Clippers expect Aminu, Bledsoe to fit in

LOS ANGELES -- Two first-round draft picks with potential to crack the starting lineup have the Los Angeles Clippers' front office feeling pretty good about the future. And free agency is still a couple days away.

Forward Al-Farouq Aminu of Wake Forest and guard Eric Bledsoe of Kentucky each expressed excitement Monday about joining a team that has missed the playoffs 15 times in the last 17 years and won just 29 games last season.

"I look at that as a challenge, come in and help turn the program around," Bledsoe said. "I wanted to come here because they got great players."

Aminu worked out for the Clippers before the draft and liked the people he met and the team's practice arena.

"I started seeing how good of an opportunity it could be," he said.

The Clippers took Aminu with the eighth pick in the first round of last week's NBA draft. The 6-foot-9, 215-pound sophomore averaged 15.8 points and 10.7 rebounds last season.

They later traded a future first-round pick to Oklahoma City in exchange for Bledsoe, a 6-1 guard who averaged 11.3 points and 2.9 assists in his freshman season at Kentucky, where No. 1 overall draft pick John Wall was the star.

The Clippers took guard Willie Warren of Oklahoma, who is Blake Griffin's former teammate, with the 54th pick in the second round.

The team considers Aminu and Bledsoe to be good fits with the core group of All-Star center Chris Kaman, last year's No. 1 draft pick Griffin, who didn't play because of a knee injury, former All-Star Baron Davis and Eric Gordon.

Aminu and Griffin could form the team's future frontcourt, with Aminu slotted in at small forward, a position he played in his freshman season at Wake Forest when he shot 52 percent from the field. He's expected to shore up the rebounding, a major weakness in recent years. Griffin will play power forward, the same position he played in college.

"We're a more competitive team than we were a week ago," team president Andy Roeser said. "We have someone at every position."

Bledsoe is ready to have Davis as a mentor.

"I like his toughness," Bledsoe said. "He goes every night and plays. Even though he's getting old, he just goes out and performs. I'm looking forward to going against him, but I'm more looking forward to learning from him."

Next up comes free agency beginning Thursday, with the Clippers among the teams that could be pursuing LeBron James. The Clippers are projected to be $16.8 million under the salary cap, leaving them with just enough cap room for one maximum contract.

"We're well positioned to do well in free agency," Roeser said. "Our approach is we have a great team to surround yourself with."

What they don't have right now is a coach. That position has been vacant since Kim Hughes, who filled the interim job, was fired April 15.

Roeser said it's not imperative to have a coach hired before free agency begins.