Four members of the Los Angeles Clippers’ starting five are slated to hit free agency this summer. Two of them, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, are expected to return, so long as the team slings five-year maxes for each. The other two, Luc Mbah a Moute and J.J. Redick, are less certain.
The Clippers only have Early Bird rights on Mbah a Moute, so they’ll (probably) need to re-sign him using cap space they don’t have. They can go over the salary cap to re-sign Redick at all costs, which would seem to make his return more likely. But according to the Los Angeles Times‘ Broderick Turner, this actually isn’t the case:
J.J. Redick will become an unrestricted free agent when the season is over. He earned $7.3 million this season and is looking for a big pay raise.
Redick, 32, could get a deal from another team for $18-$20 million per season, and that may be too high for the Clippers to swallow, meaning their shooting guard would walk, as most NBA officials expect him to do.
This is a tricky situation. They probably aren’t going to find someone who replaces all that Redick does with the money they’ll have available; they can’t take what they were going to spend on him and just give it to someone else. If you’re going to pay Griffin and Paul, there’s an argument to be made that you should just pay Redick, see if this core can stay healthy enough to make the run it’s thus far failed to do, and then re-evaluate circumstances after next season, at which time you can try blowing things up via trade.
But Redick turns 34 in June. His next contract will take him to 37 or 38. He’s still a great shooter, and that kind of skill set ages well. But he’s not an exceptional playmaker off the bounce, and $18-plus million is a lot to pay for someone who can be neutralized for almost an entire playoff series by Joe Ingles.
This is the Clippers’ dilemma in a nutshell: Do they break it up, run it all back or embrace something in-between? Chances are breaking it up is out of the question. Losing either one of Griffin or Paul for nothing, or even for what could come back in a complex sign-and-trade, feels like bad business. Everything else is fair game, though. So there’s a possibility the Clippers look noticeably different next year even if they keep their Big Three intact.