According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the Raptors are potential suitors for Clippers backup PG Eric Bledsoe. The Raptors have been trying to trade Andrea Bargnani for a long time, and could be looking to trade DeMar DeRozan in a Bledsoe deal.
The Raptors have been openly shopping forward Andrea Bargnani for months and would try, sources say, to include Bargnani in any deal for Bledsoe, which wouldn't necessarily dissuade the Clippers, given their longstanding need for a big man who can stretch the floor. But sources added that Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan is the Raptor most likely to tempt the Clippers, which falls in line with L.A.'s interest in Arron Afflalo in their Bledsoe talks with Orlando.
Bargnani is interesting, and he could be a great fit with the Clippers, but he's definitely not worth an asset like Eric Bledsoe. More on him later.
First, look at DeRozan, and wonder who the hell Stein's sources are that say he would tempt the Clippers. He's a 6'7" SG/SF. Seems like he fits the mold that the Clippers are looking for, right? Wrong. He shoots a pathetic 28.3% from deep. That's the only stat needed. That's it. He can't shoot, and he can't fit on the wing for the Clippers. All the other stuff is actually decent- DeMar scores well overall (18 a game on 44.5% shooting), and he grab almost 4 boards a game. He even has the tools to be a good defender with his size, length, speed, and athleticism.
Overall, he might be a decent prospect to bring in on the wings. If his shooting improves with practice and playing alongside Chris Paul, he could be very good for the Clippers long-term. Unfortunately, he's not paid like a prospect. Starting with next season, DeRozan is owed $9.5M per for the next four years. That's just not doable for a player who isn't a good fit.
Revisiting Bargnani, he could be a perfect fit on the Clippers. He's overall not a very good starting NBA big man, but he would come off of the bench behind DeAndre Jordan in this scenario. Andrea is essentially the polar opposite of DJ- he doesn't block shots, he doesn't rebound, he doesn't finish athletically around the rim.
What Bargnani can do is shoot the basketball well, especially for a 7-footer. While he's been plagued by injuries in the last two seasons, his overall career percentage from deep is just over 36%. In 2009, he shot almost 41% from three point range. Unfortunately, his percentages the last two seasons have dropped to 30% and 31%, respectively. However, if he's healthy in Los Angeles, and he's playing off the bench as a role player, he should get much better looks and convert at a much better percentage (the Arron Afflalo argument).
Still, it's hard to justify trading Eric Bledsoe for Bargnani. The Clippers' main need is starting wings, and Bargs simply isn't one- he's a backup big. LAC has to retain Bledsoe until they can use him to fill that void at SG/SF. Previously, I had pondered a Caron Butler/Bargnani swap, which makes sense to me personally. If the Clippers can use some combination of a Bledsoe trade, their MLE, and Matt Barnes' FA rights to find their starters at the wing, Bargnani does fill a need for the Clippers- a backup big who can score and stretch the floor for Blake Griffin.
The trick with this is turning Eric Bledsoe into a starting wing without Caron Butler's contract balancing salaries. Fortunately, Toronto's roster contains a possibility for solving this dilemma. The Raptors selected Terrence Ross with the 8th pick in last year's draft. Ross is a 6'6" SG who has already proven himself a much more capable shooter than DeRozan, making 33.2% of his 196 attempts from deep last season. It's certainly less than ideal, as the Clippers would like a more reliable shooter at the off guard position, but many young players struggle with their shots from the NBA-range three, and it's certainly not a stretch to suggest that he will improve, especially playing alongside Chris Paul.
I think that a Bledsoe and Butler for Ross and Bargnani trade makes a lot of sense for both teams. The Clippers get a backup big who can stretch the floor and score the basketball, as well as a young SG who could start and play 16-20 minutes next season (with Jamal Crawford still getting most of the SG minutes as the 6th man). Ross, who is only 22, could be the SG of the future for Los Angeles (though they would have to use the MLE on a Kyle Korver type SF this summer to add shooting). The Raptors, on the other hand, get their PG of the future in Eric Bledsoe, and save serious money by trading Bargnani's contract (2 years/ $23.25M remaining). This cap space could help the Raptors to lure a free agent next summer.
Still, the Clippers don't do very well in this trade. It's essentially two swaps: Bledsoe for Ross, and Butler for Bargnani, and the Raptors probably win both. Unless Toronto wants to give the Clippers Jonas Valenciunas (they don't and they shouldn't), there's not really another asset on the roster to balance the trade. Which means that Toronto would have to give the Clippers picks.
On the draft picks front, the Raptors own all of their own first rounders starting with the 2014 draft, so they could potentially trade a protected pick to the Clippers. I could see this pick turning out like the Minnesota pick from the Sam Cassell deal, which the Clippers eventually packaged with other assets to get Chris Paul. Salary-wise, adding a player with three more rookie scale years in Ross and a future pick who would have four years on the rookie scale would be very helpful in the Clippers' quest to avoid the repeater tax. Bargnani doesn't help on the tax front, but he does provide the Clippers with a huge expiring deal next summer.
Now, some might ask why the Raptors want Eric Bledsoe in the first place. Right now, they're starting Kyle Lowry at PG. Lowry's contract for next season, however, only has $1M guaranteed, meaning that if the Raports waive him and pick up Bledsoe's final year on the rookie scale, they could save some cash next season (though they would have to give him an extension next summer). The deadline for the Raptors to waive Lowry and only pay him $1M is July 15th, so expect a resolution to the Raptors-Clippers rumors by then: either Toronto will have Bledsoe, and release Lowry, or they'll keep Lowry, thus eliminating the need for Bledsoe.