On Sunday, I put together a competition for our readers: come up with the best Clippers trade idea, and we'll analyze the best suggestions. This is the first in a series we'll be doing, including "Who should the Clippers sign?", which will be coming soon. But for now, it's time to dive in to some of the best suggestions we received. The effort was great across the board, but the results ranged from trades that were entirely unrealistic to trades that would be awful for the Clippers. Larson Ishii and I narrowed it down to the four best: trade packages based around Marvin Williams, Taj Gibson, and Markieff Morris, as well as the possibilities in helping the Miami Heat save on their tax bill.
In this post, I'll break down the Williams and Miami scenarios, and in a companion piece, Larson will talk about Gibson and Morris.
Citizen yolos came up with what was probably the best original idea in the thread, when he proposed a Jamal Crawford-Marvin Williams swap. It might seem underwhelming at first, but that probably just means it's realistic after everyone has been rumbling for unrealistic targets for weeks. Marvin probably isn't necessary if the Clippers can get Darrell Arthur or Josh Smith, but he's comparable to those guys as a 3/4 tweener. If LAC strikes out on luring the remaining backup PF candidates for the league minimum, Marvin could fit well as a defensive-minded player with a decent shooting touch.
He's shot 36% from deep each of the last two seasons, and is entering the second year of a two-year, $14 million contract he signed with Charlotte last summer. Unfortunately, the Clippers would not have his Bird Rights next summer, but it's not a stretch to imagine that the 120% raise (the max allowed with Early Bird Rights) would be enough to retain him. The 29-year-old has been a disappointment since being picked #2 overall in the 2005 draft, but he's still a solid rotation-level player, if not the superstar that the Hawks had hoped they were drafting.
Williams is a limited player, but he brings defensive versatility at both the 3 and the 4, as well as a great option in small-ball lineups. He's not third-big caliber, seeing as he can't play C under any circumstances, which would leave the Clippers trotting out Blake Griffin or Cole Aldrich at the 5 when Jordan comes out (the same dilemma that Arthur and Smith bring). He has played a lot of SF minutes in his career, but especially in recent seasons he's found his niche at PF. Last year, he played 83% of his minutes at PF and 16% at C, according to basketball reference.
For Williams' one-year, $7,000,000 salary, the Clippers would only need to send out Jamal Crawford, allowing them to keep CJ Wilcox to develop or use in a later trade. From the Hornets' perspective, while Marvin hasn't been mentioned in many trade talks, the team just drafted (and turned down a lucrative Celtics trade package) Frank Kaminsky, and already has Nic Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, Al Jefferson, and Spencer Hawes at the 3, 4, and 5 positions. Meanwhile, they don't really have a SG, with Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin sharing time at PG. Crawford could slide in nicely as the backup 2-guard (assuming Batum and MKG start alongside each other), although his fit with Lin could be questionable. Charlotte was a lottery team last year, but they seem to be making a push for playoff contention, and Crawford can certainly help them there.
Overall, it's not a great trade for the Clippers, but it's a solid one that fills a need. I wouldn't pull the trigger yet--but if, two weeks from now, no enticing offers have emerged and available bigs in free agency have taken other offers, it would be worth another look.
The potential Miami trade is a little bit more complicated, with more moving parts. The Heat were mentioned by citizens jonjon22 and Larson Ishii, but the packages can get quite complex. Miami is looking to either cut down on, or eliminate, their luxury tax bill, with the names Chris Andersen and Mario Chalmers coming up. Josh McRoberts could also be available.
The issue here is that the Clippers can't send Jamal Crawford back to Miami--it negates the point of the trade for the Heat. They want to shed money, meaning the Clippers need to find a way to take back a package while sending no salary back. One oft-discussed way to do this would be a trade for Brendan Haywood's contract, which is fully non-guaranteed until August 1st. If J.R. Smith bolts from Cleveland, Crawford is a targeted replacement, and Haywood's contract is exactly what Miami needs in return for some of the guys they're looking to dump. In order to get Haywood, the Clippers would need to trade all four of their expendable pieces (Crawford, Wilcox, Hudson, and Hamilton), which could be a problem given Lester Hudson's contract situation. If Hudson wasn't waived yesterday, his contract is now guaranteed, making him less appealing in a trade. If he was waived, the Clippers can't put together enough outgoing salary to bring in Haywood's contract without including another free agent (Dahntay Jones, Hedo Turkoglu, etc) in a S&T. Any player given such a deal would have to be given a three-year contract, but it can be for the minimum and the final two season can be non-guaranteed.
The reason why two separate trades (one to get Haywood, one flipping him to Miami) is ideal is because salary matching works as a percentage of outgoing salary. By putting together all four players listed above, the Clippers can bring back about $11.81 million. Haywood's $10.5 million fits into that. Then, by sending out Haywood, the Clippers can bring back $13.225 million. However, if Hudson's situation makes it impossible for the Clippers to complete two separate trades, they can always orchestrate a single three-team deal by taking back a lower salary number than they would in separate consecutive deals.
By sending out Crawford, Wilcox, and Hamilton, the Clippers can bring back $9.9 million in salary in a three-team trade that sends the Clippers players to Cleveland and Haywood's contract to Miami. This would make landing both McRoberts and Andersen impossible, but the Clippers could still pursue either of the two big men along with Mario Chalmers. Chalmers brings two rings' worth of experience as well as solid NBA point guard skills, giving the Clippers valuable depth on an expiring deal. He is the third point guard option the Clippers need and would probably find himself in a smaller role than he's ever had before. McRoberts and Andersen are both options as a third big. Andersen is of course famous for his bizarre tattoos and haircuts, as well as his "birdman" stunt on the court. He blocks shots at a high rate but doesn't have much range or versatility offensively and would only be a stopgap as a 37-year-old on an expiring deal.
McRoberts, on the other hand, would be an eerie reminder of the recently-traded Spencer Hawes, as a stretch big who is a versatile passer. He only played 17 games last season, which is worrisome, but his career 35% from deep and 4 assists per 36 are valuable. At 28 years old, he has two years left on his contract at $5.5 and $5.8 million before a $6 million player option.
The other way to orchestrate landing one of the Heat big men along with Crawford is by finding an alternate third team to Cleveland. If one of the many teams left with cap space can be persuaded to take on Crawford's expiring deal, either because he fits well as a reserve scorer and high-character veteran for their youth players, or because his paycheck is worth taking on CJ Wilcox (and other potential sweetener from Miami), then they can facilitate a trade to land the Clippers the players they need. Instead of receiving a large, non-guaranteed contract to cut like Cleveland can give them, Miami would instead take back the rights to some long-forgotten international pick (the Clippers own the rights to Serhiy Lishchuk, the 49th overall pick in 2004) as the Clippers' players were absorbed into the third team's cap room.
I would love to see the name Serhiy Lishchuk in some Woj tweet as a part of a Clippers trade this summer. I don't know why, but it would just make my day.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to our conversation on potential trade targets. Keep the discussion going!