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Waiting for a Deal

To a large extent, Neil Olshey brought it on himself. Obviously, he traded away a lottery pick, selling it to the fan base as an important move to create additional cap space to improve the team. Then he made the mistake of saying that his goal was to get a deal done by the end of June. So when draft day came and went without a deal in place, many in Clips Nation were distraught.

But isn't it more than a little premature to be getting particularly upset over the absence of a deal? The implication from some is that somehow the Clippers have botched a no-brainer trade for Andre Iguodala. Olshey should have offered more than Kaman and Gomes! He should have done whatever it takes to get the deal done!

I see two problems with that reasoning:

  1. We don't know what was or was not offered to Philadelphia. I feel confident in saying that the base trade of Iguodala for Kaman has been on the table for a while. Beyond that - what else has been discussed, what else has been offered, what the Sixers have said - is far from public knowledge. There's plenty of misinformation out there. I certainly don't know what is true. Do you?
  2. Iguodala is still a 76er as of today, which means he's still in play. I feel pretty confident that he will be traded before next season starts (whenever that turns out to be), and all indications are that the Clippers are still in the conversation. If Olshey refused to give in on this or that pot sweetener that might or might not have gotten the deal done by draft day, is that really a bad thing? The Clippers could end up with a better deal in July than they could make in June. In the end, with a new CBA that could conceivably alter things significantly, not to mention a pending sale in Philadelphia, it's not the least bit surprising that Rod Thorn and Ed Stefanski decided to hold off on any deal for Iggy.

Of course that new CBA complicates things for everybody, and it raises the (false) urgency for us poor fans. We're staring down the barrel of a work stoppage - in less than 48 hours there is likely to be a lockout, and who knows how long that will last? Trade news, indeed basketball news of any kind, will disappear entirely and indefinitely with a lockout. So draft day felt like the last chance, the end of days before N-B-Armageddon.

Interestingly, dissatisfaction with Olshey centers on two mostly unrelated things, that somehow got conflated together on draft day, although neither is more than tangentially related the other nor indeed to June 23rd.

Citizens are understandably upset about the Baron Davis trade, in which the Clippers sent Davis and this year's lottery pick to the Cavaliers in exchange for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. The lottery pick in that deal was the price for getting rid of Davis' contract, which brought the Clippers $5.4M in cap savings this summer and another $6M next summer. I thought that price was too high, especially considering that in my opinion Davis is the better player and the better fit, but it was the price. I don't like the trade, didn't at the time, but I understand it, and nothing has changed about that trade since it was made in February. Nothing. The Clippers traded their lottery pick without protections - the fact that it wound up being the first overall pick didn't change a thing. I've said this before and I'll say it again - the odds are pretty good that some player in this draft drafted 8th or beyond will be better than Kyrie Irving, so the opportunity to play "the Clippers could have had Player X in the 2011 draft" at some future date was always there and will always be there. In my opinion, a bad trade. But I've moved on.

(I have to say, if you want to get me riled about a trading deadline trade, talk to me about Marcus Camby for Travis Outlaw and Steve Blake in February 2010. Talk about a stupid deal. At least there's some justification beyond cold cash for the Baron to Cleveland trade.)

The second sin Olshey has committed is the sin of omission in not consummating a trade or some other deal to bring in a small forward. But tying all of this to draft day is misguided.

Yes, the window on trades closed temporarily on draft day, not because it was draft day per se but because it was June 23rd, seven days before a likely lockout. With veteran players allowed seven days to report for physicals during the off-season, any trades done after last Thursday would have no guarantee of being completed before a potential lockout - so there won't be any, since no one wants their trade in indefinite limbo. But if you were dreaming of a Kaman for Iguodala trade, what did that have to do with the Baron trade? And what did it have to do with the draft? And for that matter, what did the draft itself have to do with the Baron trade? Sure, we actually heard Kyrie Irving's name called, but so what? We knew the Clippers traded away their lottery pick back in February. Nothing changed when the name was called.

For his part, Olshey has been pretty consistent throughout all of this. Much has been made of his comments in an Eric Pincus report back in May that the Clippers intended "to make something happen before the end of June."

"Absolutely, that's my goal," said Olshey.  "We want to be aggressive or active.  We're already on the phones.  We'll see people in New Jersey and Chicago.  The sooner we can add the pieces we need to ensure that we're a playoff team next year, the better off we're going to be."

But what people forget is that in the very next paragraph of that same article, Olshey stated very clearly that the team was looking for the right opportunity:

"If we can't generate the right opportunity or it doesn't come to us, then we'll wait for free agency and the offseason."

When draft day came and went, Olshey was very straightforward in his comments. His intent is to make an impact deal; no impact deals were available. There's no point in making a smaller deal when a core of young players and good assets is in place, and the last thing they want to do is make the wrong deal.

The Iguodala trade is enticing, which I assume is a big part of the reason that emotions are so high around here. But at the end of the day, it may come down to factors more or less outside the front office's control. When rumors began swirling that Monta Ellis had been offered to the Sixers, the reaction here was that the Clippers' offer of Kaman could not compete with an offer of a younger, more dynamic Ellis, and a Clippers' official I spoke to more or less concurred with that conclusion. In the end, if the Sixers new ownership wants to make a move to clean up their balance sheet, then Kaman's combination of basketball value and an expiring deal becomes very compelling. If they want to make a basketball driven deal, then Ellis is a better offer (and they will no doubt have many other offers as well). And there's little the Clippers could include to sweeten the pot enough to close that gap - Eric Bledsoe isn't going to do it, and the Clippers aren't going to include the Minnesota pick, nor should they.

But at this point, nothing is going to get done until there is a new collective bargaining agreement in place. So we wait. And depending on what happens when the players and owners meet in Dallas on Thursday, we could be waiting a long time.