The Clippers made their first conference finals in franchise history.
But their impressive postseason made their offseason only more precarious.
The NBA’s top 2021 free agent, Kawhi Leonard got hurt in the playoffs. Questions swirled about his satisfaction with the team’s medical staff, an issue that drove him from the Spurs.
Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum thrived – driving up their potential price tags in free agency. However, L.A. held full Bird Rights on neither.
Serge Ibaka struggled amid lingering injury then ultimately underwent surgery. That was a frustrating way to send Ibaka into his player-option decision.
Yet, the Clippers put out every fire.
Leonard, Jackson and Batum re-signed. Jackson took just two years of the Early Bird Exception ($21,599,760), not the full four he could have pushed for. Batum settled for just the Non Bird Exception (1+1, $6,498,559) rather than demanding the mid-level exception. Ibaka opted in. Though it’s questionable whether Ibaka be worth a $9,720,900 salary given his health concerns, the free-spending Clippers are better off with him on the roster.
Of course, Leonard’s health looms largest. He somewhat surprisingly signed a 3+1 contract rather than the 1+1 deal that would have offered a higher financial upside. Glass half full: He and Paul George are now under team control through 2024. Glass half empty: Leonard went this route because he believes his knee injury comprises his ability to contribute long-term.