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Clippers could use some help; here are some suggestions

How the Clippers can improve in the off-season with free agents or trades

Doc Rivers eyed the reporters lobbing questions about his need to improve the Clippers and issued a challenge.

"If anybody has any ways of doing it," the coach and president of basketball operations said Monday at his team's practice facility, "I'd love to know."

No problem. Always here to help.

It was pretty apparent after the Clippers zoomed into the off-season like a cabdriver after a five-cent tip that some significant changes are in order.

Yes, it would be great if unrestricted free agent DeAndre Jordan agreed to sign a maximum five-year contract, preserving a core threesome with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin that might be as good as any in the NBA.

But that's not going to be nearly enough to nudge the Clippers into the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history given their current shortcomings. They need a pure backup point guard, a younger perimeter defender and a defense-oriented backup big man.

It's going to take some creative maneuvering considering the Clippers' bloated payroll and limited financial resources. Rivers should keep a corner table at Spago Beverly Hills booked for most of July to conduct his free-agent wooing (try the 2010 Chateau Petrus at $8,000 a bottle, which might just close the deal).

Here are several free-agent targets and trade proposals that could keep the Clippers playing into June 2016:

Free-agent targets

Paul Pierce: This would require Pierce declining his $5.5-million player option with the Washington Wizards and deciding he wants to give it one more go, at age 38, with the coach who guided him to his only NBA title.

The Clippers tried to add the veteran small forward last summer but committed their mid-level exception to Spencer Hawes. Assuming Jordan re-signs with the Clippers, they could offer Pierce only a so-called mini-midlevel exception of $3.37 million for up to three years. It would be more than worth it for a player who would add steely resolve and clutch shooting.

DeMarre Carroll: The unrestricted forward might be a tough get considering he has earned a big raise from his $2.5-million salary this season with the fast-rising Atlanta Hawks. But Carroll's all-around effort and improved shooting (39.5% accuracy this season on three-pointers) would make him a valuable pickup.

Arron Afflalo: The former UCLA standout would have to decline his player option for $7.75 million with Portland and take a steep discount, though it would make some sense considering his minutes dwindled in the playoffs with the Trail Blazers even after Wesley Matthews' season-ending injury opened a spot in the starting lineup.

Tayshaun Prince: This would be a win-win considering the unrestricted forward wants to finish his career with a contending team and the Clippers could use his defensive toughness and galvanizing locker-room presence. Because he's no longer a game-changer at 35, the Compton native probably would consider accepting a veteran's minimum contract to come home.

Aaron Brooks: The unrestricted point guard's stock took a hit when he averaged only 4.5 points a game in the playoffs for the Chicago Bulls, down from 12 in the regular season. Of course, that could help the Clippers lure him on the cheap if they were willing to accept his defensive deficiencies as a trade-off for his explosive scoring potential.

Mike Dunleavy: Chicago's desire to keep Jimmy Butler could price them out of keeping Dunleavy, a versatile forward whose sharpshooting will be coveted by a slew of teams.

Mo Williams: The unrestricted point guard was not happy being Paul's backup three years ago but probably would accept that role after having spent last season in the NBA hinterlands of Minnesota and Charlotte. The former All-Star showed two years ago how valuable he could be as a reserve with Portland.

Luc Mbah a Moute: The unrestricted forward formerly known as Richard would be a prince of a pickup, and not just because he is actually a prince in his native Cameroon. He's a great defender, respected teammate and is coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 9.9 points a game.

Alexis Ajinca: The 7-footer proved to be better — and cheaper — than Omer Asik for the New Orleans Pelicans and would provide the Clippers with a strong defensive presence who can also score in bunches. At 27, there is still plenty of upside in the unrestricted center who made less than $1 million last season.

Trade proposals

Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and a conditional 2019 first-round draft pick for Denver's Wilson Chandler and Randy Foye: The Clippers would get the upgrade they have been seeking at small forward plus a solid backup to Paul, allowing Austin Rivers to move over to shooting guard with Crawford's departure. The Nuggets would get a valuable draft pick plus an explosive scorer in Crawford and a capable if aging replacement for Chandler in Barnes.

Crawford, Barnes and a first-round draft pick for Chicago's Taj Gibson and Tony Snell: The Clippers would get the defense-minded reserve big man they need in Gibson and a hard-nosed forward in Snell. Crawford would give Chicago much-needed scoring off the bench and the gritty Barnes would be a good stylistic fit with the Bulls to go with the throw-in draft pick.

Twitter: @latbbolch

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