Now that the trade deadline has come and gone and the dust is beginning to settle, let's take look back, moving on to the minor trades that actually did happen for the Clippers.
It's more than a little strange to think about how long the Los Angeles Clippers have had a glaring need for a quality big man to come off of their bench. The problem was already obvious when they signed Byron Mullens to a two year contract in mid-July. The problem was still there when they inexplicably used their 14th roster spot to sign Antawn Jamison in late August.
Doc Rivers seemed to be looking for a stretch-4 to play in a rotation with his power bigs, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The only problem was that while Mullens and Jamison were ostensibly stretchy, they were thoroughly un-four-like. After brief experiments giving each rotation minutes (105 of Mullens' 167 minutes and essentially all of the non-garbage ones came in November while 136 of Jamison's 248 came in December), Mullens and Jamison eventually settled in at the very end of Rivers' bench.
But the need didn't disappear. As far back as November 3, a mere three games into the season, I discussed the issue and speculated on the ways in which the Clippers might address it. My message then was that it would take some time, and that milestones like the early January guarantee date and the February 20th trade deadline were going to be key to the process.
The Clippers tried Stephen Jackson as a stretch-4 on an unguaranteed contract but that didn't work out. They then brought in Hedo Turkoglu on a guaranteed deal, and while he is now a part of the front court rotation, it isn't worth much to say that he's been better than the other available options. When Griffin exits the game for a rest at the end of the first quarter and you're left wondering whether it will be Turkoglu or Ryan Hollins or Jared Dudley who comes on for him, that's not what we might call "an embarrassment of riches."
And now the trade deadline has come and gone and the situation is still unresolved. Mullens and Jamison are gone in deadline day dollar dump deals, so at least Rivers was man enough to own up to his mistakes. But getting those guys off the books does little more than save Donald Sterling a little money and free up roster spots. So what's more important -- the money or the roster spots?
At first glance, it might have appeared that the Clippers were trying to get under the luxury tax with these deals, sending out actual contracts without bringing contracts back.
(For the record, Jamison went to the Hawks for Cenk Akyol, a 2005 second rounder who has remained in Europe his entire career while Mullens went to Philadelphia along with a second round pick in exchange for a highly protected second round pick. In both cases, the Clippers probably sent along money to cover the salaries of the players in order to get the deal done, but those details are not yet available.)
Getting rid of salary without bringing any back gets the Clippers further under the luxury tax, which saves DTS an extra dollar fifty for every dollar they cut, but that's not what this is about. Remember that the Clippers are limited this season not only by finite roster spots, but also buy a hard cap. Th money they saved trading Jamison and Mullens is going to rejoin the roster in short order, in the form of veteran free agents, probably players being bought out by their existing teams. Already Glen Davis of Orlando, who played for Doc Rivers four years in Boston, has been bought out and will almost certainly be taking one of the extra roster spots in L.A. Danny Granger, traded from Indiana to Philadelphia today, is another likely buyout candidate and a high value target for the Clippers.
In the end, the Clippers may have known that if a great deal didn't come their way in the form of a trade, they could simply wait a few days and go shopping in the buyout bin. They didn't pull the trigger on potential deals -- other than to jettison some dead weight and free up roster spots. In the end, Doc Rivers may have cleaned up his biggest messes and solved his roster issues quite nicely.