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Five Centers the LA Clippers Could Add in Free Agency

The LA Clippers are in need of an upgrade down low. Here's who they could look to add in free agency this offseason.

The LA Clippers were eliminated from the NBA Playoffs surprisingly early, losing to the Denver Nuggets in the second round. After going up 3-1 in Game 4, LA dropped three contests in a row.

One of the main reasons for that was LA's lack of depth at the center position. Ivica Zubac did his best to defend Nikola Jokic and fared mostly okay, but Montrezl Harrell seriously struggled to keep him contained. On top of that, Harrell had trouble producing on offense outside of the pick-and-roll.

Harrell will become a free agent this offseason, and it's hard to say how likely it is that he returns to the franchise. Marcus Morris, JaMychal Green and Patrick Patterson could all test the market as well, which would leave the Clippers with sizable holes at the four and five. 

In the event that happens, LA will want to have a few bigs in mind that could help move the needle as they look to contend for the title in 2021.

Here are a few players that could be a good fit.

Aron Baynes

Aron Baynes is probably known best by Clippers fans for being the victim of a few Blake Griffin posters in 2015, but the 33-year-old has vastly improved his game since then. 

Baynes just wrapped up a career-year with the Phoenix Suns, posting averages of 11.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in roughly 22 minutes per game. Additionally, Baynes connected on a career-high 35% of his 4.0 three-point attempts per game.

He's a solid rebounder and a big enough body to be able to play against the league's more physical centers, but he's nowhere near as good a defender as Zubac. 

As a backup, though, he's one of the best options available — especially for the price. 

Serge Ibaka

Even though he's not the shot-blocker and defender that he used to be (though he's still efficient on that end of the floor), Serge Ibaka has more than made up for it with his offense.

Ibaka's 39% clip from three-point range this season is among the best of his career, and it was good enough for him to rank in the 83rd percentile among bigs, per Cleaning the Glass. He's still a terrific mid-range shooter as well, ranking in the 77th percentile there.

One of the most important factors in bringing him to Los Angeles, though, may be his relationship with Kawhi Leonard. The two won a championship together with the Toronto Raptors in 2019, and when Ibaka was asked about their friendship in March, he said Leonard was still "his guy."

Given the chemistry concerns regarding the Clippers right now, adding someone like Ibaka might not be such a bad idea. 

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Nerlens Noel

If defense is what the Clippers are searching for off the bench, they should look no further than Nerlens Noel. The 26-year-old just finished up an impressive campaign with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and he's not someone that should be overlooked in free agency.

Relative to his position, Noel ranks in the 98th percentile in steal percentage and 94th in block percentage, per Cleaning the Glass. And while he's only an average rebounder, he's proven capable of grabbing them on both ends of the floor and extending possessions.

Noel doesn't provide much on offense outside of scoring in the paint, but fortunately, he's a fantastic finisher. On the year, he made close to 85% of his attempts at the rim and made 68% of his field goal attempts overall. 

For a backup big, it's hard to find somebody as efficient on both ends of the floor as Noel.

Jakob Poeltl

Jakob Poeltl is both the youngest and the tallest player on our list, coming in at 24 years old and seven feet tall. Unfortunately, he could command a larger salary than the LA Clippers are willing to pay because of it. That said, the former top-10 pick is certainly worth a look.

Like Noel, Poeltl is a strong defender and more traditional big. Where he really excels, though, is on the offensive glass. A little over a third of Poeltl's 5.7 rebounds per game this season were offensive, which makes him a great option to play in lineups full of perimeter shooters. Not only can he extend possessions, but he's good at finding the open man, as well.

On offense, Poeltl takes a majority of his shots at the rim — but that doesn't mean he can't step out for a jumper every now and then. You won't see him shooting three-pointers, but he can step outside of the paint and hit from the mid-range when need be.

It may be hard to draw Poeltl away from the San Antonio Spurs, but the prospect of winning an NBA title can strengthen any team's argument.

Tristan Thompson

Easily the best rebounder on our list, Tristan Thompson is one of the most obvious free agent fits for this LA Clippers team. The 29-year-old big has never hauled in less than 6.5 boards per game, and plenty of them come on the offensive end of the floor.

He doesn't add much as a scorer, as he's never been the most efficient big once he gets inside the paint, but Thompson has seriously upped his passing game in the last few years. His 2.1 assists per game in 2020 are a career-high, and he likely would have recorded more had he been surrounded by better shooters.

With options like Landry Shamet and Lou Williams coming off the bench for LA, Thompson could help create some easy scoring opportunities for the second unit without being too ball-dominant himself. 

With 65 career playoff starts under his belt, Thompson is more than capable of stepping into the starting lineup as well — something that could come in handy if Zubac finds himself in foul trouble or a difficult matchup. 

Thompson and the Cleveland Cavaliers seem primed for a breakup this offseason, and his fit with LA makes too much sense.