Austin Rivers appears to be officially on the move to the Los Angeles Clippers, but the final format of the deal makes it all feel much less appealing -- and it wasn't all that appealing in the first place.
In order to make outgoing and incoming salaries balance in the trade, the Clippers had to send out more than just two veteran's minimum players, which wouldn't quite match Rivers' $2.4M contract plus the variance allowed by the league. That "more" outgoing salary came in the form of second year pro Reggie Bullock, the 25th pick in the 2013 draft, who was shipped to Phoenix as part of the deal.
Whether he had more trade value than this is debatable, but the simple fact is that this transaction represents the Clippers completely giving up on Bullock. After all, the Pelicans just gave Rivers away -- and now he has cost the Clippers a guy whose praises management was singing this summer in Las Vegas, a guy who was supposedly in the mix for the starting small forward job just three months ago.
You could probably make a pretty solid argument that Dahntay Jones will be just as effective for the Clippers as Bullock ever was (it remains to be seen of course), but that doesn't alleviate the pain of acknowledging that one of the few first round picks the Clippers have had in recent years amounted to nothing for the team. Sure, from a historical standpoint most players taken as low as 25 don't stick in the NBA very long -- but some do, and one day it would be nice to find one of them. Or worse yet, imagine that Bullock blossoms with the Suns and comes back to haunt the Clippers. It's worth noting that Phoenix now has two first round picks of the Clippers from the last five years and they gave up very little to get them. Funny -- usually you don't really want to help your division rivals out.
Back to the Rivers trade: the final price tag for the Clippers appears to be Chris Douglas-Roberts and a second round pick to the Celtics along with Bullock to the Suns. All of this for a former lottery pick that looks like a bust who will be a free agent this summer.
It's also worth noting that Doc Rivers' plan of "small forward by committee" on the team this season is now completely in ruins. In training camp Rivers implied that any one of four players -- Matt Barnes, Bullock, Douglas-Roberts and Joe Ingles -- could wind up anywhere in the rotation, starting or playing backup. Ingles was gone before opening night and now CDR and Bullock -- both of whom got their chance to show what they could do -- are gone as well. And as of this moment, Matt Barnes' backup is either the 34 year old Jones (on a 10 day contract) or Hedo Turkoglu, who did a decent job in the role earlier in the season, but has fallen out of the rotation recently.
There's one additional curious note in Marc Stein's story at ESPN.com:
ESPN.com has learned the Clippers will waive veteran guard Jordan Farmar to create the roster room needed for the deal. The Boston Herald reported Thursday via Twitter that the Celtics plan to release Douglas-Roberts.
The Clippers, by virtue of waiving Farmar, now are widely expected to pursue Nate Robinson, who has agreed to terms on a buyout with the Celtics after Boston acquired him from Denver earlier in the week. The Celtics requested waivers on Robinson on Thursday.
I can't really make sense of this. If the Clippers are sending out two players in CDR and Bullock and receiving just Rivers back, they certainly don't need to waive Farmar "to create the roster room needed for the deal" -- that roster room is built into the deal. And in fact, there's already an extra spot to accommodate Nate Robinson, if that is indeed the plan.
Farmar has indeed been very disappointing, but to simply waive him? If that is the case, then surely there is someone else, in addition to Robinson, on Doc's radar. Otherwise, it is completely unnecessary to waive Farmar.
If Rivers has given up on Farmar -- who got his first DNP of the season Wednesday night in Portland -- it would be a major and astonishingly early admission of a mistake. Farmar has certainly not been good -- but the outlook would completely change if his shots were simply falling. Has Doc decided that this is not just an ordinary slump and that he was completely wrong to think that Farmar was a viable NBA backup in the first place? For that matter, are Rivers or Robinson really viable NBA backups at this point, or are the Clippers destined to roll with Jamal Crawford at the point, as they did in Portland?
We've dealt extensively with the father-son aspect of this trade -- I'll wait until Austin makes NBA history in his first appearance to dwell more on that. For now, we'll just focus on the re-shaping of the roster.
Which, as the Robinson angle above would indicate, is ongoing. The Clippers seem to be getting fleeced in every trade lately -- but the good news is that they seem to be the marquee destination for veteran free agents. Last season they picked up Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis and Danny Granger on the cheap -- the players destined to help the team will probably arrive in similar fashion, with Robinson likely leading the way in a few days.