Summer agenda: What will Clippers do with their free-agent stars?

Bobby Marks
The Vertical
The Clippers can’t afford to keep J.J. Redick, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. (AP)

The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a former 20-year executive with the Nets, looks at the possible offseason plans and roster details for every team in the league.

Previous teams in the series: Nets and Suns | Timberwolves and 76ers | Magic and Kings | Hornets and Pelicans | Knicks and Nuggets | Lakers and Heat | Mavericks and Pistons | Pacers and Blazers | Hawks and Thunder | Bulls and Grizzlies

L.A. CLIPPERS

Offseason focus

Retool not rebuild

The sentiment when a high-payroll playoff team fails to advance past the second round in consecutive seasons is to blow up the roster.

That strategy would be sound for a team with a strong foundation beyond its core players.

Unfortunately for the Clippers, they do not have young players on the cusp of starting.

The franchise now faces a summer of uncertainty with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick set to hit free agency. Because of the team’s win-now approach, draft picks have been either traded or they failed to develop, and now the Clippers are backed into a corner with depleted assets.

The easy solution would be for the Clippers to spend their way out of their current problems.

They could re-sign their own free agents, return a team that won 51 games and once again hope they improve next season.

That direction would likely cost $150 million in salary with an additional $130 million in luxury tax.

But tearing down the roster would be a slow and painful process.

Los Angeles’ best move would be to be selective in whom they re-sign and retool the roster instead of a massive rebuild.

Free agency: need vs. luxury

The Clippers have eight free agents this summer not including Paul Pierce, who is set to retire.

Because of the Clippers’ cap situation, bringing back every free agent is unlikely.

Re-signing starters Paul, Griffin, Redick and Luc Mbah a Moute would cost a combined $85 million annually in cap hits, which is possible but financially irresponsible.

The Clippers should focus on Paul and Griffin.

Paul will be 32 years old and getting a $200 million-plus contract, and Griffin has been oft-injured the past few seasons, failing to stay healthy in the playoffs the past two years.

But they are integral if the Clippers want to stay competitive and if they lost both players they would only have $18 million to replace them.

Redick and Mbah a Moute are luxuries the team can’t afford to keep.

With $11.8 million and $14.2 million tied up in Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford, respectively, bringing back Redick at a likely price tag of $16 million annually isn’t an option.

The Redick contract alone would cost the Clippers an additional $70 million in luxury tax if Paul and Griffin are signed to max contracts.

Mbah a Moute could be a cap casualty because of the contract given to Wesley Johnson last summer.

Johnson will earn $5,881,260 next season, played a combined 10 minutes during the playoffs and does not have a role on the team.

The Mbah a Moute salary-cap hit would have tax ramifications of around $30 million, not including salary.

If the Clippers can find a taker for Johnson’s contract then Mbah a Moute should return.

The Clippers should work to keep Chris Paul a part of their future. (AP)

Don’t mirror ‘Melo contract

Griffin and Paul are max-salary candidates, but as New York learned with Carmelo Anthony, what is added into a contract besides salary could have a lasting effect.

Paul and Griffin are eligible for no-trade clauses and trade bonuses.

While the trade bonus does not immediately impact trade value because the bonus is not allowed to exceed the maximum salary, Anthony’s no-trade clause has really restricted the Knicks’ ability to reshape their roster.

The Clippers need to avoid the same trap.

Rebuilding the bench

The Clippers’ revolving cast of reserves will continue this summer with the likely departure of free agents Raymond Felton, Brandon Bass, Mo Speights and Alan Anderson.

If the team is committed to having three max contracts (Paul, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan), it has to have success with its mid-level exception and draft picks to have some bench stability. This is where the team needs to improve the most.

Summer cap breakdown

Guaranteed                                        2017-18                                  Insider info
DeAndre Jordan                             $22,642,350               Trade Bonus/extension eligible
Blake Griffin                                   $21,373,952                        Player option June 28
Jamal Crawford                              $14,246,988
Austin Rivers                                  $11,825,000
Wes Johnson                                   $5,881,260
Brice Johnson                                  $1,331,160
Diamond Stone                               $1,312,611

FA cap hold                                       2017-18                                    FA status
Chris Paul                                       $34,303,241                      Bird/projected to opt out
J.J. Redick                                      $14,017,250                                      Bird
Luc Mbah a Moute                          $2,863,990                  Early Bird/projected to opt out
Marreese Speights                          $1,471,382                                   Non-Bird
Raymond Felton                              $1,471,382                                   Non-Bird
Brandon Bass                                  $1,471,382                                   Non-Bird
Alan Anderson                                 $1,471,382                                   Non-Bird

Dead cap space                              2017-218
Paul Pierce                                      $1,096,080
Carlos Delfino                                  $650,000
Jordan Farmar                                  $510,922
Miroslav Raduljica                            $252,043

Salary table                                        2017
Guaranteed salaries                     $78,613,321
Dead money                                  $2,509,045
Free-agent cap holds                   $57,070,009
Salaries: cap                                $138,726,600
Salaries: tax                                  $81,122,366
Salary cap                                   $101,000,000
Luxury tax                                   $121,000,000
Cap space                            None ($37,192,375 over)
Tax room                                       $39,877,634

Projected cap space

The Clippers do not have cap space and will be a repeater tax team if Griffin and Paul return.

