We all complain about Flip Saunders, but further south Doc Rivers is doing an even better job of convincing me that the duties of coach and general manager (or POBO) should not be filled by the same person. It's not simply the deal that brought Austin Rivers to Los Angeles that deserves criticism. Let me recap his series of moves beginning with the 2014 draft.
1.) The Clippers have the entire mid-level exception, the bi-annual exception, and a late first round pick to bolster their bench, which consists of Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley, and Reggie Bullock. Used properly, those assets could get you 3 or even 4 serviceable players if you split the mid-level exception between multiple players. The Clippers needed a third competent big man, a wing defender, and a backup point guard. Their own free agents include Darren Collison, Glen Davis, Danny Granger, Ryan Hollins, and Hedo Turkoglu. [8 players under contract for 2015]
2.) They use their first round pick on C.J. Wilcox, a questionable selection who did not score well in most statistical models and did not fill a need. Still, it's not a disastrous selection, especially given the limited talent usually available at #28, though players like K.J. McDaniels, Kyle Anderson, Jarnell Stokes, and Nikola Jokic would have been seen as better picks at the time and in hindsight. The Clippers did not acquire a 2nd rounder, understandable for a team in their position in the team building cycle. [9 players under contract for 2015]
3.) The Clippers use the full mid-level exception on Spencer Hawes and the bi-annual exception on Jordan Farmar. These moves leave the Clippers only about 2 million under the NBA's hard cap (or apron), meaning that they can only add a couple minimum salaried players after these signings, leaving them dangerously thin. Hawes and Farmar are serviceable players, but neither are particularly trustworthy defensively and a more cap-savvy front office probably wouldn't have used the full amount both exceptions on two players, especially on the 1st day of free agency. [11 players under contract for 2015]
4.) The Clippers bring back Glen Davis at the minimum, leaving them with enough cap space to sign only one more player. They still have only four bigs on the roster and remain thin on the wing. This is not ideal, but a 2nd unit of Farmar-Crawford-Dudley-Davis-Hawes (with Bullock and Wilcox waiting by in case of injury) isn't terrible despite mediocre defensive chops. Crawford's ability to play either guard position is especially helpful in maintaining quality lineups throughout the grind of an 82 game season. But the Clippers (understandably) weren't satisfied and this is when the fun starts. [12 players under contract for 2015]
5.) The Clippers trade Jared Dudley and a 2017 first rounder to the Bucks for Carlos Delfino, Miroslav Raduljica, and the Clippers 2015 2nd rounder (via Bucks). They then use the stretch provision to waive Delfino and Raduljica, saving about $3.5 million in the process, giving them more room under the hard cap. Dudley was bad in 2014, partially due to injury, but had been a good player before this. Giving up on him is questionable. Paying this much to get rid of him is indefensible. [11 players under contract for 2015]
6.) The Clippers use this space to sign Chris Douglas-Roberts, Ekpe Udoh, Hedo Turkoglu, and Jared Cunningham. That's not the worst 3rd unit I've ever seen, but none of those players are as good as Dudley. Turkoglu is baffling. Cunningham is especially redundant given the presence of Bullock and Wilcox. [15 players under contract for 2015]
7.) The season starts. Dudley enjoys a comeback year in Milwaukee while the Clippers acquisitions almost uniformly struggle. Some of this is bad luck, some is bad roster design. Despite needing to upgrade their wing defense, it has become worse with the trade of Dudley for the aforementioned players. Many of these players are only seeing the court during garbage time, which makes their play less impactful on the Clippers W-L record. In early January, Los Angeles starts to make more moves to bolster its bench for the playoffs. This when things just become funny.
8.) The Clippers pay the Sixers to take on Jared Cunningham's salary. A week later, they pick up the veteran-y (and toast-y) Dahntay Jones on a 10 day contract, which does nothing to address their roster imbalance (too many shooting guards) and lack of athleticism off the bench. [14 players under contract for 2015 plus one 10 day contract]
9.) In exchange for Austin Rivers, the Clippers trade away Chris Douglas-Roberts, Reggie Bullock, and a future 2nd round pick. As if the Clippers needed another defensively limited two guard. CDR was good last year, but couldn't get on the court this year and Los Angeles is giving up on Bullock in only his second season. The Clippers continue to sell low on their players. [13 players under contract for 2015 plus one 10 day contract]
10.) The Clippers buy out Jordan Farmar's contract. Farmar has struggled this year, but it's yet another example of the Clippers giving up on a player and selling low. Rumors currently connect the Clippers to Nate Robinson as his replacement. [12 players under contract for 2015 plus one 10 day contract]
Since the summer, the Clippers have turned Jared Dudley, Reggie Bullock, the #28 pick, a 2017 1st rounder, the bi-annual exception, and one minimum roster spot into Austin Rivers, Ekpe Udoh, Hedo Turkoglu, C.J. Wilcox, and Dahntay Jones on a 10 day contract. That is laughably horrible roster management, and it's one reason why the Clippers championship window appears to be closing faster than necessary.
(RealGM was invaluable in writing this section.)
Other News & Notes
Elsewhere around the league, the Grizzlies picked up Jeff Green to give them a bench scorer and force Dave Joerger to stop playing Tayshaun Prince. I don't think Green is a needle-mover in most situations, and the Celtics have been much better without him on the floor, but at least he garners a modicum of respect from defenders and its not like Memphis' bench has been lighting the world on fire until now. Hopefully he doesn't take any time away from Tony Allen or Courtney Lee. The Grizzlies also acquired mighty mite Russ Smith. The Celtics got a late first rounder for a mediocre at best player on an expiring contract. That's a win for Danny Ainge.
The Pelicans have taken fliers on Quincy Pondexter and Nate Wolters recently in an attempt to bolster their abysmal bench. I like both moves, though Pondexter still has a few years left on his deal.
The Nuggets picked up two late first rounders for Timofey Mozgov, who was both redundant and will get paid during the summer of 2016. Good job by them.
The Cavs turned Dion Waiters, a couple scrubs, and a late 1st into Mozgov, Iman Shumpert, and J.R. Smith. That's not a bad return if, like me, you're mildly optimistic about Shumpert and don't see Smith as the devil incarnate. It limits their future flexibility, but they weren't that flexible going forward anyway and these deals won't limit them that much.
As well as picking up Bullock, the Suns gave up a protected first rounder for Brandan Wright and are rumored to be shopping their Plumlee.
The Heat have received impressive recent contributions from big man Hassan Whiteside, who has destroyed the D-League and garnered interest on this board. They also signed rookie point guard Tyler Johnson, who was very impressive during Summer League, to a 10 day contract.
The Spurs let go of Austin Daye, who played well against the Wolves and no one else. Rumors link them to JaMychal Green, a very jumpy athletic tweener forward who tries to dunk everything and was a disruptive defender in college.
Trade season is in full swing, and veterans like Sam Dalembert, Nate Robinson, and Ray Allen are waiting as potential mid-season pickups. It should continue to be interesting, even if the biggest names have already been moved.
Shout out to Poop Hat for today's music.