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With the proper maneuvering, Clippers can improve in off-season

BEN BOLCH / ON THE NBA

The Clippers need to upgrade at shooting guard and need to acquire a post player that can consistently score, rebound and defend.

May 12, 2013|By Ben Bolch
  • Guard O.J. Mayo would be a good fit for the L.A. Clippers.
Guard O.J. Mayo would be a good fit for the L.A. Clippers. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Any correspondence about possible Clippers' off-season moves needs to go straight to the top.

So, Chris Paul, here's a primer on what you should instruct your franchise to do in the coming months to take that next step, otherwise known as getting past the first round of the playoffs.

It's not going to be easy, the Clippers creeping toward taxpayer status for the first time in franchise history, assuming you come back.

You're going to have to help persuade Donald Sterling to pay those more punitive taxes or risk multiplying the disappointment Clipper Nation experienced in recent weeks.

Even in the best-case scenario, your team will be working with relatively meager resources that could make only the Lakers jealous among other NBA teams.

Since you wield nearly as much power as anyone in the front office, maybe start by sending Mitch Kupchak, your Lakers nemesis, a text message playing off that old yearbook phrase, “Raise hell this summer … with your mini mid-level exception! LOL!”

The Clippers could have a full mid-level exception of about $5 million to spend if they are chintzy enough with the margins of their roster. Otherwise, they would have the mini mid-level exception of about $3.2 million plus a slew of veteran's minimum deals that usually go for about $1.4 million each.

Thrilling stuff, it's not.

But it should be enough to help your team upgrade at shooting guard while acquiring a post player who can consistently score, rebound and defend. You know, all the things DeAndre Jordan does only occasionally.

Of course, the flip side will be saying goodbye to a dear friend while pruning the reserve unit known as A Tribe Called Bench.

By way of explanation, just tell them, “The tribe has spoken.”

Here are the moves to make (with current salary, age and latest team for non-Clippers next to the players' names):

Let them go

Chauncey Billups ($4 million, 36)

This one is going to be tough. You love him like a brother. He is the Penn to your Teller, a steadying presence to a young and, at times, juvenile group of players.

Sadly, like Penn, he is prone to disappearing. In the final three games of the Memphis series, Billups scored zero, three and four points.

Unless he's willing to come back on a veteran's minimum deal, it's going to have to be bye-bye, buddy.

Lamar Odom ($8.2 million, 33)

Odom tied for the league lead in games played. In those 82 games, he scored in double figures three times.

Add it all up and … well, that won't take long. Odom averaged career lows in points (4.0) and assists (1.7) while making more than the gross domestic product of some Third World countries.

See ya.

Ronny Turiaf ($1.1 million, 30)

We love effort and energy guys. Really, we do. Particularly when they're willing to help the marketing department by appearing on those in-game scoreboard ads for Metro.

But when they average nearly as many fouls (1.2) as points (1.9) while struggling to defend, it's not worth the effort to keep them around.

Keep them

Matt Barnes ($1.2 million, 33)

If Barnes didn't price himself out of another veteran's minimum contract with his solid play in the regular season, he certainly did with his 30-point bonanza in Game 6 against Memphis.

The Clippers would prefer to give him a small raise as opposed to dipping into their mid-level exception. Either way, he's a keeper.

Willie Green ($1.3 million, 31)

We never said you would have to bid adieu to all your friends.

Green is just good enough and certainly cheap enough to warrant retaining through his nonguaranteed contract that would pay him $1.39 million next season.

Ryan Hollins ($1 million, 28)

He's not a difference-maker except when it comes to staying under the luxury tax threshold of about $72 million for next season.

Get them

O.J. Mayo ($4 million, 25, Dallas)

Mayo has said he would opt out of the final year of his contract with the Mavericks, giving other teams a shot at his services.

Though signing Mayo would probably require the full mid-level exception (plus a gift basket for agent runner Rodney Guillory), the shooting guard would provide another high-end scorer in the Clippers' starting lineup.

Mayo is coming off a season in which he made a career-best 40.7% of his three-pointers while averaging 15.3 points. That's, ahem, nearly twice the 8.4 points Billups averaged.

J.J. Hickson ($4 million, 24, Portland)

Hickson was a double-double machine last season as an undersized center, averaging 12.7 points and 10.4 rebounds.

He could teach the Clippers' current overpaid center about playing with heart.

Jason Collins ($1.3 million, 34, Washington)

You've made your owner look smart. Now it's time to help him in the public relations department.

Adding Collins, the first openly gay athlete in one of the four major U.S. pro sports, could put the heavily maligned Sterling up for a humanitarian award.

It would be the ultimate feel-good story. Except for the unfortunate counterparts Collins leveled with his sturdy picks.

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