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Five Trades That Could Help the Clippers

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The Clippers have sunk into a stupor since Chris Paul went out with an injury, and are losing ground in the Western Conference playoff race. Here are five trades that could help them regain ground, as well as aid them in the postseason against the West’s top teams.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

1.

Clippers send: Austin Rivers, Luc Mbah a Moute, Diamond Stone, rights to David Michineau and 2019 second round pick

Nuggets send: Wilson Chandler, Jameer Nelson

Why the Clippers do it: The Clippers get the best player in the deal (by far), finally acquiring Wilson Chandler, who has been rumored to them in trades for nearly half a decade now. Chandler will provide a definitive answer to the question of “ what fifth player closes games alongside the Core Four?”, and is a perfect fit next to the Clippers’ most important players. He can shoot, rebound, attack the basket, and switch multiple positions on defense. While not a fantastic defensive player, he’s solid on that end, and his size enables him to guard both small forwards and power forwards effectively. That’s a big deal against the Golden State Warriors, and his offensive ability also means he won’t get played off the floor like Luc Mbah a Moute might. Chandler also has two more seasons left on his deal after this one, which fits the timeline for a Chris Paul-led contender perfectly. Jameer Nelson is a good backup point guard, and one of the most respected players in the NBA. He will fit in perfectly as Raymond Felton’s backup until Chris Paul returns, and is great injury insurance for the rest of the season.

Why the Nuggets do it: I talked this trade over with Denver Stiffs’ site manager Adam Mares, and he thought that he would do this deal—or at least strongly consider it. Wilson Chandler has been a strong player for the Nuggets for years, but the future of the franchise is finally taking shape, and its one that doesn’t particularly need Chandler. Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris are the future, and what that threesome could really use is a defensive minded wing who can take pressure on that end off the young guys. A smart cutter would also be helpful for Jokic, who is so great at finding players zipping to the basket. Enter Luc Mbah a Moute, the perfect fit. While Mbah a Moute has a player option he can (and will) opt out of after this season, the Nuggets could at least make a pitch to keep him going forward, and they are a promising young team with cap room. Austin Rivers fits in nicely as the 3rd guard off the bench, and could play alongside either of Harris or Murray with ease. Since Emmanuel Mudiay control’s the ball off the bench, playmaking duties would largely be taken away from Rivers, which is a good thing (he can handle the ball, but he’s a shooting guard in the NBA). Diamond Stone is a cheap flyer to take a shot on, and the second-round pick is a nice little cherry on top of the sundae. David Michineau is included mostly to get the Clippers under the hard cap, but maybe he ends up turning into something.

2.

Clippers send: Austin Rivers, Wes Johnson, Brandon Bass, Diamond Stone, Jamal Crawford, Paul Pierce, Alan Anderson, and Brice Johnson, rights to David Michineau, 2019 2nd round pick, and lottery protected 2021 1st round pick

Clippers receive: Carmelo Anthony, Wilson Chandler, Marshall Plumlee

Knicks send: Carmelo Anthony, Marshall Plumlee

Knicks receive: Jamal Crawford, Malik Beasley, Brice Johnson, Alan Anderson, rights to David Michineau, and Paul Pierce

Nuggets send: Malik Beasley and Wilson Chandler

Nuggets receive: Austin Rivers, Wes Johnson, Brandon Bass, Diamond Stone, a Clippers 2nd rounder in 2019, and a lottery protected Clippers 1st round pick in 2021

Why the Clippers do it: On one hand, the Clippers are trading away over half their team (this trade would need to be done in stages so that the Clippers wouldn’t fall below the roster minimum). On the other, the core four remains untouched, and they are receiving the two best players in the deal by a huge margin. Carmelo Anthony and Wilson Chandler would completely change the way this Clipper team operates, injecting a massive dose of shooting and overall scoring. Chandler would be a 6th man on the Clippers, but probably wouldn’t mind not starting as much since he would be on a contender. Melo and Chandler would enable the Clippers to play small (with those two at the three and four) or huge (Chandler at shooting guard) depending on matchups. Marshall Plumlee is a pure throw-in to keep the Clippers’ roster within minimum bounds, and is at least a warm body at center.

