As of now, the LA Clippers have rounded out their roster with 14 guaranteed contracts and a two-way deal (second-round pick Moussa Diabaté). That open roster spot is a fascinating area to examine because as we navigate the offseason, the Clippers find themselves with one glaring hole: center backup.
There are a few free-agent centers left in the open market that the Clippers might be interested in, and with the team holding an opening, they may be eyeing them to fill the void created by Isaiah Hartenstein’s departure.
While there’s also Moses Brown, who the Clippers brought in this offseason on a 10-piece deal, there’s not really a major reason to discuss him at the moment since he’s doing already part of the team, at least in the sense of an invitation to camp. Instead, we’ll take a look at some of the unsigned players that the Clippers could potentially still be interested in.
1.) Hassan Whiteside
The 33-year-old is coming off a season for the Utah Jazz in which he averaged 8.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in just 17.9 minutes per game. Whiteside was the primary replacement for world center Rudy Gobert. With Gobert leaving in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, that could open up a starting spot for Whiteside with the Jazz, but if he opted for the “ring hunt,” he would be a good option for the Clippers.
The downside with Whiteside is that he can only play drop coverage as a pick-and-roll defender, which sometimes limits some of his value. Either way, it’s hard to find better options that can fulfill the role of a vault as well as it can and do so without really rocking the boat. Teams have been better off with Whiteside on the ground rather than off in three of the last four seasons.
2.) Cody Zeller
Last season was the worst of Zeller’s career as he averaged just 5.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in 13.1 minutes per game for the Portland Trail Blazers, but he also didn’t only played 27 games. Zeller spent the first eight years of his career with the Charlotte Hornets before signing as a free agent with Portland last August. Zeller was waived by Portland in February.
The good thing with Zeller is that he can play in a switch-heavy scheme, but he has real availability issues as he has only played 215 games in the last five seasons. Zeller turns 30 in early October and was a useful player for a few years in his prime. He wouldn’t be the worst option, but he’s expected to prove he’s healthy after undergoing surgery for a fractured patella in his right knee at the end of January.
3.) Dwight Howard
Speaking of veteran centers, it might not get much more “veteran” than Howard. The center averaged 6.2 points and 5.9 rebounds last season for the Los Angeles Lakers, playing in 60 total games while starting 27 of them. Howard turns 37 in December, so there may not be much meat left on the bone when it comes to his playing career, but he can still bounce back to a moderately useful level.
Like Whiteside, Howard can only really play in a drop cover system and sometimes has serious mobility issues due to the plethora of back issues he faced during his future Hall of Fame career. . It wouldn’t be a terrible risk for the Clippers to take because there will be nights they don’t need his services, but the reality of the usefulness of the basketball he left in him is a real question they will have to face. with.
4.) Tristan Thompson
Next on our hodgepodge of veteran centers to watch is Thompson. He averaged 6.0 points and 5.1 rebounds last season in time between three teams – Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls. It’s the worst marks of his 11-year career and definitely feels like rock bottom when it comes to the impact he can have on a basketball court.
Maybe Thompson just wasn’t motivated last season since he wasn’t playing for a contender, and maybe reuniting him with his former coach in Tyronn Lue might just rekindle something inside. of Thompson. He is still one of the best offensive rebounders in NBA history. Either way, Thompson would fit even if what he provides is nowhere near the level it was even a few years ago.
5.) Luka Garza
If you’re looking on the young side for backup centers, Garza should catch your eye. After all, he’ll be 24 at the end of December and finished his rookie year with the Detroit Pistons last season. Garza averaged 5.8 points and 3.1 rebounds in 12.2 minutes per game last season, but he started five games, averaging 11.4 points and 7.4 rebounds in those competitions.
Garza represents a swing similar to what the Clippers faced Isaiah Hartenstein last season, but with less success in the league. Garza averaged just 6.5 points and 3.8 rebounds in four Summer League games with the Trail Blazers, but he still wouldn’t be a bad option for a potential invite to a camp where he would have the chance to win the job at Hartenstein last season. . Maybe a battle with Moses Brown, maybe?
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