The Clippers are on the clock.
They have upcoming deadlines to decide whether to guarantee next season’s contracts for guard Eric Gordon, which becomes guaranteed June 28, and two of their picks from the 2021 draft in wing Brandon Boston Jr. (June 30) and guard Jason Preston (July 2).
They have holes at backup center and starting point guard, and are interested in filling the latter by re-signing unrestricted free agent Russell Westbrook or making a play for Chris Paul, whether by trade with Washington or as a free agent if his contract is bought out by the Wizards.
In broader terms, with the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, and its onerous restrictions on top-spending teams like the Clippers, taking effect July 1, they have to thread the needle of positioning themselves for a championship run next season without compromising their ability to remain a compelling ticket with title aspirations once the team moves into its new Inglewood arena, Intuit Dome, in 16 months.
League observers are watching how much of their future payroll the team would like to commit to contract-extension eligible stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, their All-NBA-caliber pillars who have struggled to remain healthy in the postseason.
Most immediately, they have draft selections to make. The Clippers hold the 30th and 48th picks in Thursday’s NBA draft.
History suggests those decisions won’t be the only ones their front office makes. The Clippers made at least one trade on draft night every year from 2015 to 2021.
The Clippers do not publicize the names of prospects they host at their Playa Vista practice facility but have brought in a wide range of players for either group workouts, individual workouts or meetings. Though not an exhaustive list of every prospect hosted by the team, people with knowledge of the Clippers’ pre-draft interest who requested anonymity because they’re not authorized to speak publicly about them did confirm a number of prospects who have met with the team.
Guards have included Wichita State’s Craig Porter Jr., UCLA’s Tyger Campbell, Texas Christian’s Mike Miles Jr., Oklahoma’s Grant Sherfield, Kansas State’s Markquis Nowell, Miami’s Isaiah Wong and Santa Clara’s Brandin Podziemski.
Wings have included Kansas’ Jalen Wilson, Marquette’s Olivier-Maxence Prosper, UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr., Penn State’s Seth Lundy, San Jose State’s Omari Moore, Tennessee’s Julian Phillips, Belmont’s Ben Sheppard, Arkansas’ Jordan Walsh and Ohio State’s Brice Sensabaugh. Sheppard and the Pasadena-raised Moore also worked out for the Lakers on Tuesday, one day after doing the same for the Clippers.
Big men included Alabama’s 6-foot-10 Noah Clowney and Washington State’s 6-10 Mouhamed Gueye.
In win-now mode, the Clippers don’t need their newest selections to immediately shore up coach Tyronn Lue’s rotation. The bulk of last season’s rotation is already under contract, and that doesn’t include Boston, who has spent the majority of his first two seasons playing in the G League but now could be in line for more pathways to playing time as an aging roster attempts to develop younger contributors.
With most of the team’s playing time already allocated to returning players, it has led the Clippers in the past to taking on players considered “projects” who can be developed with future seasons in mind. Last season, they held firm in the second round to take forward Moussa Diabate, who impressed while earning all-rookie honors in the G League last season.