The Los Angeles Clippers are in need of backcourt depth following the season-ending injury to Chauncey Billups, which makes the team’s pursuit of free agent J.R. Smith crucial. They must find a way to bring him in to fill the void.
The Los Angeles Clippers are one of a handful of teams vying for free-agent guard J.R. Smith, who will be eligible to return to the NBA on Wednesday after his Chinese team’s season concludes, according to a source with knowledge of the team’s thinking. (…)
Like Billups did with recently-signed Kenyon Martin, point guard Chris Paul has taken a lead role in recruiting Smith, according to the source. The two are close from their two seasons as teammates with the Hornets.
Billups was having a terrific season for the Clippers.
He was playing the role of a second guard behind Paul to perfection and seemed more than willing to cede the spotlight to his younger teammate. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, a torn Achilles ended his season and left them with a hole to fill.
Smith averaged 12 points and four rebounds off the bench for the Denver Nuggets last season. He’s shown the ability to excel in several different roles, including the key sixth-man spot. The Clippers would likely be willing to offer him a starting spot in the short term to get a deal done, though.
The Clippers are probably closer to title contention than even they believed was possible heading into the season. They sit in third place in the Western Conference, and no team out West isn’t without worrisome flaws, so they have a chance to make a deep run come playoff time.
But first they must find somebody to fill Billups’ shoes. After Smith the market is soft in terms of guards who can make an immediate impact, which is why there are a handful of teams hoping to land him.
While that will certainly raise the demands from Smith, it’s worth the risk for the Clippers. He could be the piece they need to put them over the top in the conference and should be motivated to perform in his return to the NBA.
The Clippers have a golden opportunity in a weakened conference. They have to do whatever it takes to push themselves to the top, starting with convincing Smith to sign.
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