The NBA Trade Deadline is only just a few days away, and already the dominoes are starting fall with Orlando and Detroit completing a deal as well as Memphis and Miami and Charlotte. For more on those deals and how they could potentially impact the Clippers see Robert Flom's piece today. As we get into the hysteria that is NBA Trade Rumors and Sources, let's go through a quick prime on what are the Clippers' assets and needs are to complete any possible trade.
The Clippers don't have many chips on the table to push all in for any type of "win now" trade for this season. They don't have many picks, and most of their players aren't very attractive, except as expiring contracts. Here's the stockpile:
- Jamal Crawford: Having been on the trading block for seemingly the past couple of seasons, it's not surprising to hear Jamal's name in any rumors in the next couple of days. He's on the last year of his contract at $5,675,000, and that gives some value as an expiring. As for play, Jamal is going to Jamal — primarily get you buckets off the bench with a little bit of shot creation. The past 7 or 8 games Jamal has really upped his play after a frigid start to the season, does that raise his value at all?
- Lance Stephenson: Lance Lance Lance. No one really knows what to make of him as he is seemingly the most bipolar, and polarizing, player on the roster. Some games he looks great, some he looks like a child having a tantrum. There's been enough talk about Lance on this blog, but in terms of trade value, his mainly comes from his contract: $9,000,000 this year with a player option for $9,405,000 next year; effectively making it an expiring contract. Sure maybe some team views him as a buy low candidate to improve, especially since he' still young, but I wouldn't count on it.
- C.J. Wilcox/Branden Dawson/etc: The Clippers have some minimum/rookie players that could be thrown into deals to make salaries match. I'm not sure either of these two really carry any value to teams besides filler.
- 2019/2021 1st round pick: The Clippers technically can't trade a first round pick until 2021 because of the restrictions attached to their 1st rounder owed to Milwaukee. Likely, the pick will be conveyed next year, meaning the Clippers could trade a 1st rounder in 2019. If they structure the language properly, they have a 2019 1st rounder to trade.
- Brooklyn 2nd Round Pick Swap: If the Clippers finish outside of the Top-5 in the NBA this season, which seems likely with Blake Griffin and Austin Rivers sidelined for a while, then they will have the right to swap 2nd round picks with the Brooklyn Nets. This is kinda a big deal. The Nets are bad and will likely be in the top-5 picks, meaning a very high 2nd rounder in the 31-35 range. You can get some good players in that range (see DeAndre Jordan, Draymond Green, etc). This could be viewed close to the same value as a regular Clipper 1st round pick, especially since you do not have the same salary requirements.
Blake Griffin: I don't think the Clippers are going to trade Blake this season for a lot of reasons, the possibility of Kevin Durant being the largest. But there's been a lot of reports and if a Godfather offer came in, then I think it would be at least considered, maybe. This isn't to say the Clippers should trade Blake at all.
- Starting Small Forward: For what seems like the umpteenth time in the Chris Paul era, the Clippers are looking for a starting caliber small forward. Luc Mbah a Moute is a defensive wizard, but there are some skeptical about his impact in the playoffs. For those skeptics, the game recently against Boston only reinforced their point. Luc was totally ignored by the Celtics on offense, which led to Doc yanking him quickly in order to insert Jamal as a more offensive threat. Truthfully, with the Clippers meager assets, it's unlikely they land a starting SF in a trade, but maybe something crazy happens.
- 3rd Big: Cole Aldrich has far exceeded my expectations this season, but Cole Aldrich shouldn't be the 3rd big on a championship contender. If the Clippers can upgrade to a better option, they should try and do it. I'm not sure Paul Pierce fits that 3rd big option right now either.
- Backup Point Guard: Pablo has been fine as a sneaky passer and kleptomaniac that refuses to shoot, but the Clippers could use a legitimate backup PG, especially with Austin out for some time. Chris Paul is playing a huge number of minutes, as well as ranking highest in time of possession with Blake out. If the Clippers aren't careful and find a reliable backup, they could burn Paul out by the time the playoffs come around.
One Possible Trade
So where does that leave the Clippers? Without many options to be honest. Outside of an unlikely monster deal like DeAndre and Lance for Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza and Terrence Jones, the Clippers are going to have to get creative. Here's one possible deal I have toyed around with:
Clippers Receive: Channing Frye, C.J. Watson, Chase Budinger
Orlando Receives: Lance Stephenson and Branden Dawson
Indiana Receives: Jamal Crawford
Orlando, if their Tobias Harris deal is any sign, gets to clear two long term deals off of their books in Frye and Watson (players that are basically the same positions as the ones received from Detroit in Jennings and Ilyasova), and get cap relief in two expiring contracts. Indiana trades an expiring for an expiring, except one with a little more fire power off then bench, especially if Monta is slumping. Clippers fill two bench holes in backup PG and 3rd big that can space, and take a flier on another potential SF. The Brooklyn pick probably needs to go to IND or ORL, but I'm not sure. If IND needs more incentive, there's another version of this trade where they get Lance instead of Jamal, with the chance to try and get Indiana Lance back. But this is the general framework.
I think the Clippers will make a move with the deadline coming, but with limited assets, they'll have to be creative.