with a solid player to back up Griffin, whose intense play leaves him so susceptible to injury. Instead, the team went cheap, real cheap, when they needed to spend to fill a real need.

Why the team had an interest in Anderson is even more of a mystery. The seven-year vet from Michigan State has now, in that relatively short time, bounced from Charlotte to Toronto to Brooklyn to Washington and now to the Clippers, with a four-year hiatus between Charlotte and Toronto when he was out of the league playing for awhile in the D-League and in various parts of the world including playing for teams based in Italy, Russia, Spain and Israel. I count in his background a total of six foreign teams and two D-league teams to go along with five NBA stops for a total of 13 different teams in 11 years. In addition to Anderson’s less than stellar career record, he missed all but little more than a dozen of last season’s games while recovering from a surgically repaired left ankle. The two-three player will have a tough job getting playing time behind J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford and behind Paul Pierce, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Wesley Johnson, but if he does it will say more about those five and their durability than about Anderson’s ability.

In Felton, the Clippers have the ultimate NBA journeyman. A number five overall pick in 2005. The former North Carolina Tar Heal is now an 11 year vet with seven stops over that time. A starter over most of his first decade in the league, his production has take a nosedive over the last three seasons, precipitating reduced playing time and a backup role.

So long as Chris Paul and Austin Rivers can take a breadth and step onto the court, it will take a dose of the Fountain of Youth and a return to form of several years ago for Felton to get any significant playing time. But, as a backup’s backup and insurance policy, and the number twelve or thirteen guy on the roster, Felton was not a bad pickup, especially at under $1 M for the season.

Overall, weighing Hawes, Green, Smith and Stephenson against Speights, Bass, Anderson and Felton, it looks like no better than a toss up, especially when you considering a healthy Hawes, which the Clippers never really saw last season, is the best of the entire bunch. But not having the disruptive Stephenson around is a plus for the new assemblage. No one in the new group can be counted on to come in to a game and provide a scoring punch, with the possible and occasional exception of Speights, and none of the group can be counted on as a lock-down defender. Funny, weren’t those two of the teams biggest needs this past off season?

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