Wednesday, June 27, 2012
And with the 53rd pick, the Clippers select?
By Ramona Shelburne
The Clippers, like every other team in the league, would love to move up into the first round or even the lottery and snag an impact player on a rookie scale contract that can help get them over the hump in the Western Conference. While we're taking orders: a true shooting guard, a tough front-court player to back up DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin and a couple of lights-out shooters would be nice too.
Unfortunately the chances of any of that happening Thursday during the NBA draft -- where they only own the 53rd overall pick -- are pretty slim since the Clippers basically have very few tradeable players outside of untouchables like Griffin and Chris Paul.
Third-year point guard Eric Bledsoe has drawn widespread interest from around the league, but according to sources with knowledge of the Clippers thinking, someone would have to knock the Clippers socks off to get them to part with Bledsoe.
The uber-quick guard blossomed during the second half of last season and is said to be dominating in open-court games in and around Los Angeles so far this summer. Yes, Bledsoe plays the same position as Paul. And yes, Mo Williams is still on the team and plays point guard too. But the Clippers remain of the mind that there is always room for all of them and aren't afraid of using unconventional three-guard lineups.
Williams has until Saturday to inform the club whether he's exercising the final year and $8.5 million on his contract. He has said he would remain with the club, but his agent Mark Bartelstein acknowledged to ESPNLosAngeles.com last week that he and the club are "kind of exploring everything" in order to find a solution to the logjam at point guard. Interest in the former All-Star has "picked up" of late, according to a league source. On Monday, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported that the Los Angeles Lakers were among the teams who've expressed interest as Williams contract might be useful in facilitating a trade with Dallas for forward Lamar Odom.
All of those talks are still in play heading into Thursday and the Clippers' interest in Odom remains strong, according to sources. But the most likely scenario has the Clippers staying at 53 and picking the best player available. The Clippers have the advantage of being able to watch multiple prospects expected to go much higher than 53 because of their location. Many of the top agents are based in Los Angeles, meaning the Clippers have gone to private workouts for Perry Jones, Arnett Moultrie, Terrence Ross, Jeff Taylor, Terrence Jones, Fab Melo, Tony Wroten.
A late second-round pick isn't all that exciting. It's downright strange for a team used to lottery picks this time of year. But the club's top priority now is ensuring that this becomes the new normal.
The Clippers remain confident they will be able to sign Griffin to a five-year maximum extension in July. Sources with knowledge of the talks say they have gone smoothly so far and neither side anticipates any problems getting the extension done and agreed upon by July 1. Don't expect much fanfare from Griffin though. He'll likely just walk into the Clippers' practice the facility the next day the way Kevin Durant did in Oklahoma City a few years ago.