With the trade deadline just a week away, the Clips Nation staff got together to answer two questions:
1. What should the Clippers do at the trade deadline?
2. What will the Clippers do at the deadline?
1. In order to maintain their cap flexibility for two max players this offseason, the Clippers can’t take on any future salary. Therefore, unless they enter the Anthony Davis sweepstakes, the only thing the team can do is sell off their veterans (Beverley, Bradley, Boban, Gortat) for future assets, likely second-round picks, though finding matching expiring salary will be challenging. LA really should clear up its backcourt rotation to find more minutes for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and potentially Jerome Robinson. They are two of the only pieces who will assuredly be on the roster next season, and it makes sense to showcase them for potential free agents.
2. I don’t think the Clippers will do anything. But if they do, it will be a move to acquire a more solid big man to help the team make the playoffs and thus end LA’s first-round pick obligation to Boston.
1. Clippers should probably sell. The Clippers, as valiant as they’ve been, are looking more and more like they might just slip out of the playoff race. It would be nice for morale and for free agent prospects to show that this can be a playoff team, but getting destroyed by the Warriors in the first round might not be a morale booster in itself. Another reason the Clippers should sell: they can keep their lottery pick, which would go to the Celtics if they make the postseason. And while a lottery pick is cash on the cap, it’s another asset the Clippers can either use as a trade chip or invest in.
2. That the Clippers were in the Porzingis talks sounds interesting, but I do think ultimately the Clippers stand pat. I do think management values a playoff push so, outside of a homerun move, the team is probably looking for a short term upgrade with a flexible contract. Not sure how much of that is out there and how much the Clippers really want to put on the table, so I imagine the team ends up doing close to nothing.
1. What the Clippers ought to do at the trade deadline depends on what their desired outcome for the season is or should be. If the Clippers want to make the playoffs and try to win a series, they should try to improve at the center position. To do so, they would likely need to send Gortat, Thornwell, and another guard or a draft pick. I think the Clippers should try to consolidate the value they have on their roster, regardless of if they get a center or not. By “consolidate the value of their roster,” I mean: turn Thornwell, Wallace, and Milos into one or two good players. Having them all on the same roster isn’t particularly helpful, since they are all average to below-average players. Get a shooter or center who could be the 8th best player on a team that has two max caliber stars.
Oh, wait -- I’m overthinking this. They should trade Avery Bradley to an Eastern Conference contender for a draft pick. Please & thank you.
2. I don’t think we will see much at all. I know Lawrence Frank and Jerry West get a lot of praise for turning the Clippers’ front office around, but that doesn’t mean they are always going to be active in terms of transactions. I could see Milos getting dumped so he can go back home to Europe, or the Clippers trading one of their many guards for an expiring contract. I just don’t see anything happening because I am not convinced that the Clippers organization cares about making the playoffs of not. They know the offseason is what’s most important.
1. This really depends on how the Clips feel about the rest of the season. This whole year has been defined by “win now, but if we don’t it’s not all that bad” as they keep their first-round pick if they aren’t in the playoffs and are still hopeful Kawhi or KD are coming. If they want to stay in the playoff race, they absolutely have to buy. The Clippers need a starting center badly. Gortat simply isn’t getting it done, and Trez is too small to play 35+ mins a game. Preferably, the trade would involve moving AB and a future pick for a solid starter.
2. Ultimately, I think they will stand pat. I think they are resigned to either getting the 7th-8th spot or just missing out because more eyes are on the future at this juncture than competing in the immediate. While making the playoffs would look better for FA’s, I don’t think it’s completely necessary: teams know the Clips are institutionally solid, are in the biggest NBA market, have Doc, and possess a good roster of young potential. I hope we get a center and move AB, but it seems unlikely.
