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Why have the Clippers been pin-drop silent in NBA Free Agency?

Kawhi Leonard, Nicolas Batum, Reggie Jackson, DeMar DeRozan, Clippers, Bulls

The LA Clippers came into free agency with a few things to check off their list: Re-sign Kawhi Leonard, Nicolas Batum, and Reggie Jackson while getting Serge Ibaka to opt in. Through three days, however, they’ve only gotten one of those things done.

The team was reportedly interested in free agent star DeMar DeRozan, and likely could’ve signed a number of guys to the mid-level or minimum contracts. So why have they only received an agreement from Nicolas Batum so far?

Well, entering free agency, the Clippers needed to retain the services of Nicolas Batum, Reggie Jackson, and Kawhi Leonard. Even without Kawhi Leonard, however, the most the Clippers could offer Batum was the taxpayer mid-level exception of about $5.9 million. It’s either that, or a minimum contract of about $3.1 million.

The NBA set the Salary Cap for the 2021-22 season at $112.414 million and the Luxury Tax Level at $136.606 million. With Serge Ibaka opting in and even without the potential signings of Kawhi Leonard, Nicolas Batum, or Reggie Jackson, the Clippers stand at $112,059,269. That’s a little over $300,000 under the salary cap without having signed any of their key players. The team has little-to-no options when it comes to making big moves.

According to the LA Times, Batum elected not to take the mid-level, allowing the Clippers to use that amount on another player and try to improve their team.

Nicolas Batum, Clippers


With regards to Reggie Jackson, the Clippers are able to exceed the luxury tax threshold because they have his Early Bird rights. That means the most they could offer him is a deal in the $10 million neighborhood annually and the deal has to be for least two years.

That leaves Kawhi Leonard as the lone free agent the Clippers need to retain. He could sign a four-year deal worth $176 million this offseason, or, in a more likely scenario, a two-year deal worth $80 million with a player option. He would then opt out of that second year after the 2021-22 season and be eligible to sign a five-year deal in the $235 million neighborhood with the Clippers.

After those three players, the Clippers don’t have much to offer at the moment.

Not only has most of the money around the league dried up, but a lot of the roster spots are starting to as well. Teams are rounding out their rosters with minimum contract agreements left and right.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s likely been hard to sell outside free agents on the Clippers as championship contenders this season. While Kawhi Leonard hasn’t officially been ruled out for the season, the ACL surgery he underwent last month will surely knock him out for most, if not all, of next season. The Clippers will surely contend for a playoff spot, but it’s hard to believe they’ll actually make noise as a contender if Leonard doesn’t return.

What the Clippers do present, however, is a need for a secondary ball-handler and scorer as well as an opportunity to rejuvenate a player’s career under head coach Tyronn Lue. Both Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum came onto the team as late offseason additions following rough seasons. A season later, both have been hot commodities in free agency.

Could those opportunities intrigue the likes of a Kelly Oubre Jr., a Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, or a Justise Winslow? They’re among a number of solid, veteran free agents still available to sign, including Lou Williams, Danny Green, Paul Millsap, James Ennis III, Moe Wagner, Enes Kanter, and Ersan Ilyasova. Of course, that’s where ‘needs’ meet ‘wants,’ and the Clippers currently need a secondary ball-handler and scorer to take the load off of Paul George as well as, hopefully, Reggie Jackson.

Kelly Oubre Jr., Warriors


DeMar DeRozan, who agreed to a three-year, $85 million deal with the Chicago Bulls via a sign-and-trade with the Spurs, was reportedly expected to meet with the Clippers during the early stages of free agency. Sources confirmed DeRozan and the Clippers’ mutual interest in a deal, but with only the $5.9 million mid-level exception to offer, the 31-year old elected to go for the additional $22 million annually and join the Bulls. And who could blame him? A potential sign-and-trade could have worked, but that would’ve hard-capped the Clippers and required a number of pieces to be moved in order to make it possible, making filling out the roster even more complicated.

The Clippers’ attention over the next few days will remain solely on retaining the services of Kawhi Leonard and Reggie Jackson. Then, it’ll likely go into trying to fill out their mid-level exception with another scorer/ball-handler.