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Thursday, June 24, 2010
What the Clippers need in the NBA draft

By D.J. Foster
ESPNLosAngeles.com

With only five players under contract for the Clippers, general manager Neil Olshey will be a very busy man this summer. Fortunately, the NBA draft provides a wonderful opportunity the free-agency period simply can't offer.

The Clippers have two chances -- first with the eighth pick and later with the 54th pick -- to get young talent locked up on the cheap for several seasons. Who are they looking at in this year's draft? Let's take a look.

What they need


On paper, the Clippers are set with their starters at four of the five positions, with the one exception being the ever-elusive small forward spot. Although the hole at small forward needs to be filled at some point, whether it be with a legitimate prospect for the future or with another stopgap acquisition like Rasual Butler, the Clippers give no indication that they feel limited to drafting a forward.

The logic behind that reasoning makes sense. Father Time is starting to work against the notoriously injury-prone Baron Davis a bit, and right now the Clippers employ no one else with the ability to run the point. Chris Kaman -- he of only one completely healthy season in seven tries -- is bound to miss at least a few games a year. And Blake Griffin may have all the promise in the world, but the fact remains that he still has yet to play a game in the NBA. Point being, the Clippers need to add depth absolutely everywhere.

Who they want


It's never easy to get a read on what an organization says they will do before the draft. Teams have been known to throw up elaborate smoke screens, and it's important to note that Olshey does have some acting experience on his résumé. That said, it's no secret at this point that the Clippers covet Wake Forest sophomore forward Al-Farouq Aminu with their No. 8 selection, and the athletic forward recently canceled a workout with the Detroit Pistons, who choose one pick before the Clippers at No. 7.

If Aminu is surprisingly nabbed by another team, most signs point to the backup selection being Butler star and NCAA tournament hero Gordon Hayward. Like Aminu, Hayward doesn't fit the traditional mold of having just one set position, but the "tweener" moniker should be viewed as a positive with all the depth the Clippers need at multiple positions.

The Clippers will likely stick with their "best player available" mentality for Round 2, but if the right point guard is there for the taking, that's certainly a route they'll consider. The Clippers worked out quite a few point guards leading up to the draft, so a guard prospect could be the choice in Round 2.

What they'll get


Hope.

With boatloads of cap room and a young, talented core group of players, the Clippers were already a favorable destination this summer, for coaches and free agents alike. By adding two more pieces to the puzzle via Thursday's draft, the future of the franchise will begin to look even brighter.

D.J. Foster is a co-author of ClipperBlog and author of the ESPNLosAngeles.com colleges blog.