Tuesday, July 14, 2009

No Thanks AI

I had mild interest in this upcoming WNBA season, that was until Candace Parker got pregnant and missed the first four or five weeks. Now that the Sparks are pretty much out of contention with Lisa Leslie on the shelf with a knee injury, and Parker is “working” her way back into shape, my interest is once again below zero.

The good news, the NBA has continued to give to me despite its season ending several weeks ago. Movement around the league this off-season has been exciting with plenty of intrigue (Shaq traded to Cavs, Carter traded to Magic, Artest signing with Lakers), back-stabbing (Turkoglu leaving Portland for Toronto) and straight up conniving (Orlando’s plan to sign Bass and match the offer sheet on Gortat leaving the Mavs with nothing).

Recent news has Allen Iverson talking with the Clippers. I hate this idea. First and foremost, the Clippers don’t need a starting shooting guard or point guard. Their starting backcourt is solid with two pit bulls in Baron Davis (when healthy and motivated, which, with a Chinese shoe deal coming out this year, I’ve heard he is both) and rookie sensation Eric Gordon. Iverson has already publicly stated that he sees himself as a starter and reinforced that claim by sitting out the rest of last season when his starting job was put up for grabs in Detroit.

The Clippers likewise, have a bevy of talent down low. Obviously Blake Griffin has a bright future, but so too does second year big man DeAndre Jordan. Chris Kaman, when healthy, is a pretty formidable center and Marcus Camby, when healthy, is a rebounding machine and block artist.

That leaves the small forward spot as the lone weak link on the team (there’s some issues with back up shooting guard, but that’s for another post). The Clippers should be focusing their attention on finding a starter at the three and quit looking into filling seats via AI.

Filling seats won’t be a problem, especially in Los Angeles who love front-runners. All the Clips need to do is build a hard-working, exciting team that wins. Right now, they have the makings of exactly that.

Adding Iverson will ruin all of the wonderful things that have happened this off-season (getting the number one pick, shedding Randolph and his horrible attitude and contract). How many jerseys does Sterling think Iverson will sell if he’s on a one year contract? I mean, how many jerseys did he sell as a Piston last year? Whatever that number is, it isn’t enough to justify bringing him here. If this were two years ago? I would have been jumping for joy at this notion. But with the additions of Griffin and Gordon, Iverson’s place is on some other team.

I know that Quentin Richardson is coming to town (hopefully the Zach Randolph trade does not fall through), but the small forward spot is still the Clippers most glaring weakness. I honestly believe that Al Thornton’s best position is coming off the bench, or starting for some other team not named the Clippers. Thornton never met a shot he didn’t like, and unfortunately, his favorite shots are fade-away jumpshots from just within the three point line.

I think offering part or all of the mid-level to one or two of the following four players would serve the Clippers much better than signing AI for the full midlevel.

Linas Kleiza: He brings toughness and versatility to the small forward spot, not to mention three-point shooting that is sorely lacking on this team. He’s big, a decent defender and can get to the hole when he’s the third or fourth option. The bad thing, he’s restricted, so if the Clips lowball him, the Nugs would probably match. In this economy, he might not be worth the full midlevel, though, last year, $5 million for him would seem about right.

Marquis Daniels: Had a breakout year starting in place of Mike Dunleavy Jr. averaging nearly 14 points, 2 assists and 4.5 rebounds on 45 percent shooting. He’s versatile enough to play three positions (though, point guard is not a strong suit). I think he’d fit in nicely switching between the 2 and 3 and adding scoring punch off the bench. The problem with him is that he can’t shoot threes.

Jamario Moon: The Heat will probably sign Moon, but he is super athletic and was a good running mate with Dwyane Wade and would make a good running mate on this athletic team. Drawbacks for him include a head that seems detached from thinking far too many times than should be acceptable for a 29-year-old and a questionable work ethic.

Ronald Murray: Murray was up for sixth man of the year last year, brings a veteran presence, and can back up either guard spot. He brings a good scoring punch that the Clips can use coming off the bench.

Another option I thought would work nicely for the Clips is to trade Chris Kaman and Al Thornton to the Houston Rockets for Shane Battier and Brian Cook. Battier brings several things to the table that are exactly what the Clips need.

First and foremost is intelligence. No offense to Dunleavy (okay, a little), but this team has never been considered cerebral. Battier is like the brain of a brain. Battier also is a proven winner (Duke, Memphis, Rockets). Don’t laugh at that Memphis inclusion. When he played for the Grizzlies, they made the playoffs. As soon as he left, they were one of the worst teams in the league. That’s not putting all the success on him, but it speaks volumes to his presence and importance. Battier would also give the Clippers a lockdown perimeter defender. He’s always worked best with a shot-blocking big behind him, and Camby and to a lesser extend DeAndre Jordan bring blocks in spades. Finally, leadership is sorely needed on this team, and though Battier isn’t vocal, he and Artest were the co-captains of last year’s Rockets squad that were the only team to push the Lakers to seven games in last year’s playoffs.

Brian Cook can be looked at as a big who can shoot outside jumpshots, or he can be looked at as a $3 million expiring contract. Either way, his inclusion in the trade can be of some benefit if employed correctly.

Losing Al Thornton is no big loss. He’s a shoot-first player on a team that doesn’t need any more scorers. He brings nothing else to the table. He can’t play defense. He doesn’t move the ball. He doesn’t rebound. But on the Rockets, who are in need of scorers thanks to injuries to Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, he’ll fit in nicely taking the place of Von Wafer. Kaman also gives the Rockets a young, big center who will benefit greatly from playing with the vastly underrated Luis Scola, the athleticism of Carl Landry, and the toughness of Chuck Hayes.

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