We've been so busy covering the Lakers for the past few weeks that it's easy to forget about the Clippers. Well, the NBA Draft is this Thursday, meaning it's the one week every year when the Clippers are the more intriguing LA-area basketball team (Shaq-Kobe feud not withstanding).
The Clippers currently hold the seventh pick, and the word out of Clipperland is that the Red and Blue are dead-set on taking a guard. Considering Shaun Livingston's injury and Sam Cassell's departure, this is understandable. At No. 7 overall, there's a decent chance the Clippers could wind up with Eric Gordon out of Indiana, who is a terrific talent, but has shown immaturity at times... especially after his coach Kelvin Sampson left. Some mock drafts have shown UCLA's Russell Westbrook falling to the Clippers, but not everyone is convinced that he's a real point guard.
The Clippers are said to covet USC's OJ Mayo and have been rumored to be talking trade with Minnesota to move up to No. 3. Now there are rumors that the Miami Heat may be looking to trade out of the No. 2 spot, which would theoretically put Kansas State's Michael Beasley on the table (not a guard, but an outstanding player), or LA could use that pick on Mayo. The Clippers would also probably be thrilled with drafting Arizona's Jerryd Bayless somewhere.
Trading up might require the Clippers to give Elton Brand to Miami, where Brand once signed an offer sheet to play. ESPN's Chad Ford reports that the Clippers could also wind up with Shawn Marion in such a deal. Ford also reports that the Clippers are talking to Phoenix about trading Corey Maggette and the No. 7 pick for Leandro Barbosa and the No. 15 pick. I don't understand that deal at all from the Clippers standpoint. There is such an enormous dropoff in talent in this draft after the first 10 or 11 players.
The Clippers are entering this off-season with plenty of uncertainty. Both Elton Brand and Corey Maggette have one-year player options worth $16.4 million and $8.4 million respectively. The Clippers say they want to keep both, but neither player has said what he'll do. If both guys opt out, then expect the Clippers to be the worst team in the NBA next season. My guess is that Brand will stay though and continue with his movie producing career. I can't imagine Maggette staying, considering his occasional feuding with Mike Dunleavy and the potential lucrative long-term contract he could sign with another team.
Either way, the historically frugal Clippers will pay several hefty salaries in 2008-09 to Chris Kaman ($10 million), Cuttino Mobley ($9 million), and Tim Thomas ($6 million).