In the SBNation NBA Team Sites Mock Draft, I did everything I could to find the elusive impact player that would help the Clippers as a rookie and provide them with some youth and long-term production. I harassed every team from 13-24 with various offers to trade up depending on who was available, but the Clippers' limited assets weren't enough to make anybody give up a pick in the teens. It also didn't help that Denzel Valentine and Timothe Luwawu, two of my trade-up targets, went well ahead of their projections.
With my trade offers shot down, I sat in the chair to make the 25th pick with a few options--Brice Johnson was my top target left on the board after DeAndre Bembry, Demetrius Jackson, and Ante Zizic had already been selected. I also had a variety of trade offers: Kyle O'Quinn, P.J. Tucker, Shabazz Napier and pick 41, picks 31 and 35 from Boston, and Mike Dunleavy Jr.
While these were all somewhat reasonable offers, I was able to dismiss the latter 3 relatively easily: I didn't want to trade down for Napier with similar point guards available for the minimum, I didn't want to dilute my pick by adding 31+35 because I already have pick 33, C.J. Wilcox, and Branden Dawson to develop, and while his shooting is tantalizing, Dunleavy's injury history and age leave him as the least intriguing of the three veterans.
O'Quinn is a combo big who is currently a Knick, and there's a lot to like when you're looking for a potential bench big man: a mid-range game, solid rebounding (10.8 per 36 career), and free throw capabilities (77% each of the last two seasons). He's just 26 and on a cost-controlled contract that gives him 8 million over the next two years (followed by a player option for $4.25 million which he will decline in the then-ballooned market), and the Clippers would have his bird rights when the time came. He also grew up about 10 minutes from my apartment in Queens, which is cool. With Cole Aldrich likely to leave in Free Agency, O'Quinn gives the Clippers a MLE-level big man who should be able to play with both Griffin or Jordan. If Aldrich is still retained, O'Quinn has played plenty of PF minutes in his career and is a reasonable fit in theory.
P.J. Tucker is a small forward who has played the last four years of his NBA career in Phoenix. After being drafted by Toronto, he barely got off the bench in his rookie season before spending the next 5 years in Europe. His return to the NBA was triumphant--he earned a starting spot in his first year with the Suns and by his second year he was a legitimate 3-and-D small forward who shot 39% from deep. Since then, he's started to fizzle out, but he's still a solid option in comparison to the Clippers' small forward situation. He shot 34.5% and 33% from deep the last two years--not good, but right on par with a guy like Wesley Johnson, and Tucker can give you more at the defensive end of the floor. At 31 years old and with one less cheap year on his contract, P.J. is probably less valuable than O'Quinn in a vacuum, but I decided that with the Clippers' limited tools and the shallow free agent market at SF, I had to go with P.J. I was looking for an impact role player at 25, and I walked away with my day-1 starter at SF. Sure, I had to get older--but I also got a lot better. The handshake-and-wink deal was that I would select Gary Payton II for Phoenix, and then on July 1st when the new NBA year begins and the Clippers are no longer taxpayers (giving them more flexible trade rules), Tucker would officially be swapped for Payton II and Paul Pierce's contract.
Even though I had settled on Tucker over O'Quinn, I still liked the idea of adding a big man. The Knicks aggressively wanted to trade into the first round, and O'Quinn was the bait. With that in mind, I took to dangling offers of 33 and C.J. Wilcox for a late first in an attempt to flip that pick for O'Quinn. When all was said and done, I was unable to make a deal for a late first--but so were the Knicks. After missing out on the first round, New York still liked how the board was shaping up enough for flip O'Quinn for pick 33, C.J. Wilcox, and Branden Dawson. This trade became a 3-teamer with Phoenix for salary-matching purposes.
Here's what the final deal looked like:
|Out||Pick 25, Pick 33, C.J. Wilcox, Paul Pierce, Branden Dawson||P.J. Tucker, rights to Ron Ellis||Kyle O'Quinn|
|In||P.J. Tucker, Kyle O'Quinn||Pick 25, Paul Pierce||Pick 33, C.J. Wilcox, Branden Dawson, rights to Ron Ellis|
It wasn't an easy decision to trade out of the draft after spending so much time scouting rookies, but the moves I ended up with were as consistent as I could be with my big-picture goals of maximizing the CP3 window and making a run to convince Paul and Griffin to re-sign next summer.
Here is my new depth chart:
|PG||Chris Paul||Austin Rivers|
|SG||J.J. Redick||Jamal Crawford|
|SF||P.J. Tucker||Jeff Green|
|PF||Blake Griffin||Kyle O'Quinn|
|C||DeAndre Jordan||Kyle O'Quinn|
Players to be signed using bird rights.
Give me bird rights on Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford, and Jeff Green--there's your backup 1, 2, and 3. Then, I'd sign another point guard to fill the part-time Pablo Prigioni role, use the MLE on another contributor (likely a 3 or 3/4), and I think you're looking at the most complete 10-man rotation in the Chris Paul era.
Blast me for trading away youth if you want, but I won't apologize for piling my eggs in one basket when that basket is Chris Paul.