After the greatest run in Los Angeles Clippers history, the Clippers just fell short of making the first National Basketball Association finals in the history of the franchise. While time is needed to reflect on the amazing effort provided by Paul George and Co., while Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka and Ivica Zubac missed time during the playoff run, it is still not too early to look at who is currently on the books for next season, who is a free agent and what selections the Clippers will have in the draft.
Due to hard-cap constraints, unless the Clippers let Kawhi Leonard walk (ha!), the Clippers will not have access to acquire a player via a Sign-&-Trade, nor for the full Mid-Level Exception or Bi-Annual Exception, as it will trigger the hard cap. Instead, they will have access to bird rights and the tax payers Mid-Level Exception. Now, what are bird rights?
Bird rights are given to a player after they remain with a team (or contract) for a period of time without changing teams via free agency, nor being bought out, waived or cut. It takes three bird years for a team to be able to offer the maximum a player can make, irregardless of the teams cap space, while two bird years allow a team to offer a player 105-110% of the league’s average salary, which is just above the full Mid-Level exception or 120% of their previous salary, whichever is greater.
Let’s take a look at who the Clippers have under contract, and who are the free agents.
Paul George is signed until the 2024-25 campaign, with the final season being a player option.
Luke Kennard is signed until the 2024-25 campaign, however, the final year is partially guaranteed.
Marcus Morris is signed until the 2023-24 campaign.
Ivica Zubac and Terence Mann are signed until the 2022-23 campaign, with the final year being a team option.
Patrick Beverely, Rajon Rondo and Daniel Oturu are signed for one more season.
Yogi Ferrell is signed for one more campaign, however, it is not guaranteed.
Jay Scrubb has one year left on his two year, two-way deal.
Kawhi Leonard is obviously the biggest name on this list, and the Clippers, although he has a player option. It’s possibly he excercizes the option, however, odds are he opts out ot secure a bigger guarantee. If Kawhi opts out, his next deal would start at a maximum of $39.3M, while his option is for $36.1M. It’ll be interesting to see all the reports about Kawhi choosing to go elsewhere.
Reggie Jackson’s playoff performance definitely puts him as a potential target for numerous teams. Due to having signed him last season, Clippers have early bird rights on Jackson, which will allow them to offer 110% of the league’s average salary, which is just above the full mid-level exception. Unless a team with cap space, which there are plenty, offer Reggie over the MLE, it seems likely he decides to run it back with his best friend Paul George, possibly on a 1+1 deal, which would give the Clippers full bird rights for next season.
Nicolas Batum had a great bounce back season, and if there was a comeback player of the year award, Batum might have won it going away. However, due to only having him for one year, the Clippers would need to either utilize the taxpayers MLE to keep Batum around, or hope he signs for another minimum deal, which is probably unlikely.
Patrick “Stay Ready” Patterson is another player whom the Clippers have early bird rights on, able to sign him for 110% of the league’s average salary. Unlikely Patterson demands as much, or if there is even any interest around him in the league.
DeMarcus Cousins is in the same boat as Nicolas Batum, Clippers could only offer the minimum or the taxpayers MLE. Depedning on the market, Cousins could be brought back as an insurance policy for Ibaka.
Amir Coffey could be a restricted free agent if the Clippers offer him the qualifying offer, which would guarantee him for just under $2M. If I’m not mistaken, Clippers can not put him on a two-way contract for a third year, so it’s doubtful Coffey returns. Although, I hope he does.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the Clippers front office shapes the roster, as so many unknowns are out there, such as Ibaka’s option and what Jackson does. In any case, I trust Lawrence Frank.