Clippers Free Agency: Time to sign a new backup point guard?

Apr 1, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova (8) is defended by Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) in the third quarter at Philips Arena. The Cavaliers defeated the Hawks 110-108 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 1, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova (8) is defended by Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) in the third quarter at Philips Arena. The Cavaliers defeated the Hawks 110-108 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

NBA free agency 2016: Should the Los Angeles Clippers try to sign a new backup point guard this summer? If so, who should they consider targeting?

Providing Doc Rivers doesn’t make a huge mistake or receives a ridiculous offer he can’t refuse, Chris Paul will still be with the Los Angeles Clippers for the 2016-17 season. He’s integral to holding the team together at both ends of the floor; an obvious statement that only gained more emphasis during Blake Griffin‘s time out in the regular season. Yet, with a limited defensive weapon and 38-year-old veteran behind him as backups, could it be time for the Clippers to look elsewhere for their secondary point guard?

Austin Rivers and Pablo Prigioni both have valuable assets they can bring to the table. Despite their flaws and limitations, Rivers is a vastly improved defender and Prigioni is one of the sneakiest veterans around with a patient understanding of the game. In their own ways, both have something that the Clippers don’t want to lose, and Doc has made it clear he wants to keep his team together.

“I don’t know if we have a No. 1 (priority),” Doc said to the Orange County Register’s Dan Woike. “We have a priority to try to just keep making our team better. We have a lot of free agents, and that indicates that we did a really good job last year. … So now we have to try to do it again. We have to try to sign as many of our guys back as possible.”

We don’t know exactly who the Clippers will be forced to prioritize as most of their players become free agents this summer, but we know he wants Paul and Griffin around for another year and, as you can see in the quote above, he also wants to re-sign as many role players as possible. The bench was a serious improvement over last year, and it makes sense that Doc wants to keep the majority of his guys together.

How does his son Austin fit into this situation, though?

We don’t know whether the Clippers are willing to let him go and search elsewhere or whether Rivers’ current importance will rise even further if Prigioni (who is 39 in less than two weeks) considers retiring or isn’t re-signed.

As an offensive player, Rivers has a lot of growing to do. He has moments where he drives aggressively to the rim, using a combination of floaters, layups and three-pointers (if they start falling) to make a real impact. His 20-point, eight-assist, six-rebound, zero-turnover performance in Game 6 against the Portland Trail Blazers while fighting with one good eye was exceptional, showing just how much toughness he brings each night. But when it comes to running an offense with poise, creating space for others, and running an effective pick-and-roll, he falters.

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Thankfully to make up for that weakness, Rivers shined on defense this season. From his ability to match highly athletic guards like Damian Lillard on drives to the basket and stay toe-to-toe with nimble shooters outside, Rivers was one of the Clippers’ top few defensive players.

This development, combined with the heart he showed in Game 6 when playing so well through injury, may have earned him a slightly bigger contract than his upcoming pay of $3.3 million for 2016-17 in the eyes of some teams. Equally, if Rivers stays, Prigioni retiring or going elsewhere still leaves the Clippers in need of another point guard to support Paul.

Yet, no matter how much finding an upgraded two-way point guard would help, who can the Clippers look to with limited cap space and so many other players expecting a pay rise (thanks to the cap space rising to $90 million) if they re-sign?

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Out of a fairly limited pool of top point guards, highlighted by Mike Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies, here are a few notable free agent names that may come closer to the Clippers’ level of affordability (we’ll consider plenty more options as free agency approaches, so stay tuned):

  • D.J. Augustin — a solid playmaker with a reliable three-point shot (40.5 percent with 2.1 makes per 36 minutes this season).
  • Mo Williams — a highly capable scorer for a backup point guard, possessing the ability to create off the dribble from mid-range at times, shoot near 40 percent from three, and set up an offense as an experienced veteran.
  • Matthew Dellavedova — widely regarded as one of the dirtiest players in the NBA, largely due to his constant aggression and persistence on defense. Dellavedova could no doubt help the Clippers in this regard to form a dangerous pair alongside Rivers and add more defensive impact to the bench, and he’s coming off career-highs of 6.5 assists per 36 minutes and a 41 percent stroke from three. The only problem is how much he can command for his new contract, which may go beyond the Clippers’ best chance to sign him with their full mid level exception.

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At this point, we ultimately can’t predict who the Clippers may pursue because we don’t know who will be re-signed. Given the painful end to the season and the rising salary cap in particular, players have every right to test the market or opt out if they still have a player option for the upcoming season. After the last few weeks, it’s more than understandable even if Doc’s wish is to bring everyone back.

So, until we hear rumblings as to who may be leaving L.A., we’ll have to wait and see what areas of the roster the Clippers are forced to address. But if the cap space emerges and a free agent is eager enough to join, a new backup point guard, capable of delivering consistently at both ends, should be a priority behind a new wing to finally solidify the small forward situation.

Next: Clippers cannot lose Cole Aldrich in free agency

Then again, with low cap space and limited options in their price range, neither of these upgrades will come easily. The Clippers’ struggles to improve didn’t just end with their playoff elimination.