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How do the Clippers build on the Blake phenomenon—Clippers’ draft needs

There is no doubt that Blake Griffin has been a revelation for the Clippers this season. He has energized a fan base long accustomed to failure and brought in new fans who cannot afford Lakers’ tickets or do not want to jump on that bandwagon. Clearly, Griffin is the foundation to which the Clippers can build a competitive, play-off bound team. While I like Eric Gordon and believe Vinny Del Negro when he refers to Gordon and Griffin being the foundation for their squad, I believe Gordon is a midwestern kid at heart and if the opportunity presents itself to play in the Eastern Conference, he will take it. But at least for the near future, Clippers should be able to count on him manning the 2 guard in the lineup.

Even with those two pieces, the team will likely not squeeze into the Western Conference’s eighth playoff spot. If the Clippers were in the Eastern Conference, a 35 or 38 win season, with the current squad, just might have gotten them into the playoffs. However, due to the strength of the Western Conference, it should be expected that a team will need to finish above .500 to get into the playoffs. Over the past 6 years, the eighth seeded time has had an average of 46.5 wins. Assuming the Clippers can get to 35 wins this season, they will need to improve by 10 wins to count on being in the playoffs. What gets them there? A free-agent signing does but given the history of the franchise and its owner, it seems like building through the draft is more reliable.

With Griffin, Gordon, and Jordan, I believe they have their PF, SG, and C position set and it will be unlikely they draft for those positions. They gave up a draft pick to get Bledsoe and have Davis so I think it is doubtful they go after a PG. There have been rumblings about trading Baron but, with his contract, they are not likely to get much value for him so in my opinion, if he continues being motivated (thanks to Blake) then let him run out his contract with the Clippers. In addition, Bledsoe has been good in spots but he still has way too many turnovers to take over as a full-time starter. This leaves the small forward position. Ask any longtime Clippers’ fan and they will point to Ryan Gomes as a weak link in the starting lineup. He ranks 46th (out of 56) in player’s efficiency rating (PER) among small forwards. Even Aminu is higher than him—which is just as surprising. Admittedly, I did not pay much attention to Wake Forest basketball last year so I did not know much about Aminu and halfway through this season, I still do know know much about him. At times, he shows flashes but more often shows a lackadaisical effort and lacks a shooter’s touch. Perhaps, he is just too young and needs to get used to the speed and skill level. So given all that information, the question is what do they do in the draft?

Assuming the Clippers get to 35 wins, that would give them anywhere from a 1.1% to 2.8% chance to win the draft lottery so let’s put them in the 9-10 spot of the draft. In my opinion, this is not a strong draft so at the ninth or tenth pick in the draft, they are not likely to pick up a game-changer. There are usually two schools of thought in drafting: draft for need and best talent available. If they draft for need, I would suggest drafting someone who can play the 2 or 3 spot. Perhaps, Derrick Williams from Arizona who has a good jump shot and can slash to the hoop. At 6’7, he might be perfect to provide scoring when Gordon is on the bench (or another team) as well as battle Aminu for the small forward position. Another need could be at Center. Kaman may (and should) be gone after this season or at some point next season. I am sure the Clippers will re-sign Jordan but they will need some depth behind him. If a player is available that fits either the 2/3 or 5 position, I would suggest picking him. If not, I would draft best available. What might be interesting is that best available might be Kemba Walker our of UConn or a power forward. If that is the case, I would draft whichever is best available and then use that pick plus the 1st round draft picking coming from Minnesota in the 2012 draft and make a trade. They could even throw in Kaman and his 2011-12 expiring contract to sweeten the deal.

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