With the NBA trade deadline approaching, serious discussions are undoubtedly taking place, along with rumors of trades blowing around the media constantly.
The Clippers, once the topic of speculation regarding a trade for Boston’s Kevin Garnett, are one of the teams with valuable assets – especially one Eric Bledsoe – who experts speculate could be prompted to part with said assets if the right deal should come along.
But should they?
With the original roster now almost completely healthy the Clippers seem to be right back where they left off before Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Jamal Crawford all missed games on their most recent road trip. Indeed, two consecutive wins over quality opponents (the Knicks and Sixers) by double digits has the team humming along nicely.
But is there a deal out there that might tempt the Clippers management to think twice, like landing Kevin Garnett, Josh Smith, Kevin Love, (Dwight Howard!) or some other name that hasn’t surfaced yet?
To answer that question, we must first look at where the Clippers are most in need and go from there. Here are the areas which could use help and who could potentially fill them:
Who could the Clippers potentially trade?
Obviously, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan (Blake’s best friend), and Jamal Crawford are completely untouchable. Right below them, Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill are probably going to remain Clippers until their imminent retirement in 1-2 years. Matt Barnes, a bargain at practically league minimum in salary, isn’t going anywhere. That leaves, Eric Bledsoe, Lamar Odom, Ryan Hollins, Willie Green, Rony Turiaf, and Caron Butler as potential trade chips. The Clippers also have a wealth of 1st round draft picks (though unprotected) all the way through 2017, with 2nd round picks gone (protected picks this year to the Pistons, next year to San Antonio via the Pelicans) through 2016. Because their 1st round picks are unprotected, they will likely be low due to the Clippers expected top four or five finish, but nevertheless, they are valuable.
Obviously, Eric Bledsoe and their draft picks are the jewels any potential trade partner covets, and the Clippers would be foolish to entertain giving them up for anyone who wouldn’t make them instant favorites to upend San Antonio and/or Oklahoma City in a Western Conference Finals match up. The ability to jettison Caron Butler’s large contract (he is in the final year of an 8 million per year contract) may also tempt the team to part with a draft pick as a sweetener. Odom’s time in Dallas would probably discourage any team not playing at Staples Center to bring him on and the rest of the names, quite frankly, just don’t excite anyone. That said, crazier things have happened and until the final days before the deadline who knows what desperate teams will throw out there.
Need #1: Perimeter scoring and 3-point defense.
The Clippers do not have a Thabo Sefolosha type player who can defend the three, rebound, and take on an opponent’s best scorer. All season long, the Clippers have been susceptible to 3-pointers, giving up a ton of them (40-plus percent) and being caught out of position on quick perimeter passes which leave shooters wide open. On the other side, outside of Jamal Crawford, the Clippers don’t have a reliable 3-point shooter of their own if Chauncey Billups continues to be hampered by injuries. Caron Butler can be streaky and Willy Green – forget it. Possible players the Clippers could pursue might be Iman Shumpert, and Jared Dudley’s name has been floating around as well. Shumpert is a playmaking combo guard who is quite versatile and is a definite upgrade over Willie Green. The caveat is that the Clippers – bad 3-point defense and all – are still a top 5 defensive unit, meaning any trade would have only be a tweaking in one area. As for scoring, watching Shaggy P (Nick Young) light them up for almost 30 points in Philadelphia, the Clippers may want someone similar to add outside scoring punch to the starting unit. J.J. Redick comes to mind, though Orlando seems to be backing off their willingness to part with him.
Need #2: Another big man.
This isn’t so much a need as much as a want. The Kevin Garnett scenario, if true, meant that the Clippers were looking to pair another quality/All-star big body alongside Blake Griffin to bolster their chances during the playoffs, especially in anticipation of slower, more methodical contests. A big defender to take the pressure off Jordan and Blake – especially with regard to fouls – would be quite valuable. The problem is that the Clippers have a potential player on the roster now who may yet be that player in Ryan Hollins. Hollins has shown a willingness to mix things up inside, while possessing a nice outside jump shot to keep defenses honest. He has even shown flashes of what-could-be on pick and rolls and does one vital skill very well – free throw shooting. His form is very sound and he makes them over 70% of the time. Denver, Sacramento, and Utah seem to offer the most talent by the inch, with the Utah Jazz carrying four near seven footers (Derrick Favors, Al Jefferson, Enes Kanter, and Brian Butch), Denver perhaps parting with JaVale McGee, or Sacramento finally shipping out the problematic DeMarcus Cousins. Of all the possibilities, Utah would seem to show the most promise, as a package of Bledsoe, Butler, and a draft pick could give them the necessary pieces to make it out of the first round of the playoffs, while at the same time building for a future where Bledsoe could ascend to the helm at point. Carlos Boozer and Pau Gasol are intriguing players that seem to always be making the trade rumor rounds, but both are owed a ton of money though next season and it’s doubtful the Clippers would take on those kinds of salaries.
Final Verdict: the Clippers should stand pat and do nothing.
With Chris Paul and the rest of the squad healthy coming up on a nice long All-star rest, the Clippers look primed to make a serious run at a number one or two playoff seeding. They play 17 of their final 28 games at home (one of which is an away game against the Lakers at Staples) and face a slew of beatable teams along the way. With all the chemistry the team has developed since training camp, their ability to hang tough in the face of a plague’s worth of injuries, and a favorable schedule the rest of the way, unless a deal of unimaginable wealth comes knocking, the Clippers should unplug their phones, leave the e-mails unread, and lock their doors tight.
Tags: Blake Griffin Caron Butler Chauncey Billups Chris Paul DeAndre Jordan Eric Bledsoe Grant Hill Injury Jamal Crawford LA Clippers Lamar Odom Lob City Los Angeles Los Angeles Clippers Los Angeles Clippers Matt Barnes NBA Nba Trade Deadline Nba Trade Rumor Nba Trade Rumors Oklahoma City Thunder Ronny Turiaf San Antonio Spurs Trade Rumors Utah Jazz Vinny Del Negro