The 2023 NBA Playoffs are officially underway, with organizations being a step closer to the coveted Larry O’Brien Trophy. Unfortunately for the Los Angeles Clippers, that is not the case. They were recently eliminated by the Phoenix Suns in the first round, meaning their 2022-23 season is over. Now, the franchise is likely eyeing the 2023 offseason.
The Clippers finished 44-38 in the regular season and with the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference. This represented a two-win improvement from 2021-22, which was enough to help the organization return to the playoffs.
In the first round of the West playoffs, Los Angeles squared off against Phoenix with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. Despite winning the first game on the road, the Clippers would end up losing the next four. It is worth noting that Paul George missed the entire postseason run while Kawhi Leonard only appeared in the first two games of the series due to injuries.
Now with the attention toward the future, the front office will have big decisions to make. With cap holds, the team is projected to be nearly $100 million over the salary cap. Because of that, the Clippers will need to work around what they can do in free agency.
With that being said, here are three players the Los Angeles Clippers should consider re-signing in 2023 NBA free agency.
Contrary to the other players on this list, Eric Gordon is not a free agent yet. He is entering the final year of the four-year extension he signed with the Houston Rockets in 2019. However, since his $20.9 million contract is not guaranteed for 2023-24, the Clippers could waive him to save a lot of money.
Still, even with the potential release, Los Angeles should consider bringing Gordon back. In 22 games with the team after arriving in a trade, the guard averaged 11 points, 2.1 assists and 1.7 rebounds. He shot 46.3% from the field, 42.3% from the 3-point line and 84.2% from the charity stripe.
Although on a small sample size, Gordon was the second-best 3-point shooter on the roster. He only trailed Luke Kennard, who is now with the Memphis Grizzlies, at 44.7%.
At age 34, Gordon could be after a championship in his career. Should Los Angeles keep its core, it could give him a good chance of achieving it in the next few years. That means he could take a more friendly deal to continue with the team and play for a contender in the final years of his career.
Another player who joined the Clippers at the trade deadline was Mason Plumlee. The big man emerged as a potential trade asset after the Charlotte Hornets were struggling but he was having a career year.
Following his arrival in LA, Plumlee put up 7.5 points, 6.9 boards and 1.7 assists. He made 72.7% of his shots and 77.2% of his free throws.
In the playoffs, his presence increased as he even played in crunch time ahead of Ivica Zubac. Plumlee averaged 8.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists while hitting 87.5% of his field goals and shooting 92.9% from the free-throw line.
As of now, the Clippers only have Zubac as a true center under contract for 2023-24. Marcus Morris and Robert Covington could be small-ball centers but neither played very much in the postseason.
Because of that, Los Angeles should have Plumlee in its plans in the offseason. He is coming off the best season of his career and could be a long-term important piece for the Clippers.
Perhaps the main free agent for the Clippers this summer is Russell Westbrook. The 2017 MVP signed a rest-of-the-season contract with the franchise after agreeing to a buyout with the Utah Jazz in February.
In 21 regular-season games with the Clippers, the guard recorded 15.8 points, 7.6 assists and 4.9 rebounds plus 1.1 steals. His efficiency took a considerable jump as his shooting splits were 48.9% from the field and 35.6% from long range, both career bests.
Against the Suns in the playoffs, Westbrook ended up taking a larger role following Leonard’s injury. The UCLA product registered 23.6 points, 7.6 boards and 7.4 assists. He made 41% of his field goals, 35.7% of his 3-pointers and 88% of his free throws.
He notably had two 30-point performances in the playoffs, including leading both teams in scoring in Game 4 with 37 points on 17-for-29 shooting.
Even though Westbrook’s best days are behind him, he showed this postseason that he can still be a key part of a contender. Should Leonard and George return at a high level, Westbrook could be a valuable third option for the team’s offense.
All things considered, Russell Westbrook should be the Clippers’ priority among all their own free agents. If he comes back on a friendly deal, Los Angeles should remain a contender for the 2023-24 season.
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