All weekend, I've been texting Larson Ishii and sifting through my mentions on twitter, talking to people about possible scenarios for the Clippers' off-season post-Jordan. The only reason that I haven't written about it yet is because there's simply too much floating around, and while something has to happen, any particular scenario is a long shot. It's like there were 100 different routes, all 1% likely, which is kind of hard to cover.
However, now Marc Stein has given us an indication of the direction that the Clippers could be taking: sending Jamal Crawford to Clevelend for Brendan Haywood, or, more accurately, Brendan Haywood's contract.
Stein reports that "given the complexity of the Joe Johnson talks, sources say the Cavs looking into the prospect of a simpler deal headlined by Crawford and Haywood."
On the Clippers side of the deal, they get Haywood's $10,522,500 contract, which is fully unguaranteed until August 1st, making it a valuable tool for teams looking to save money long-term or get under the tax now.
Cutting Haywood isn't an option for the Clippers. Assuming an outgoing package of Crawford, Lester Hudson, and Jordan Hamilton (who are both on non-guaranteed deals), the Clippers would end up at 68.8 million in salary after cutting Haywood, which is barely at the level of the cap, and their roster would include Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Lance Stephenson, J.J. Redick, Paul Pierce, C.J. Wilcox, Austin Rivers, and 5 minimum-salary players. They also could use the tiny room MLE after using all of their cap space. Essentially, they can generate room, but it would be marginal and they already can sign minimum deals and use the remainder of their MLE, which is barely less than the room MLE.
The real goal with Haywood's contract is to flip him. With Haywood, the five guaranteed players (Griffin, Paul, Stephenson, Redick, and Wilcox), Paul Pierce's pending contract (we'll still pencil him in at the mMLE contract he agreed to, even though that could change), Austin Rivers' cap hold, and the last four minimum players, the Clippers are at $78,419,501 in total salary, which leaves them under the tax line. As long as the team is under the tax line after the trade, they can take back Haywood's salary plus $5,000,000 in any trade.
It's hard to say exactly how much the Clippers can take back in a trade until we know for sure what the tax line will be set at, but by doing their transactions in the proper order they could potentially take back $15.5 million in salary.
Without Pierce, the Clippers are at just under $76 million in salary and cap holds. Replacing Haywood with a $15.5 million contract puts them just under the tax line, meaning the trade would be allowed, and then the Clippers can use their MLE to exceed the tax and sign Paul Pierce.
The most intriguing idea, however, is to work a Haywood deal into a three-way trade which includes a Paul Pierce sign-and-trade. It's unlikely that the Clippers will actually bring back a $15.5 million player for Haywood, but as long as they are sending him out, they can bring that much total salary back. So, if the Clippers trade out Haywood to team X for a player making $8 million, and include in the deal Pierce in a sign-and-trade from Washington to the Clippers for a trade exception (or possibly a second round pick from the Clippers or team X), the salary figure now looks like this: $75.897 million, with room to use the full MLE (now that Pierce isn't taking a majority of it) and still avoid being taxpayers, leaving plenty of flexibility for future trades or potential buyout players mid-season. Even with a $10 million player in place of that $8 million player, the trade would work and the Clippers would still remain under the apron after using the full MLE.
It's hard to deal in specifics until we know the exact amount of the salary cap, luxury tax line, and apron once the moratorium is lifted, but if this trade goes through the Clippers have the potential to add a player via trade, get the Pierce deal into a sign-and-trade, and sign a player (or two) with the full MLE.
Some potential targets for the Clippers when they flip Haywood could be Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Nene, Pekovic, and maybe even David Lee, who would just fit in a Haywood trade.