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Trade Deficit

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As I ponder my own entry in the 'Fix the Clips' contest, I've noticed an interesting phenomenon.  Although the Clippers have intriguing trade assets, and in some cases there are obvious destinations for the assets, conflicting goals or a simple absence of a good trade match has made it very difficult to come up with any reasonable trades.  Maybe it's just a total lack of imagination on my part, but for the moment I'm stumped.

Sam Cassell is in the final year of his contract.  He's a winner.  He's a point guard.  He's a veteran.  All of those things make him highly tradeable.  So why can't I come up with a good trade?

Part of the problem is that the fact that he's in the final year of his contract and the fact that he can actually play tend to cancel each other out - or at any rate, the value does not compound, as one might expect.  Teams looking to make a salary dump would be interested in his contract - but those teams aren't interested in harnessing his playoff experience this May.  Furthermore, the Clippers are in all likelihood NOT interested in taking back contracts in return given their salary cap situation.  Meaning that Sam's salary dump value is almost nil.  You can't have both partners dumping salary in the same trade.

So any trade involving Cassell would seem to hinge on the receiving team wanting the help he can provide.  Given that there are a handful of teams who fancy themselves contenders who need help at the point (Cleveland comes to mind), this is still a possibility.  Prior to the beginning of the season, I thought that Boston was a likely destination (a reunion with KG, an upgrade over Rajon Rondo); but with Rondo playing well and Boston cruising at 27-3, one wonders if Boston wants to do ANYTHING to their current team.  But the biggest problem of course is that neither Boston nor Cleveland nor seemingly anyone else has anything that the Clippers would want.  Still, Cassell to Cleveland for their first round pick (and a traded player exception) might be better than nothing.

Maggette, with an opt out in his contract for next season, is in a situation essentially identical to Cassell's from a trade value standpoint.  He's good.  He's short term, so he can help you now without hurting your cap long term.  He's a lot younger than Cassell.  But his relative youth is essentially irrelevant, since he could be in the final year of his contract.  Any team that trades for him is essentially renting his services for the next 3 to 5 months.  And as in the case of Cassell, the Clippers are highly unlikely to take back Maggette's full salary in a trade.  Still, a playoff hopeful in need of an athletic wing might be interested.  Wings are in less demand than point guards, so it probably narrows the field some.  But wouldn't Corey be a nice fit in Orlando?  Keith Bogans is their starting shooting guard, and Mo Evans is their first forward off the bench.  Maggette would be a major upgrade in both cases.

The other Clippers who are likely to be shopped are Tim Thomas and Cat Mobley.  There's nothing sinister or mysterious here.  Brand, Kaman, Livingston and Thornton are the Clippers least likely to be traded.  And anyone making $2M or less is not worth much discussion on the trade market.  Which leaves Cassell, Maggette, Thomas and Mobley.

In the cases of Thomas and Mobley, the most likely scenario would be a straight salary dump for the Clippers.  Thomas in particular may fit this description.  With Thornton emerging and Brand returning, his minutes figure to decrease significantly next season.  I've never liked Thomas, but I've defended the decision to bring him to LA based on the fact that he does something the Clippers need - he shoots threes.  I'm beginning to rethink that - call it the RFP (Richie Frahm Postulate).  If what you want is a one-dimensional long range shooter, let's pay the NBA minimum for it rather than the full mid level exception.  Of course, Thomas is supposed to be more than just a three point specialist... but is he?  And this season, shooting 33.6% from beyond the arc, he's not really even that (Thornton AND Maggette are shooting essentially as well from three.)

Still, Thomas proved two seasons ago that he can be incredibly valuable to a playoff team who needs his skills.  Is there one out there?  Would they be willing to live with Tim Thomas for two more seasons after this one?  If someone offered a package of expiring contracts for Thomas, the Clippers should jump at it.

A similar, though less compelling argument, exists for Mobley.  The Clippers figure to save more money since Cat is paid more.  But he's also less redundant than Thomas - less redundant, in that he is not redundant at all, being the only real shooting guard on the Clippers current roster.  So while it's not out of the realm of possibility that Cat could be dealt to a contender for expiring contracts, it seems unlikely.