Though none of the announcements is unexpected, the three Los Angeles Clippers with player options for the upcoming season–Darren Collison, Glen Davis and Danny Granger–will opt out in search of longer term security in free agency:
Collison’s option was just under $2 million while Granger and Davis were set to make about $1.3 million and $1.2 million, respectively. As a result, the Clippers’ shed about $4.5 million in cap holds to get down to $71.7 million. Doc Rivers and co. still find themselves well over the salary cap and close to the projected $77 million tax line.
"One official said Granger likes the “winning culture” the Clippers now have under Coach Doc Rivers, and that’s why Granger would like to return to the team if financial terms can be agreed upon when the free-agency periods begin on July 1."
Nothing has surfaced concerning efforts to retain Davis, and he’ll likely have suitors in other playoff contenders.
Collison, who held his own starting 18 games in Chris Paul’s absence–averaging 13.3 points and 6.5 assists in 32.6 minutes per game–will likely command the most money on the open market. Based on a recent radio interview with Power 106, he plans on going wherever that money trail leads despite the Clippers being his hometown team. When asked about coming back to the Clippers for unfinished business, Collison was completely frank in his answer:
"I don’t think so. That issue is taken care of–not all the way–but I don’t think that has a lot to do with my decision. I think at the end of the day it’s a basketball decision and it’s a decision not only for me, but for my family. Whatever happened last year in the playoffs doesn’t have anything to do with me coming into next year. It’s a brand new year, a fresh new start for the Clippers. We have an opportunity to do someting special if I’m back. Whatever decision I do make is going to be a basketball decision."
He added that “it has to make sense for me to go that route,” when addressing a potential return to the Clippers. Los Angeles can offer him either a 20 percent raise on last year’s salary as a non-Bird free agent, which amounts to $2.28 million, or all or part of the $5.3 million mid-level exception.
While backup point guard is a position of need for the Clippers, they also have massive holes behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the frontcourt rotation. Those MLE dollars will likely go to patching up the interior unless Rivers addresses that situation with the No. 28 pick in next Tuesday’s NBA Draft.
Clips Nation’s Steve Perrin came up with another solution that could satisfy both sides:
"Collison could, if he wants to remain with the Clippers, sign another short term deal (say $4.7M for two years with the second year being once again at his option), opt out again next summer, and then re-sign with the Clippers as an Early Bird free agent. The maximum salary for an Early Bird free agent is the NBA average salary, which runs a bit higher than the mid-level exception (for instance in 2013 the MLE was $5M while the average was a bit more than $5.325M)."
It’s essentially a repeat of last year when he signed a two-year deal with the second year as a player option. The caveat here is that it hinges on Rivers and Steve Ballmer making good on a verbal agreement to get Collison paid next offseason.
With injury and age concerns hovering over J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford, Collison represents an important insurance policy for his ability to play both guard positions. The question is whether the former UCLA Bruin thinks he should be starting in the NBA and getting paid like it.
All salary information taken from Spotrac.com.