The NBA Trade Deadline is just four (4) (!!!!) hours away, and talks are heating up. The Clippers, after rebuffing underwhelming offers for DeAndre Jordan all week, signing Lou Williams to an extension instead of trading him, and stating that they’d like to hold on to Avery Bradley, have become very active in talks this morning as the deadline looms.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers, and Washington Wizards have made call on DeAndre Jordan this week, but none progressed into significant talks immediately. The Cavaliers have re-engaged talks this morning and the Clippers are working with them on a deal that would send Tristan Thompson’s contract to a third team. It’s unclear if that’s a possibility, and I don’t know exactly what value that Clippers would be extracting from the deal, but it’s worth monitoring. If the Cavaliers are willing to include Brooklyn’s 2018 1st round pick, the Clippers will at least have to listen to any offer, but Cleveland has been reluctant to put that pick on the table. Without it, it’s hard to see how the Cavaliers make the trade worthwhile for LAC.
Additionally, I would not be surprised if at some point today, one of the other teams re-engages the Clippers with a more competitive offer. I’d keep my eye on the Wizards.
On the Avery Bradley front, Oklahoma City and San Antonio have emerged as two serious suitors, but Bradley’s manageable $8.8 million expiring contract and defensive reputation ensure that interest is present around the league. Oklahoma City would love Bradley as a replacement for the injured Andre Roberson, but they don’t have much to offer the Clippers: assuming they are unwilling to part ways with young wing Terrance Ferguson, the Thunder could at best offer Alex Abrines, a minimum-salary player, and two second-round draft picks. They do not have a first round pick to trade until 2022.
The Spurs have the ability to make a more competitive offer, with rumors indicating that one possible deal could include Danny Green and a 1st round pick. This would be a huge win for the Clippers’ compete-now-but-also-build-long-term strategy, as Green can guard both wing positions as well as hit threes, and the pick is just another asset going forward. He has a player option for $10,000,000 next season, keeping the Clippers free of long-term salary obligations. This deal would plunge the Clippers into the luxury tax, but it’s possible that that has become palatable for a front office which is now free of Blake Griffin’s long-term max deal. They’re less likely to be taxpayers in the years to come, which could make avoiding the tax this season less crucial towards the long-term goal of getting under the repeater tax threshold. Still, I wonder about this rumor—it seems like a questionable move from the Spurs’ side of things, although if Popovich and Buford believe that Bradley is the player they need, I don’t doubt that they’ll do what’s necessary to land him.
It’s also worth nothing that this is expected to be a relatively mild deadline, with the upcoming buyout period being much more active. The stagnation at the deadline is the result of a ton of massive, hard-to-move deals being signed in recent summers as the salary cap spiked dramatically. This increases the demand for cheap, productive talent—best acquired via the first round of the NBA draft. That, in conjunction with teams undervaluing future first-round picks in recent years and getting burned by bad deals (cough*Brooklyn*cough), has made first-round picks more valuable at this deadline than at any point in modern NBA history. When contracts are hard to move, and teams aren’t willing to part with draft picks (the equivalent of NBA Trade Deadline currency), we see very few workable trades emerging.