Eric Patten: B-
On a simply talent-for-talent measure, this trade was a loss for the Clippers. However, Rivers was arguably one of their more expendable backcourt assets, and the Clippers needed to balance the roster. When the trade was consummated, it signaled the team’s willingness to move on from former All-Star Center, DeAndre Jordan. That part was seemingly inevitable. In a way, Gortat has potential to fit alongside the current group better than Jordan on the offensive end. He’s a savvy veteran, great screener, even better roll man, and capable mid-range pick-and-pop candidate. He will thrive in lineups with Milos Teodosic. While the Polish Hammer can still alter shots once and while, his defensive prowess has diminished with age and I would strongly suspect that Montrezl Harrell will log more overall minutes from night-to-night.
Losing Rivers, a gutsy, fearless combo guard, will be softened by the re-signing of Avery Bradley and selection of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the 2018 Draft. It will be a loss for us all that it’s one less face from the previous era and one less tireless trash talker to spar with opponents alongside Pat Beverley.
Max Jeffrey: C-
After loading up on guards in the draft, it seemed pretty obvious that the Clippers had to move somebody from their backcourt rotation. It also seemed pretty obvious that the first to go would be Avery Bradley, an unrestricted free agent who was set to become too expensive to keep. Next in line would have been Milos Teodosic, a great passing guard, but also a 31-year old injury-risk who is a complete defensive liability. Instead, they chose to move Austin Rivers, a young and athletic two-way guard who improved every season as a Clipper. His current deal is an expiring one, so it’s hard to fault the Clippers for trying to get something for him. What we can, and should, fault the Clippers for is moving him for Marcin Gortat, a mediocre center who is also an expiring deal with roughly the same salary. More importantly, the Clippers got no picks or prospects in the trade.
It doesn’t seem far from reason that the Clippers could have held out a bit longer and squeezed at least a second-round pick out of a team for the services of Rivers. Also, they ended up overpaying Bradley and allowed Teodosic’s deal to become guaranteed. Meanwhile, Gortat will likely start at center over Montrezl Harrell, who is probably more deserving of the minutes. Hell, the Clippers probably could have let Bradley walk, waived Teodosic, signed a free agent center like Amir Johnson for much less, and kept Rivers until at least the deadline; in this scenario, at least the Clippers would have saved some money and might have even been able to hang onto C.J. Williams. Overall, this deal was just a bit worse than a wash, because the Clippers sent away a gritty fan-favorite and don’t have much to show for it.
Kenneth Armstrong: B+
The timing of this move is vital to the grade: The Clippers seemed to preemptively protect themselves from DeAndre’s decision to join the Mavs by acquiring his replacement before he officially left. Not only did this help the Clippers maintain leverage in their negotiations with DJ, but also prevented them from being center-less, which would have weakened their leverage as they engaged with other teams. I appreciate the thoughtfulness with which the Clippers prepared for the eventual DJ exit.
As for Austin, I am happy for him. He’s going to be able to contribute to a decent Wizards team and even add a new dynamic to the Wizards’ already talented back court. I really look forward to Austin proving himself outside of the Doc-umbrella, and feel like the Clippers found a landing spot that made sense for Austin as well as their own roster needs. With so many guards on the roster, the Clippers had fat to trim and it made sense to let Austin go.
Gortat is not nearly as good as DeAndre, but he is a known quantity. He’s been remarkably durable over the last five years (only missing 8 games over that span) and has been pretty steady in terms of production (though not especially impressive). He won’t be DJ, and he probably won’t play more than 20 minutes a game, but he’s a nice bridge between one of the best big men in Clippers’ history and what the Clippers hope to become over the next 2-3 years.
Shapan Debnath: C
Positionally, the trade made sense. But we got a worse player for a better one. It’s hard to really say otherwise about it. But, it does free up room for our guards and gives us an alright stop-gap this season for those spot starter minutes at center. I understand it on paper, but it’s hard to gloat about a deal when you give up the better player.
Robert Flom: C
From a roster balancing perspective, this was a good move. The Clippers had (and still have, really) too many guards, and didn’t have a starting center. While Montrezl Harrell is awesome, there are still questions to how his energetic play will hold up given more extended minutes, and his game seems better suited to the bench than the starting lineup anyway. A stopgap starting center was needed to replace the departing DeAndre Jordan, and Marcin Gortat is honestly a solid fit for that role. He’s a solid (if declining) rebounder, has soft hands on the pick and roll, and sets some of the best screens in the NBA. All well and good.
The reason for the mediocre grade, then, is simple. Austin Rivers is eight and a half years younger than Gortat, was a better player than him last year, and is almost certainly going to be a better player this year as well. Trading Rivers straight up for Gortat with no other return is a loss in value. Even so little an asset as a second-round pick would have raised this grade significantly, and while that might be unfair, there’s no getting around the fact that the Clippers got a nickel in exchange for a dime. It wasn’t a bad trade per se, but it certainly wasn’t ideal either.