Friday, May 19, 2006

Mark Stein on the Clippers Future

Mark Stein of ESPN.com has an interesting take on the future of the Clippers, touching on some issues that I've discussed before.

Unfortunately, when Mark Stein says Sam Cassell should get an offer for 2 years/$15M, Sam is liable to read that and believe it. But, as I've pointed out, there's no way that Sam is going to go to a lottery team at age 37, and no contenders can offer him more than the mid-level exception (about $5M per.) And I don't see anyone offering him a 3 year deal, which would have him getting paid at age 39. So that puts the competing offer at 2/$10M. Will the Clippers actually offer 50% more than anyone else? Answer: of course they won't. He made about $6M this year, and the Clippers should offer him 2/$12M, maybe 2/$13M. Hopefully, he won't get insulted by it, as long as their aren't too many columnist out there saying he should get more than that.

And realistically, where is he gonna go? I suppose Houston is a possibility - he started his career there, I think he still has a home there, and they certainly need a point guard and could contend. But going to the Lakers would be a disaster (Kobe and Cassell in the same backcourt? Are you kidding?), the George Karl / Denver talk was just talk, and Sam would be a backup for any other top teams. He may as well come back to the Clippers where they have a great chance to win the division, where the money will be better than anyone else can offer, and where he can continue to learn from Mike Dunleavy and mentor Shaun Livingston. It seems like a win-win at 2/$12M.

As for the Maggette trade rumors, I've already weighed in on that one.

The truly disturbing idea is that Sterling wants to stay around the salary cap. In today's NBA, the only reason to be under the salary cap is to make a run at free agents (and of course to save money). In 2005-2006, exactly 3 teams were under the cap - the Bobcats (who were limited to an even lower cap based on expansion rules), the Hawks and the Hornets. The Clippers have the 4th lowest current payroll, after those 3. (1 game away from the Conference Finals with the 4th lowest payroll - the Clippers are the anti-Knicks!)

The idea of staying around the cap and competing is not realistic. The luxury tax is the REAL cap; it's the one the grown-ups look at. I'm not advocating Dolan or Cuban style spending; but if Sterling likes going to playoff games (I mean ones the Clippers are in), he will have to go over the cap. Happily, they should be able to re-sign Cassell and Vlade for a little more than they currently make, and keep the current group together for another run in 06-07. If things go great, then maybe you keep it going through 08, and you're still under the luxury threshold even with Kaman's extension. By the time you have to extend Livingston, Cassell's new deal is off the books, and Brand and Maggette are only signed for another year, so even I recognize that you have to make some tough decisions there, but at least you've got options.