When the Los Angeles Clippers signed Sasha Vujacic to a 10 day contract on Monday something didn't quite add up. The Clippers have a dearth of quality bigs on the team -- Ryan Hollins is pretty terrible, while Byron Mullens and Antawn Jamison are worse. The first big off the bench at this point is a former small forward who hadn't played in the NBA for about a year when the Clippers signed him.
So why sign another wing? The Clippers have an issue on the wing in terms of quality, but 10 day contracts are almost by definition about quantity, not quality. Matt Barnes and Jared Dudley and Reggie Bullock and Willie Green may not be setting the world on fire, but there's not much reason to believe that Sasha Vujacic is an upgrade.
In the preview for Monday night's game in Denver I had this to say about the Vujacic signing:
[T]he Clippers are signing former Laker Sasha Vujacic to a 10 day contract. Doc Rivers has been obsessed with shooting since he arrived in L.A. but even given that, this one seems strange. Even with Hedo Turkoglu playing well, the Clippers are much thinner in the front court than on the wings. It's just a 10 day deal, so no bridges burned yet, but there does not appear to be any long term advantage in signing Sasha, unless Doc has a trade in the works.
Unless Doc has a trade in the works.
According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Clippers are "itchy" to make a trade, with Jared Dudley being the piece they'd prefer to move.
Trade rumble: Clippers "itchy" to make a deal and Jared Dudley, with PT harder to come by and logjam at wing spots, is unexpectedly in play— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 5, 2014
Dudley only just arrived from PHX via J.J. Redick sign-and-trade in summer but hearing now he could be on move before Feb. 20 trade buzzer— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 5, 2014
Personal view is it's too soon for such changes but Doc Rivers clearly still in search of supporting cast he wants given Hedo/Sasha signings— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 5, 2014
The trade deadline is two weeks from tomorrow -- a few days before a second 10 day contract for Vujacic would run out and the Clippers would be forced to make a decision about Sasha for the rest of the season.
The Clippers clearly have a logjam on the wing that is only exacerbated by Vujacic and even Hedo Turkoglu who has played the three most of his career after all. Of the possible choices, I've always advocated for shopping Dudley first; back in November when sentiment for trading Jamal Crawford to try to solve the front court problems was increasing, and again in December at the start of trade season, Dudley was always at the top of my own 'expendable' list.
It's not really rocket science as to why. He makes $4.25M and as such could bring something in return, and he hasn't ever really clicked with the Clippers. Watching Dudley on a daily basis one is struck by his almost complete lack of an NBA-level skill set. He's not as quick or athletic as NBA wings are supposed to be, he's not big enough to play inside. He's a classic tweener, but because he works hard, is a great locker room presence, and can hit open three pointers, he's made a spot for himself in the league. Still, when I look at him, I see more "deep bench, locker room guy" than I do "NBA starter on a contending team." The fact that he's hitting just 36% of his threes instead of his career average 40% is certainly not helping my impression of him.
Coach Doc Rivers replaced Dudley with Matt Barnes in the starting lineup nine games ago and Dudley's playing time has plummeted since, from 29 minutes per game to just 19. In many situations Rivers likes to close games with J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford on the wings, while rookie Reggie Bullock and veteran Willie Green, and now Turkoglu and Vujacic, are options as well. Given all of that, Dudley does indeed seem expendable.
The question is whether he has any value to a trade partner.
Dudley's contract runs for two more seasons (he has an ETO in 2015 that he will not exercise) so he's not going to save his new team any money any time soon. A playoff team in need of small forward help might and a veteran presence could have a use for him -- but who might that be? The Bobcats? (Dud for Bis?) Grizzlies? Timberwolves? Phoenix might be the best fit, but the Suns can't reacquire Dudley this season after trading him to the Clippers.
In the end, I'm not surprised that the Clippers might be shopping Dudley -- it's exactly what I would be doing. But whether they can get anything of value for him is another question. I would be loathe to trade Crawford as I've said all along, but if Barnes can get more return, then he's an option as a trade chip also. And in any case, the Clippers may have to include Bullock, the only young asset of any value they have, in order to get something worthwhile in return.