Why the Knicks do it: They are receiving a much better deal than the one the Clippers could offer them alone. Malik Beasley is a promising rookie, a borderline lottery pick just a year ago, and a hopeful 3 and D guard that fits perfectly in the way the NBA is moving. He is also going to be cheap and under the Knicks’ control for the next three years, which is extremely valuable. Brice Johnson hasn’t played in the NBA at all yet, but he’s young, has all the tools to be an effective NBA player, and is cost-controlled as well. Jamal Crawford’s contract isn’t the greatest, true. However, he is still highly entertaining, and Madison Square Garden will love his exploits just as much as they did a decade ago when he played in New York. Look, the Knicks need to rebuild, and trading away Melo effectively accomplishes that. In this scenario, they at least get a couple solid prospects to add to the ground-level of their new team.

Why the Nuggets do it: Wilson Chandler wants to move on from the Nuggets, and he’s not on the same timeline as their young core. Malik Beasley is on that timeline, but he’s a shooting guard by position, and the Nuggets already have Gary Harris and Jamal Murray, both of whom are young and already better shooting guards than Beasley. He simply isn’t part of the Nuggets’ core, and there’s not a huge path for him to get minutes without a couple of injuries. Receiving a future 1st round pick essentially replaces Beasley in value as an asset, while Austin Rivers takes that 3rd or 4th guard spot right away. Austin can be part of that young group as well, and does so without any expectations of becoming a starting-level player. Wes Johnson is a nice role player that can pick up some of Chandler’s now vacant minutes, and Diamond Stone is yet another project for Mike Malone. They are receiving a good deal of assets, and their team isn’t even going to be much worse in the short term—they could easily make the playoffs this year even after this trade.

3.

Clippers send: Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford, Brice Johnson, Wes Johnson, Diamond Stone, 2019 second round pick, 2021 second round pick, rights to David Michineau

Clippers receive: Carmelo Anthony, Matt Barnes, Gerald Green

Kings send: Matt Barnes, Ben McLemore, 2018 second round pick

Kings receive: Jamal Crawford, Demetrius Jackson, and rights to David Michineau

Knicks send: Carmelo Anthony

Knicks receive: Austin Rivers, Ben McLemore, Brice Johnson, Diamond Stone, Wes Johnson, and Clippers 2019 and 2021 second round draft picks

Celtics send: Demetrius Jackson, Gerald Green

Celtics receive: Paul Pierce, Kings second round pick in 2018 (rights to swap with Portland)

Why the Clippers do it: They pick up Carmelo Anthony, a future 1st ballot Hall of Famer who is still one of the NBA’s deadliest scorers. And they do it without giving up one of their top four players. Anthony might not be enough to push the Clippers over the Warriors, but he does stabilize them while Chris Paul is out, and makes them a much more dangerous team in a playoff series. From a sheer talent perspective, it’s a huge win. In addition, the Clippers add Matt Barnes, a presence they have missed in the locker room since he left two years ago, and a still serviceable role player. Crucially, Barnes while not nearly a lockdown defender, at least has the size to contest players like Harden, Klay, and Kawhi. That will be very important come playoff time.

Why the Kings do it: They acquire a couple future assets (albeit small ones) for very little. Ben McLemore hasn’t done anything of note in Sacramento, and they almost certainly aren’t going to bring him back in free agency. He has played better recently, but after four years, are you really going to trust a 10-game sample size? Matt Barnes is still a fine rotation player, but the Kings might not want his questionable influence on Cousins after the nightclub incident earlier this season, and at 36, he’s not a part of their future. Demetrius Jackson was a good college point guard, and they can at least take a shot and see if he can be a backup in the NBA. This is not a ground-breaking move, but for the Kings, not losing horribly on a deal is a step in the right direction.

Why the Knicks do it: Making the Melo deal into a three-team trade increases the assets going the Knicks’ way. It also removes the need for them to take on the contract of Jamal Crawford, something New York really doesn’t want to do. Brice Johnson and Diamond Stone have virtually no NBA experience, but that makes them blank slates for the Knicks to mold, and both have them have skills to stick around the NBA for a while. Rivers is a young, quality role player who can play with the Knicks’ other youngsters, and is under control for the next couple seasons—there is a possibility he could improve even further. Ben McLemore hasn’t covered himself with glory in his first four seasons in the NBA, but the taint of the Kings can’t be underestimated, and the Knicks would be able to match any offer for him in restricted free agency. Still relatively young, McLemore is yet another shot at trying to find a starting shooting guard alongside Porzingis. Most importantly, Phil Jackson desperately wants to move on from Melo, and this deal is hopefully good enough to make him bite.

