Somewhere, at some point in the last few days, the ball started rolling on Arron Afflalo-to-Clippers. I peeked around a little bit, but I honestly don't know where it started, and I don't especially care to take time out of my vacation to find the random website that made it up first. Safe to say, this rumor didn't come from the regular and reliable NBA rumor mill, and it should definitely be taken with a grain of salt, even before we dive into the lack of logic.
Let's start the Afflalo conversation off with a brief note about what he'd look like as a Clipper. He'd either come off of the bench at SG (and serve as J.J. Redick insurance) or start at SF. Either way, he'd probably end up being the Clips' best option at SF, and play minutes out of position there as a likely upgrade over any of their other options. He shoots well from deep (38.5% career, 38.2% last year), he's a strong defender, and while his rebounding isn't great, the Clippers should be better on the glass next year with a full season from Blake Griffin. So, if he were to come for the MLE, he'd give the Clippers a pretty big talent boost, and they'd figure out the fit as they went along.
If you've paid attention to the discussion surrounding Afflalo, you know all of the reasons why he'll supposedly join the Clippers. If you haven't, here's a run-down: the veteran wing had a weird year in New York, playing well enough for the Knicks but supposedly being marginalized because the Knicks wanted to make him decline his $8 million player option for next year. So the popular sentiment is that he's one of a few impact free agents this summer who are guaranteed to change teams. From there, I see how the Clippers get tied in--Afflalo is an L.A. Native (Kendrick used to be jealous of him), his family still lives in Los Angeles, and the Clippers have long needed help on the wing and have been linked to Afflalo in the past. Given his bad situation in New York, why not re-build his value for a year in his home town as a key piece for a contender? Or, given his age and the jumping cap, why not just anchor down with the Clippers, and still be a free agent next summer (if Blake and Chris leave)? Those are all the reasons why he would join the Clippers.
Unfortunately, almost all of those points can be countered. I don't have magic powers and I can't see into the future--but I know what passes the smell test and what doesn't, and this doesn't. Here are the reasons why Afflalo wouldn't join the Clippers:
The most the Clippers can pay him is the Mid-Level Exception of $5.628 million. Right now, he's pegged to make $8 million in New York unless he opts out. So right off the bat, he's leaving at least 2.4 million on the table. But that's not all. Afflalo had solid statistical averages last year, and hit 38% of his threes. He also has a strong defensive reputation. I'd expect him to eclipse $10 million in this summer's market, possibly getting offers in the range of 3 years/$36 million. So, instead of leaving $2.4 million on the table next year, he could be leaving $6 million on the table next year and for each year of a potential Clippers' contract.
Let's say that Arron knows he can get that deal this summer, but he believes that by having a really strong year, he can sign an even bigger contract next summer when the cap goes even higher. In the 2014 season, he averaged 18 points a game--if he can prove that he can still bring that to a team, he'd get a huge payday. So, he's rebuilding his value. Would he take the Clippers' $5.6M MLE over staying in NY for $8M? Maybe. Better team, better situation, back home, etc. But with the Clippers, he'd either be coming off of the bench in a crowded backcourt or playing out of position at SF, guarding much bigger players. He'd certainly be better for LAC than any of their other options, but his individual impact would be mitigated.
Let me pose this question: if Afflalo is willing to take that paycut to come to L.A. to build his value, why wouldn't he go build his value in Oklahoma City or with the Warriors? The Thunder have needed a reliable SG for a while, and Afflalo gives them the defensive help and offensive spacing that they need. The Warriors could lose Harrison Barnes this summer, and Afflalo is a reliable two-way option on the wing. For the Thunder, he'd be a perfect fit and get tons of minutes in his natural position. For the Warriors, he'd fit in with their wing-heavy style, get tons of open looks from deep, and have a strong chance at a ring. Both situations seem pretty preferable to trying to squeeze into a Clippers team loaded with 6'4" and 6'5" guys.
If Afflalo's main goal is to return to Los Angeles to play in his hometown, why not the Lakers? Sure, they aren't as good as the Clippers, but I think I remember hearing that they have a SG who is retiring (I may be wrong, not sure where I heard that), and they'll have tons of money to spend--the type of 3/36 money that would make a 3/18 deal with the Clippers undesirable.
So, sure, it's not impossible, in the sense that nothing is impossible. You could tell me that LeBron James really wants to play with Chris Paul, and that he's going to take a minimum deal to be a Clipper this summer. He certainly has enough money, right? But it's not gonna happen. In the same way, you can tell me that Afflalo will take a pay cut to return home and play for a good team. There's bits of it that make sense. But it doesn't really pass the smell test. There's no way anyone can know for sure right now what will happen, and until this rumor is substantiated by more credible sources, it's fair to say it's very unlikely.