Clippers have big decisions looming on eve of free agency

Ready or not, here it comes: With the NBA’s off-season rush in full swing, free agency will officially open Friday at 3 p.m. PT.

In win-now mode, the Clippers are willing to make moves – as shown their coaching changed last month and three overnight transactions on Wednesday – prior to the start of the season on December 22.

After giving up three first-round picks, two pick swaps, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari to bring Paul George – and along with him Kawhi Leonard – aboard a season ago, the Clippers are unlikely to be conservative this season . especially with both All-Stars who can opt out of their current contracts at the end of the season.

Efforts to improve the team around Leonard and George started in earnest on Wednesday night, when the Clippers used a three-team trade to take over fourth-year Detroit shooting guard Luke Kennard while sending Landry Shamet to Brooklyn and Rodney McGruder to Detroit.

They also added Daniel Oturu, Minnesota 6-foot-10 center, and Jay Scrubb, the national junior college player of the year, through second-round trades.

What now?

The Clippers are expected to shop for a reliable playmaker, and they have their own free agents Montrezl Harrell and Marcus Morris Sr. – and, starting Thursday, JaMychal Green – to think about.

Shortly before Thursday’s deadline to decide, Green answered the will-he-or-wants-he question by declining the last year of his two-season deal, worth $ 5 million in 2020-2021.

The Clippers could try redrawing the versatile large, which can monitor multiple positions and has proven to be able to stretch the floor in high-pressure situations, firing 47.8 percent (22 for 46) from 3- punt range in his 19 postseason games with the team.

Green, 30, had other suitors last off-season, some of whom offered more money, but chose to return to LA and pursue a championship with the Clippers. He is expected to receive similar offers this year, likely between the $ 5.7 million mid-level tax exception and the full $ 9.3 million mid-level exception. The Clippers could also offer the security of a longer-term deal to entice Green to continue his championship hunt with them.

They also have to decide how much they want to pay Morris and Harrell.

Morris’ toughness and scoring ability are valuable qualities in the competition. And after closing the one-year $ 15 million contract he signed with the New York Knicks, the 31-year-old attacker could contractually make as much as $ 18 million, although experts believe his asking price will likely be in the $ 12 mark. 13 million reach.

Harrell is due for a pay rise and will definitely have offers after proving sustainable and productive during his team-friendly, two-year, $ 12 million deal for the past two seasons. The 26-year-old may have struggled in Orlando’s “ bubble, ” but he missed just one game of the regular season before last season’s hiatus from last season’s coronavirus, and this season he put in statistics (18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds , 1.1 blocked shots per game). earned him the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award.

But it’s bad timing for free agents who want a high payday, with only a few potential suitors – Atlanta, New York, Charlotte, and Detroit – with significant pay caps.

Taking so much into consideration, ESPN’s Bobby Marks recently estimated a fair contract to Harrell and the Clippers would hit $ 28 million over two years, with a second season player option – giving Harrell the option of reentering free service in 2021 and giving the team a trade tool (though Harrell has a veto would have).

The Clippers have limited trading assets, including veteran scorer Lou Williams, who has an $ 8 million contract that is due to expire. But they could also take advantage of a mid-level non-taxpayer exception, made possible after cutting $ 2 million from their payroll by swapping out McGruder on Wednesday, to either replace major players they lose or their backcourt. strengthen.

The Clippers found their facilitator in Rajon Rondo, the 34-year-old point guard who would decline his $ 2.6 million player option with the Lakers to become a free agent. Atlanta reportedly plans to chase him, but other reports indicate that Rondo has set his sights on the Clippers after two seasons in LA.

Rondo played a key role from the bench in the Lakers’ successful title hunt last season. After missing the first round of the playoffs and recovering from a broken thumb, he returned to averaging 8.9 points and 6.6 assists, while shooting 40 percent of the 3-point range in 16 matches after the season.

And there’s another big decision on the horizon for the Clippers and one of their stars: George could sign an extension.

He is eligible for renewal after signing a $ 136.9 million four-year deal with Oklahoma City in 2018. According to ESPN, the Clippers could add three seasons (if his player option is changed) for a total of $ 128.9 million of new money.

The questions: Are the clippers willing to make that deal with a player who has a history of injuries and will be 32 before extra time starts? And whether George believes he could do better by opting out in 2021, when he could close a $ 220 million five-year deal with the Clippers or a $ 140 million four-year deal with another team?