The Marcus Camby Trade/Gifting and a Preview of the New-Look Clippers Roster
The Denver Nuggets were so inspired by the Memphis Grizzlies dumping Pao Gasol for salary relief, they decided to one up them and trade Marcus Camby not for a second round draft pick, but the right to swap second round picks in 2010. If they opt not to swap, the Clippers will have gotten Camby for free. Wow. That’s not a trade, that’s a gifting. There are a lot of front office employees swearing right now. And Phil Jackson is just shrugging his shoulders.
On the one hand, he only went to the Clippers in what amounted to a free agent signing for most intents and purposes. On the other hand, you can’t call Camby (2 years removed from Defensive Player of the Year) for a _potential_ second round draft pick an equal exchange of talent, should you feel that’s the primary criterion for evaluating such things.
The Nuggets get some cap flexibility, which means they’ve got something up their sleeve, if not right now, then soon. They also are ditching a large contract for a player with chronic injury problems who’s 34. Before you go jumping all over me, yes, Camby appeared in 70 and 79 games, the last two seasons. The thing is, that’s two of only three seasons he’s played in at least 70 games and he’s been in the league twelve years. 25% of the time, he goes for at least 70 games. More power to him if he can continue to hit 70 games, but there’s a risk management aspect to an older player with a huge contract and a history of injuries.
Still, we’re now at a point where we can start looking at what the Clippers line-up might be, given their high-profile revolving personnel door.
Based on people currently on the roster (not including unsigned free agents, because Elton Brand has reminded us what good a bird in the bush is), we’re probably looking at something a lot like:
PG: Baron Davis, Brevin Knight, Mike Taylor
SG: Cutino Mobley, Eric Gordon
SF: Lil’ Timmy Thomas, Al Thornton
PF: Marcus Camby, Al Thornton, Josh Powell, Tim Thomas
C: Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, DeAndre Jordan
Yes, the Clippers need to get another small forward under contract before too very long. Maybe Quinton Ross or Marcus Williams comes back. Maybe they go outside the organization. A swingman or two wouldn’t hurt, either, since the Clippers are a little small at the shooting guard slot.
When you plug Camby into Elton Brand’s old power slot, you don’t lose anything on defense. You might even gain a little there. Unfortunately, you’re losing 10 -14 points a night, unless Camby has some sort of scoring epiphany in training camp.
A twin towers of Kaman and Camby ought to make driving the lane a dangerous proposition for opponents. Depending on how exactly they want to use Al Thornton, there could be a nice three man rotation at the power forward and center positions with Thornton stepping into the 4. Make no mistake about it: Thornton will get his 30+ minutes each night. The question is just at what position(s)?
The two questions with the Clippers are: 1) where’s the scoring coming from and 2) will this be enough to make a difference in the West?
You know you’re going to get points from Baron Davis and Chris Kaman. Kaman will have an extra burden, scoring on the blocks, too. Mobley’s production has been going down of late, but this is where he’ll get the extra touches to see what’s going left. Small forward, if it swings the Tim Thomas way, will be wildly erratic, Lil’ Timmy being the definition of inconsistent results (though he’s maddeningly capable of hitting for 20 on any given evening). If it swings Thornton, we’ll see how he’s come along. Thornton should grow into it, but it isn’t realistic to expect Maggette –esque scoring, but 16-17 points a game should be doable, depending on spacing. I think you’re looking at a deficit.
Off the bench, you’re looking at Eric Gordon and whoever’s second unit between Thornton and Thomas. While Camby isn’t an altogether incompetent scorer (he hits open jumpers well enough), I’d be loathe to have him and Brevin Knight on the floor at the same time.
Will this be enough to push the Clippers into the play-offs? I doubt it. You don’t really want to bet against Baron Davis going berserk and willing them to a few extra wins (ask the Mavericks about that), but losing Brand, Maggette and Casell and replacing them with Davis, Camby and. . . Eric Gordon? That’s not enough of an upgrade to make a difference in a conference that’s already started an arms race.
Granted, they still have a some open roster spots to round out the team, and maybe they can pull a couple veterans in, but barring that, who would they leap-frog?
Denver? If Nene is ready to be plugged in at center, Denver is deeper (and we don’t know what they’re planning with that cap flexibility, either). Golden State? That’s going to be an interesting series to watch, given the animosity the two teams must now have for each other. The Clippers might be able to shut down penetration enough to make it a jump shooting contest. Houston? Not unless the injury bug hits the Rockets hard (again). Phoenix? I don’t see enough of a drop-off if Nash is still breathing. And remember, Portland is a year older and has Oden back.
The other thing you have to remind yourself is that Camby is likely to miss at least 10 games, and maybe Houston can go on a winning streak with one of their big men out, but I don’t know the Clippers can do the same. Best case scenario for them is to be in the dogfight for the last seed, late in the season. Unless they can move to the Eastern Conference, where they’d be an easy 6 or 7 seed.
They should still wipe the floor with Sacramento, Memphis, The Oklahoma City Thundercats/Carpetbaggers, and a good chunk of the Eastern Conference, if you’re in the mood for middling-to-weak praise.