As the dust continues to settle from the flurry of the 2019 NBA offseason moves, details about deals have gradually come to light. While there’s rarely anything particularly unusual about these quirks, they are important to take note of. For the Clippers, there are two such changes that must be taken into account, and that have been reported by multiple people. The credit for these details must be given to Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights and Peachtree Hoops, and Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports and Real GM.
The first change is that the third year of Rodney McGruder’s 3 year, $15 million deal is non-guaranteed. Right now, it appears that it is completely non-guaranteed, not with a partial guarantee, which is a pretty big deal. The guarantee date is July 15, 2021, which is crucial. 2021, as all Clippers fans probably already know, is the summer when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can opt out of their deals and become unrestricted free agents. Depending on what happens with those guys (which should be decided by July 15, certainly), the Clippers can then make their deliberation on whether to guarantee Rodney. Additionally, the non-guarantee should boost Rodney’s trade value at the 2021 deadline: if the Clippers want to flip him to a team that’s trying to clear cap space, that could waive him before the 2021 summer to clear $5 million from their cap. That’s not nothing, though the 2021 deadline is obviously so far away that any kind of trade market is impossible to predict.
The second change is regarding Ivica Zubac’s 4 year, $28 million contract. While fans were excited to keep big Zu (aka Chewiebacca), the deal seemed to be an overpay compared to other deals on the market, particularly in terms of length. Now, it has been reported that the 4th year of that deal is a team option — if the Clippers don’t think Zu has been playing up to that deal, or just want to create some cap space, they can decline it. Now, this is for the 2022-2023 season, so it is less directly tied to that fateful 2021 summer. But still, it makes Zu’s deal more attractive as a trade target, and the Clippers should certainly be able to unload him easily enough in the next couple years (barring an unexpected fall off).
There should be no hurry to get rid of Zu or Rodney, both of whom were quite literally just re-signed weeks ago. Rodney’s deal was a positive one even before these reports on his non-guarantee came out, and while Zu’s contract was considered a bit long, it wasn’t egregious. Well, the Clippers, no surprise, knew what they were doing when negotiating their contracts. There’s also the more positive side to spin this: if Rodney and Zu play well over the next two years (hopefully as key role players on championship-winning teams), their deals will likely look affordable, and the Clippers can just keep them for their “extra” years. Hopefully that’s the case, and the tweaks to these contracts prove to be irrelevant in the end. If not, the Clippers have ensured themselves some flexibility and increased trade assets in a couple years. The Clippers FO is good, folks.