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It's NBA Trade Deadline Day: What in the World are the Clippers up to?

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It sounds like a crazy day is coming.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

So, it's trade deadline day.  We've talked about a variety of rumors over the course of the last week--notable names include Rudy Gay, Marco Belinelli, Ryan Anderson, and Channing Frye.  Belinelli's name has disappeared from talks recently, but the other three are still very much in play.

Rudy Gay is the ideal target for the Clippers--he plays small forward, and they need a small forward more than anything.  Even though getting a PF that can play while Blake is out (and then come off of the bench moving forward) is a priority, small forward has to be the bigger one, and they aren't going to get a better player than Gay at this stage in the game.  The Clippers had interest in Rudy before, but it didn't seem like dumping Gay's contract was worth it to Sacramento, and the Clippers don't have much to offer beyond expiring deals.  However, recent reports indicate that Gay is attempting to force his way out of his Northern Californian Hellhole, so maybe at the very end, the Clippers can snag him.  (Update: it now appears that instead of punting the season, the Kings are determined to go for it on fourth-and-long--instead of trading Gay's contract, they're looking into acquiring Pau Gasol for a playoff run.)

Ryan Anderson, on the other hand, is a strange target for LAC.  He's an impending free agent, and all signs point towards him getting a MASSIVE contract in the summer--the kind of money that you don't give someone to be a third big.  If you trade for Ryan Anderson, it's either as a rental while you deal with Blake Griffin's injuries (not the worst thing in the world) or you're giving him the $20 million a year contract that he'll demand next summer and flipping Blake.  I'm a much bigger fan of the former than the latter, but either way it seems like a team that intends to keep him will offer more than the Clippers.

Channing Frye is the most likely target to land--there's a rumored deal where the Clippers send Lance Stephenson and C.J. Wilcox to the Orlando Magic for the veteran big man.  Frye has a strong pedigree as a shooter--39% for his career on over 2000 attempts, with no drop-off this season or last.  He's not needed in Orlando with their current youth movement, and he's needed in Los Angeles given Griffin's extended absence.  The two years remaining on his contract are unappealing, but the Clippers are unlikely to have cap space anyway, so instead of losing flexibility it actually gives them another tradeable piece down the line.

Right now, it looks like the Clippers are shopping Lance Stephenson as the only important outgoing piece in any trade talk.  The Blake Griffin rumors are aplenty but seem to be unfounded.  Jamal Crawford is the next logical inclusion in any trade negotiations--the core 4 are more valuable, Austin Rivers has a de facto no-trade clause, Doc Rivers is unlikely to move Paul Pierce's 3-year deal, and the rest of the role players are on minimum salaries, which are basically useless in trades.  The Clippers could potentially make a move for Rudy Gay and Anderson/Frye by trading both Crawford and Stephenson--while Jamal and Rudy don't match straight-up salary-wise, a three-team deal where Gay and Frye land in Los Angeles, Crawford heads to Sacramento, and Stephenson leaves for Orlando is feasible.

The Clippers reportedly have agreed to the above Stephenson/Wilcox package for Channing Frye, but are holding out until the last minute in hopes of something "bigger".  Does "bigger" mean exhausting all options for Anderson and Gay, or trying to orchestrate a three-team trade?  Does "bigger" mean that they just want to wait and see if anything pops up before setting for Frye?  Or, as excited fans like to think, does "bigger" mean that Doc is working tirelessly on fine-tuning a massive, shocking trade?  It's probably the first two, and not the third one, but it's always nice to dream heading into the trade deadline.

A Lance Stephenson trade seems incredibly likely at this point, whether it be for Anderson, Gay, some unforeseen target, or, most likely, Frye.  Anything beyond that seems highly unrealistic--it's nice to imagine certain swaps, but the most common player Clippers fans like to move around is Jamal Crawford, and Doc Rivers clearly trusts and values the veteran guard much more than most in the fanbase do.

Happy deadline day!  Soon, we'll have a set roster heading down the stretch of the season--until talks heat up about potential buyout candidates, as they invariably do after the trade deadline.

Oh, and yeah, the Clippers (4th in the West) play a real basketball game tonight against the Spurs (2nd in the West).  That'll be fun, too.