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Unenthused By Latest Clips Idea

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Indeed, it's already been a rough summer for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Whether they were victims of betrayal by Elton Brand or incompetent mismanagers who failed to keep their own talent at home remains to be seen, and thus we have reserved judgment on that matter while we wait for more information to come to light on Elton Brand's departure.

In the meantime, however, the Clips now stand with their new franchise point guard and plenty of open cap space and without their mainstay power forward and MVP candidate.

Brand is in Philly to stay.  Corey Maggette has moved on to Los Angeles.  The search for another big-time player continues, and the latest bit of news on that front comes from the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell, who suggests that the Clippers may turn from current pursuit Josh Smith to the Bobcats' Emeka Okafor, a restricted free agent in the front-court.  Bonnell points out that the Clips could easily afford to offer Okafor the same sort of big-money deal that Charlotte can, and they may be interested in pairing him with Chris Kaman in the front-court.

For the good of both parties, here's hoping they don't.

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There is something about Okafor's game that lends to the idea that he simply isn't the best fit for the team the Clippers are putting together.  The Clips already have a similar presence in Chris Kaman.  Like Okafor, Kaman is a capable but not dominant scorer, and an excellent rebounder and shot-blocker.  Similarly, Kaman also isn't particularly fleet of foot.  While a team can never have too many good defenders or solid heady players (Okafor would only add to these departments), this Clips unit seems like it will be in need of a player with a bit more explosiveness than the former UConn star can provide.

Baron Davis loves to get up and down the floor, and he specializes in opening up lanes for slashing to teammates to cut to the rim and get easy feeds for dunks and lay-ups.  A front-court of Okafor and Kaman would give the Clips two players who aren't necessarily going to allow the Clips to make the best use of Davis' ability to push the ball -- as well as a front line that isn't a major threat to bust out on the scoring end of the spectrum.  In contrast, a player like Smith has the athleticism to run with Davis and would likely greatly benefit from playing with an uptempo point guard who would give him so much open space to operate both on the blocks and on the perimeter.  

On the other hand, it also bears noting that Los Angeles likely wouldn't be the best place for Okafor either.  His development seems to have hit a plateau as both his per-game and per-40-minute production have remained remarkably constant throughout his first four years in the league; the former at around 14 points and just shy of 11 rebounds, the latter at 15 points and 11.5 boards.  He blocks a couple of shots per game and hits right around 50 percent form the field, all solid numbers.

That sort of production -- along with Okafor's excellent attitude, solid defense and leadership -- is nothing to be ashamed of.  But there still remains that nagging feeling that something is missing.  Okafor is a good scorer but not a dominant one, and his field-goal efficacy around the rim is good but leaves room for improvement, particularly as a big man.  He often looks tentative in the post, and too often last year, he seemed to inexplicably disappear from the Charlotte offense for long stretches.  While he is a very good defender as well, Okafor doesn't often appear to take over games on either end of the court, though he really has the sort of ability and work ethic to do so.  

Moving from a promising franchise that it is still in its infancy to a perennial loser with a team whose style may not fit well with his thus doesn't come off as the best decision for Okafor's progress on the basketball court.   If he sticks around in Charlotte, he'll be be able to work with one of the greatest coaching minds left on the planet in Larry Brown.  Brown could show him how to jump to the next level of greatness defensively and could force him to be a more aggressive offensive player.  Other teams around the league might have an established front-court scoring presence for Okafor to team with rather than a player whose strengths and weaknesses so closely parallel his own.

This isn't to say that Okafor would be a bust in the City of Angels.  The likelihood is that he would be pretty good and would contnue his steady rate of production.  It's how valuable that would be to both this Clips team and Okafor's growth as a player that remains in question  In the long run, for the sake of the Clippers making the most of their new point guard and Emeka Okafor continuing to refine his game, it may well be best if these two entities go separate ways this summer.

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