With the Kenyon Martin signing done, the Los Angeles Clippers have obtained one more big body to help contend with the L.A. Lakers’ big front court in the future Battle of Los Angeles Now, both teams are seeking to add yet more depth in order to bring home the bacon. The returning players from overseas, like K-Mart, are one possible avenue for each team. Everyday, it seems, the Lakers are rumored to be interested in so and so, or so and so is rumored to be demanding a trade to the Lakers (see Orlando Magic Dwight Howard). Until recently, I cannot ever recall a single player either demand a trade to the Clippers or hope that the Clippers picked them up off of the waivers. However, that has all changed with the formation of Lob City through the acquisitions of Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, and even Caron Butler, who now has an NBA championship ring. Not only are players hoping that the Clippers might take them in, but are actually dreaming about it. Even Dwight Howard, arguably the best Center in the league, has persistently been rumored, now, to want to end up with the Clippers. While that may or may not be true in reality, the media has crowned the Clippers as the next Big Thing.
Out of the available pool of free agents, including those who are currently overseas, who is the best fit for either the Clippers or the Lakers to put either team over the top? Starting with the China-boys, this analysis may become polarizing quickly. First up is J.R. Smith. Two weeks ago he annihilated the Chinese league for 60 points on 14 of 18 treys. Qingdao will probably have to sell their team and give up now like the Seattle SuperSonics did. J.R. Smith, one of the streakiest and most annoying players in the NBA (and its sister-leagues) today, probably set back the Qingdao team a decade with that explosion. J.R. Smith
Not two weeks ago did J.R. Smith remind the NBA of his talents. He exploded for 60 points over Qingdao in the Chinese league, drilling 14 of 18 three pointers in the process. Now, everyone knows J.R. Smith can shoot the ball and shoot it well. Everyone also knows that he can dunk the ball and dunk it well. But his off the court behavior and me-first attitude on the court could end up being more of a burden than a blessing to the team that lands him this coming week. The Lakers want to sign Smith to complement Kobe and finally get someone to hit a perimeter shot. While I love Matt Barnes, he is a far cry form the player who regularly turned it on for Don Nelson in Golden State a few years back. And while I love Ron Artest (read: Metta World Peace), he has always been a chucker and a sort of offensive clunker. He still brings it defensively and is vital to their success, but for as much as a chastise J.R. Smith, I’d still rather have him taking ill-advisde shots than Metta World Peace. The Clippers are also interested but since they’re already defensively inept in the backcourt (largely due to a lack of size), adding Smith would only make them defensively worse. Also, there are likely not enough shots to go around on the perimeter between Cp3, Billups, Foye (a chucker), and Mo Williams (another chucker). What the Clippers need is a real backup SF (or even starting SF). If the Lakers sign Smith, I’d give it a B+ signing (only if Kobe can keep J.R. in line). For the Clippers: C-.
Taking a look at the list of domestic players, the only one who really stands out for either team is Gilbert Arenas. While Larry Hughes’ teardrop tatted beneath his eye does stand out, unfortunately his game does not. Arenas so desperately wants to play for any L.A. team in his hometown that he’s scheduled his own public workout for later in this week. Arenas was last seen sporting an ill-advised beard and a shaky jumpshot in Orlando last year, and the fact that no team has yet signed the enigmatic combo-guard is not a good sign. Last year he played 25 minutes off the bench behind such wonders as Jameer Nelson and Jason and Quentin Richardson. What? If Agent Zero cannot even displace any of those three chuckers, who is to say that he can displace any of the Clippers’ chuckers, who are actually playing at a fantastic level right now (see: Mo Williams). The Lakers could use someone to create offense, but not someone to dribble out the shot clock. I’d give the Clippers signing Arenas a D- and the Lakers signing him a C+.
The last candidate is Wilson Chandler, who may or may not ever get out of his contract in China. Chandler is a young player with a multifaceted game. For some reason, he reminds me of Danny Granger, although he’s never really had the chance to put up Granger-like numbers. Chandler is not phenomenal at any one thing but is pretty good at most of them. The Lakers don’t exactly need another wing to steal shots, but if Chandler could be used to generate legitimate offense off the bench (that does not come from off-balanced three pointers), then he might be a good signing. However, he would likely command too much money for the Lakers. The Clippers could also really use him, as his game would readily remedy a lot of the penetration problems the Clippers currently have (and also move Caron Butler to the bench where he belongs). But Chandler would probably cost too much for them, too. That being said, I’d give each team an A- for acquiring Chandler. In the end, though, the Lakers ought to refrain from acquiring anymore older talent and begin looking at younger talent. Maybe let the Mini-Mamba loose. The Clippers should stand-pat and let the team gel first before acquiring anyone else.