The Los Angeles Clipper will have their sights set on truly contending once again next season. The Clippers were without both of their true stars in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for most of this past season. George was able to make his return toward the end of the season but unfortunately missed the Clippers' play-in matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans due to a positive COVID-19 test. This was a disappointing ending, but the Clippers did not have high hopes for the postseason anyway.
With Kawhi Leonard set to make his return next season, the focus will surely shift. As the franchise looks to take the next step in improving, there are some names to keep an eye on for the Clippers in 2022 NBA free agency. They will be armed with the taxpayer mid-level exception worth over $6 million for 2022-23. They are expected to re-sign Nicolas Batum, but Isaiah Hartenstein could be on his way out. As for Kyrie Irving, it does not seem like he will be pursued, though that could change.
But without further ado, here are some free agents for the Clippers to target this summer.
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Clippers 2022 NBA Free Agency Targets
While he is past his NBA prime, Wesley Matthews can still be an impactful role player on a contending team. The 35-year-old spent last season with the Milwaukee Bucks, where he played his role at a high level. Matthews played 28.8 minutes per game in the postseason and averaged 6.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.2 assists. He also shot 40% on 3-point attempts while launching 3.8 attempts per game.
The biggest appeal surrounding Matthews is on the defensive side of the ball. Adding Matthews to the core of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George would make life very difficult for opponents. The 6'5″ guard is terrific at following guys around the perimeter and effectively taking them out of the play. He is unbothered by screens and does a great job fighting to ensure they do not separate him from his man. The Clippers are not short on firepower, but ensuring the defense is championship-caliber should be the priority. Adding Wesley Matthews would be another key step in this direction.
The big man position is currently the biggest question mark for the Clippers. Isaiah Hartenstein is a free agent, while Ivica Zubac has a team option for $7.5 million next season. Both players impressed last season and made a strong case why they should be a part of the team's plans moving forward.
However, the Clippers must look to free agency and see if there is an upgrade as well. One player who likely will not require a massive paycheck and could make an impressive impact is Hassan Whiteside.
There has been a steep decline in the play of Hassan Whiteside after bursting onto the scene with the Miami Heat. After once looking like he could be in the conversation for the top big men in the league, it has become clear that he is best in a supplementary role.
Whiteside spent last season with the Utah Jazz and was the primary backup to Rudy Gobert. In 17.9 minutes per game, Whiteside recorded 8.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. He should not be counted on as the lone option at the big-man position, but there is still reason to believe in Whiteside. Signing him to a low-cost deal and allowing him to produce with the second unit could bring an impact for the Clippers. It should not be forgotten that the 32-year-old is just two years removed from leading the NBA in blocked shots.
One guy who would be a more outside-the-box signing for the Clippers would be Chris Boucher. The Raptors big man has a unique style, which could be an intriguing addition alongside the Clippers stars. Boucher stands 6'9″ with a wingspan pushing 7'4″. He uses his length to make an impact on the defensive end as a shot blocker and by getting in passing lanes. The 29-year-old took a step back this past season due to the emergence of Scottie Barnes and the logjam of lengthy wings on the Raptors.
In 21.1 minutes per game, Boucher averaged 9.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks. The Oregon product also set a career high with 2.2 offensive rebounds per game. These numbers were a slight disappointment after a very productive season in season prior. During the 2020-21 season, Boucher notched 13.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.9 blocks per game. He also shot 38.3% on 3-point attempts while attempting 3.9 per game.
Adding Boucher to the Clippers' core would provide some interesting lineup versatility. The former NBA champion has played some small-ball center with the Raptors and could do the same in Los Angeles. He also fits into the defensive identity the franchise is attempting to build. Boucher played with Kawhi Leonard during the Raptors' championship in 2019, so there is a familiarity there. There should be a renewed sense of excitement surrounding this Clippers team, and finding the missing pieces in free agency could be all the difference in them becoming true contenders.