The Los Angeles Clippers are trading guard Austin Rivers to the Washington Wizards for center Marcin Gortat, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 26, 2018
Rivers had made tremendous progress over the course of his four seasons with the Clippers, working his way from almost being out of the league to being a player of serious quality last season, as he averaged career-bests 15.1 points, 4.0 assists, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. He also shot 42.4% from the field and a career-high 37.8% from deep, starting 59 games despite entering the season as a backup. With the Clippers dealing with full-season injuries to starting point guard Patrick Beverley and starting small forward Danilo Gallinari, and starting shooting guard Milos Teodosic missing only playing half of the season with recurring injuries, Rivers filled in as the Clippers’ starter at three different positions. At times, he was the team’s leading ball handler, running the offense and shouldering the majority of the creative burden. At other times, he was a bench hustle and energy scorer, mixing things up in limited minutes.
He had an iconic back-to-back stretch in December where he scored 36 points and had 7 assists against the Houston Rockets in an impressive road win, before travelling to Memphis for 38 points in a hard-fought loss. Clippers fans will also remember some of Rivers’ impressive playoff performances against the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, and Portland Trail Blazers. While Austin was always a controversial presence due to his father being the coach of the team, he has been a consistently positive contributor to the team over the last four seasons and it’s a shame to see him go.
It made sense for the direction the team is going, however. The Clippers drafted two guards in the lottery of last week’s draft, putting a ton of pressure on an already-guard-heavy team to make trades to relieve their backcourt glut. With Lou Williams not trade eligible and Patrick Beverley’s value suppressed by his injury last season, the obvious candidates to be moved (or released) were Rivers and Milos Teodosic. It’s possible that Milos, who has limited trade value in his own right, may simply be cut ahead of his contract’s July 15th guarantee date, but Austin, at 25 years old and a much superior player, was clearly likely to be moved.
The Clippers’ decision to acquire a stopgap center for Rivers comes after reports surfaced today that DeAndre Jordan planned to only exercise his player option if it were part of facilitating a trade to another team, similar to the move Chris Paul made last June. Gortat was one of a number of candidates, as his $13,565,218 expiring contract matches well with Rivers’ $12,650,000 expiring deal, and the Wizards are likely ready to move on from the Polish center whose play dropped off considerably last season. Gortat also was involved in some locker room issues with Wizards franchise point guard John Wall, which certainly helped the team’s decision to move him.
Marcin Gortat averaged 8.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 25 minutes per game as Washington’s starter last season. His effectiveness has severely declined since his time with the Suns and his early years with the Wizards, when he was a solid, middle-of-the-pack starting center. Now, he’s probably one of the worse starters in the league, but his contract fit and experience seem to position him to fill that role on the Clippers in front of Montrezl Harrell, one of the best backup centers on the league who, while not suited for a starting job, appears poised for more minutes off the bench than he was able to get behind DeAndre Jordan.