1. If there is a deal that can net you a player who trumps Tobias Harris as the team’s No. 1 option on offense without crippling this summer’s salary cap flexibility, then do it. On Thursday night, Harris, hours after an All-Star “snub,” displayed his unreliability in meaningful moments. Yes, I’m fully aware that he knocked down a tying 3-pointer to send the game to overtime, but I also watched the previous 47 minutes and two borderline catatonic possessions in overtime. If he’s in the Clippers future plans, he needs to be considered a third option, not a 1 or 1A. If that means dealing Danilo Gallinari or Harris to upgrade, and you can do so before Feb. 7, then I’m all in.
2. In terms of decision-making and the impact it could have on the future, this is one of the trickier deadlines the Clippers have faced in their current era. Say what you will about Neil Olshey’s time with the team, but one thing that he constantly talked about was accumulating and cultivating assets. The Jerry West/Lawrence Frank regime seems to embrace that line of thinking, so it would seem that being bargain shoppers or sellers at the deadline would be most appealing. I think they will monitor some of the bigger names (Anthony Davis and Jimmy Butler), but might find dealing someone like Avery Bradley for a draft pick would be more in line with their immediate plans. The big move(s) could be coming in July.
1. The Clippers should be looking to sell as the trade deadline approaches. First, I think the time is right to sell high on Danilo Gallinari. It would be ideal for the Clippers to head into the offseason with the flexibility to chase 2 max-level players and add a great supporting cast, and Gallo’s deal makes things pretty tricky. It’s doubtful his health and production continue through the remainder of this season, or the 2019-20 season, for that matter, if the Clippers do keep him. I really like Gallo a lot - his character, basketball IQ, defensive improvements, and stellar shooting have all been factors in the Clippers’ record thus far - but there may not be a more opportune situation for the Clippers to acquire some combination of favorable assets, expiring deals, or even a more traditional center than if they can move Gallo.
Avery Bradley, Marcin Gortat, and Milos Teodosic should all be on the trading block as well, but they aren’t likely to garner much of any returning value outside of cash and maybe 2nd round picks. If one or all of those players can be moved for a solid center, assets, or better-fitting expiring deals, the Clippers should pull the trigger. There’s obviously a backcourt logjam as well, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jerome Robinson, Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, and Tyrone Wallace all deserve some more playing time.
2. Expect the Clippers to stand pat at the deadline. Their primary goal is to acquire a big name or two during the summer, and the Clippers’ braintrust seems to believe the best path toward getting there is to remain competitive. Finding a way to stay in the playoff hunt and opening up free agency cap room, all while upgrading their roster, via trade, is a very tall task. This is a far superior front office than they’ve ever had before, so a positive move at the deadline certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility, but don’t hold your breath.
1. The Clipper should be selling. None of the teams ahead of them look likely to drop, and the Lakers are only a game behind with LeBron James back. It’s not impossible for the Clippers to make the playoffs, but it’s looking a lot less likely than it was a month ago, and if they aren’t going to get to the postseason, they should be trying to get assets for their expiring veterans. Avery Bradley is the guy I’d most like to trade, as he’s both the least essential player and the one most blocking the Clippers’ youngsters from getting minutes. Flipping Bradley, Sindarius Thornwell, and a future 2nd for a veteran center would work, as would swapping Gortat for Bradley. Dewayne Dedmon is probably the best available guy on the market for what the Clippers are looking for, but they’d probably have to add a bit more value to get him.
A riskier move would be trading Danilo Gallinari. Gallo has been phenomenal this season, but his health was never going to last, and the Clippers will need to move him this summer to create space for superstar free agents anyway. Moving him would truly tank the Clippers’ season, but he’s recouped much of his value, and they could quite possibly get some real assets for him from another playoff team.
2. I don’t think the Clippers do anything. They seem to be focused on the playoffs, and while an upgrade at center would help there, the Clips value their veteran guards more than fans do. Additionally, there really aren’t that many guys who fit the bill the Clippers are looking for, with most of the available players being wings. While a small forward could get some minutes on this roster (what with Luc Mbah a Moute still seemingly nowhere near a return), a wing isn’t a pressing need. The Clips don’t want to add any salary that will carry into next season, which further limits their options. The most likely would be some kind of Milos Teodosic dump, but that’s essentially a non-move at this point.