The Los Angeles Clippers already have a foundation in place.
Steve Ballmer, Lawrence Frank and the rest of the team’s leadership indicated the team was gunning for a title when the Clippers traded numerous assets for Paul George and signed Kawhi Leonard.
Indeed, the Clippers looked like legitimate threats in the Western Conference, with Leonard playing at an MVP level and L.A. getting strong bench contributions from Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell.
But everything came to a screeching halt when the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinal. Reports surfaced suggesting more internal turmoil, and the team eventually parted ways with Doc Rivers.
Los Angeles has hired Tyronn Lue to be the next man in charge. Lue will coach mostly the same team, pending the Clippers come to terms with Harrell in free agency.
However, there are some intriguing players L.A. might look to sign in free agency in order to bolster its roster. The Clippers will not have a lot of cap space, especially if Harrell inks a long-term deal, but there is some valuable assets the team can probably make a run for in the free agent market.
That said. here are three bargain players the Clippers could consider this offseason.
1. Rajon Rondo
Rondo will likely be enticed by the idea of returning to the defending champions, Los Angeles Lakers, but the Clippers could try to bring him to the “other” L.A. team.
Some reports have suggested Leonard feels the Clippers need a more traditional point guard to take some of the playmaking stress off his shoulders.
Leonard averaged a career-high 4.9 assists last season, and he also had a 33 percent usage rate. The Clippers seemed to demand even more of Kawhi in the playoffs, as The Klaw averaged 5.5 assists per game throughout the 2020 postseason.
While Kawhi can do it all, he is primarily a scoring option who excels at creating his own space in the midrange and capitalizing on driving lanes to the rim. It would benefit him to have a guard who can create for everyone, including and especially himself. Rondo might be that guy.
The two-time NBA champion excelled in his role during the playoffs, averaging 8.9 points, 6.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc. Rondo dissected the Miami Heat in pick-and-roll as the series wore on, picking and choosing when to attack the paint while also making plays in transition.
It is possible Rondo could have a crowded market in free agency. However, the Clippers should make overtures to the 34-year-old as they look for more playmaking and smarts in the backcourt.
2. Justin Holiday
In many ways, Holiday is an ideal fit for this Clippers team.
Los Angeles could use more shooting offensively while complementing Leonard’s and George’s skill sets and length on the defensive end.
Enter Holiday, who shot 40.5 percent from beyond the arc on 4.5 attempts per game last season. He also posted a career-high 1.8 defensive box plus-minus for a stout Indiana Pacers defense.
The Clippers really lacked the “3-and-D” presence once provided by Maurice Harkless in the playoffs. JaMychal Green is a guy who would seem to assume that role, but Rivers hardly played him.
Lue is unlikely to make the same mistake with Green, who should be an important part of the rotation next season. However, the Clippers might still look into signing Holiday, who could even allow L.A. flexibility if the event they want to shop Green–on an expiring contract–at the trade deadline.
3. Mason Plumlee
Mason Plumlee was one of the unheralded heroes during the Nuggets’ playoff run.
The former Duke standout does not do anything spectacularly, but he is an athletic big who can run the floor, rebound, defend and display excellent court vision on the block.
Los Angeles would seem to be in desperate need of frontcourt depth, even if the Clippers re-sign Harrell.
Ivica Zubac was a defensive liability in the playoffs, and he is mostly a paint-bound center. Harrell provides toughness and is a lethal scoring option, diving to the rim in pick-and-roll, but he does not really facilitate or make plays for teammates.
Plumlee can fill all these gaps. He has traditionally been a steady interior defender for the Nuggets, and he also averaged 2.5 assists in just over 17 minutes per game last year.
Denver is unlikely to bring back all of its frontcourt free agents, and the Clippers could possibly get a steal in Plumlee if they can find just enough cap to bring him aboard.