Why the Celtics do it: Paul Pierce gets to retire as a Celtic, which is how it should be. Once he does so, the Celtics also free up two rosters spots, which could be useful to have if they make bigger deals around the deadline. Green is a borderline rotation player who won’t get minutes in the playoffs, and Jackson is blocked for playing time behind at least five other guards.

4.

Clippers send: Wes Johnson, Brice Johnson, and a 2019 second round pick

Pistons send: Marcus Morris and Beno Udrih

Why the Clippers do it: Marcus Morris is a massive overall upgrade for the Clippers at small forward. He’s not nearly the defensive player that Luc Mbah a Moute is, but he’s so far superior on the offensive end that it outweighs the negatives. Morris isn’t exactly a bad defender either, and is more capable of playing up a position on defense than Mbah a Moute due to his size. He is a solid if streaky outside shooter that must be consistently guarded out on the perimeter. While not a true offensive creator, he can attack closeouts and find open players, which is helpful for a Clippers offense dependent on passing and movement. Simply put, he is a much better weapon against the Warriors than either Luc or Wes Johnson, and the ultimate obstacle facing this Clippers’ team is how to take down the Dubs. Morris is also signed for another couple years on a really affordable deal, and is someone the Clippers should be able to rely on in the near future. Udrih is a useful backup point guard who can give the Clippers 10-12 minutes a night off the bench until Chris Paul returns.

Why the Pistons do it: The Pistons are in the 8th seed right now, but the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat are hot on their heels, and there is no guarantee they make the playoffs. Even if they do, they will be little more than fodder for the Cavaliers or Celtics, both much better teams. Instead, the Pistons could pivot towards a lottery pick, adding to their young talent. They are in no hurry to be a contender: Andre Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Tobias Harris aren’t even in their primes yet. There are a few stories out there suggesting that Marcus Morris has been an uncomfortable presence at times in the locker room, and his skills are largely duplicated by Harris. Morris is a solid player, but nothing special, and he certainly isn’t a core piece. Stanley Johnson needs minutes, and Morris is preventing him from getting any. Johnson has the upside to transform the Pistons in a way Morris can’t, and the sooner they give him real responsibility the better. Wes Johnson is a rotation-level small forward who could theoretically still contribute to a playoff push this season, while Brice Johnson remains a 1st round talent who just needs an opportunity (and health). The Pistons won’t do this trade if they want to make the playoffs, but I don’t know if that should really be a huge priority of theirs right now.

5.

Clippers send: Wes Johnson, Diamond Stone, and a 2019 second round pick

Nets send: Bojan Bogdanovic

Why the Clippers do it: Bogdanovic is an excellent outside shooter, and a prolific one. He can get his shot off quickly, and his height enables him to shoot over most defenders. He’s not a great overall player, but can pass a little bit, and isn’t a complete sieve on defense. At 6’6, Bogdanovic actually has the size to play small forward, unlike Austin Rivers or Jamal Crawford, and won’t be punished by bigger players as easily. He isn’t a player that would revolutionize the Clips, but he is a solid upgrade at small forward over Wes Johnson, and would probably start ahead of Luc Mbah a Moute against most matchups.

Why the Nets do it: Bogdanovic is a good player and a Nets favorite, but his contract is up after this season, and he is going to demand a fair amount of money. Already 28 years old, Bogdanovic doesn’t really fit the timeline of the youthful Nets, and he might want to leave for greener pastures anyway. In this scenario, the Nets pick up a solid veteran role player/mentor in Wes Johnson for cheap—a good influence on their younger players in the locker room. Diamond Stone hasn’t played any real minutes in the NBA, but he is young, has played well in the D-League, and is a cheap option for the next couple years. Taking a flyer on players like him is exactly what the Nets need to do to rebuild their franchise. They will also receive a future 2nd round pick. If Brooklyn would rather have future cap space than Wes Johnson, they could also take on Paul Pierce’s contract, and then reach a buyout with him to free up a roster spot.

What trade do you like the best? Do you think any of them has a realistic chance of happening? Let me know in the comments below!!

Note: In trade 3 or 4, I would probably be willing to change one of the second-round picks to a top-20 protected 1st round pick to get the deal done.