Los Angeles has the $5.2 million tax exception but using part or all of it will come at a significant cost because of the tax.

The maximum cap space the Clippers can create is $37 million, but that projection includes all of their free agents departing.

June draft picks

The Clippers will send Toronto their first-round pick.

The pick was originally sent to Milwaukee as part of the Jared Dudley cap-clearing trade in 2014.

Milwaukee then sent the pick to Toronto in exchange for Greivis Vasquez.

The Clippers’ second-round pick was sent to Boston as part of a trade for Rivers in 2015.

Future draft picks

The Clippers will send Boston a 2019 or 2020 first-round pick, protected Nos. 1-14.

If no first-rounder in either year is conveyed, the Clippers will send the Celtics a second-round pick in 2022.

The Bucks need to be patient with Jabari Parker. (AP)

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Offseason focus

Learn from the playoffs

Whether losing in the first round or winning the NBA championship, playoff teams cannot rest on their laurels.

The young core and roster remain, and there is no reason why the Bucks should not be able to improve upon their first-round playoff exit next season.

If the Bucks get complacent, an up-and-coming team could land in the lottery.

The Greg Monroe option

Greg Monroe can exercise his $17.8 million option for next season on June 22.

After a disappointing 2015-16 season, Monroe has developed into one of the top sixth men in the league and played a key role in Milwaukee’s resurgence this year.

He is two years into a max contract, but opting out does not create cap space for the Bucks.

The Bucks still would be right at the salary cap, and although flexibility would increase regarding the luxury tax and Tony Snell’s free agency, Milwaukee would not be in a position to replace Monroe.

The best outcome for the Bucks would be Monroe sticking around to provide stability at center.

Slow approach with Jabari Parker

Jabari Parker resembled an All-Star in the first half of the 2016-17 season.

The 22-year-old has developed into a core piece for the Bucks, but two left ACL knee surgeries in the past three years should have Milwaukee taking a patient approach when it comes to his return to the court and an extension.

Because Parker is entering his fourth season, he is extension-eligible.

But the best approach for the Bucks would be to table contract talks until the summer of 2018, when Parker has fully regained his health and reclaimed his role on the team.

Summer cap breakdown

Guaranteed                                    2017-18                               Insider info
Giannis Antetokounmpo             $22,471,910
Greg Monroe                                $17,884,176                    Player option June 22
Khris Middleton                           $14,100,000
John Henson                               $11,422,536
Mirza Teletovic                            $10,500,000
Matthew Dellavedova                  $9,607,500
Jabari Parker                                 $6,782,392                  Rookie extension window
Spencer Hawes                             $6,021,175                      Player option June 26
Thon Maker                                   $2,684,160
Rashad Vaughn                            $1,889,040
Malcolm Brogdon                         $1,312,611

Non/partial                                     2017-18          
Gary Payton II                               $1,312,611

FA cap hold                                    2017-18                                  FA status
Tony Snell                                     $5,920,818                            Restricted Bird
Michael Beasley                            $1,471,382                                Early Bird
Jason Terry                                    $1,471,382                                 Non-Bird

First-round cap hold                     2017-18
No. 17                                           $2,135,040

Dead cap space                           2017-218
Larry Sanders                               $1,865,546

Salary table                                     2017
Guaranteed salaries                $104,675,500
Dead money                               $1,865,546
Non-guaranteed                         $1,312,611
Tax variance                                 $158,771
Free-agent cap holds               $10,998,622
Salaries: cap                             $118,852,279
Salaries: tax                             $108,012,428
Salary cap                                $101,000,000
Luxury tax                                $121,000,000
Cap space                        None ($17,852,279 over)
Tax room                                    $12,987,572

Projected cap space

The team currently does not have cap space.

The Bucks would need a combination of Monroe opting out of his contract and also some trades in order to create space.

The Bucks will have the $8.4 million and $3.2 million exceptions, but will need to pay attention to the luxury tax if they want to retain restricted free agent Tony Snell.

June draft picks

Milwaukee has its own first-round pick.

The Bucks also have their second-round pick at No. 48.

Future draft picks

The Bucks own their future first-round picks.

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