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Mfiondu Kabengele has been traded to the Sacramento Kings

The writing was on the wall for the former first-rounder once the Clippers declined to pick up his option.

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

The Clippers have made their first move heading into Thursday’s trade deadline, and it’s a deal that is likely a precursor to something bigger soon.

LA traded Mfiondu Kabengele, the team’s 2019 first-round pick, to Sacramento along with a second-round pick and some cash in exchange for another second rounder. Before you get worried about the Clippers packaging an asset — like one of the Detroit seconds — to dump Kabengele, rest assured that wasn’t the case. ESPN reports that both picks in the deal are heavily protected and unlikely to convey, so the Clippers basically sent the Kings some cash to take on Kabengele for the rest of the season.

The no. 27 pick in the 2019 draft didn’t really have a future in Los Angeles once the team declined to pick up his third-year option, and the Clippers didn’t even send him to the G League bubble to help with his development. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and Sacramento gets an early look at a young player who could fit into that team’s core going forward.

As for LA’s side of the deal, they clear a roster spot to potentially sign or acquire another player, potentially in an imbalanced trade at the deadline or in the buyout market. The Clippers also created some breathing room under the hard cap, about $2.6 million, per ESPN. That means they can sign one or two minimum free agents now, and they also have salary flexibility for a trade if they need to take on some extra money. The Clippers also still have access to their bi-annual exception, which is valued at $3.6 million. They can’t use all of it, but they can use $2.6 million on one player, which would give the Clippers a monetary advantage over another team that could only offer the prorated minimum.

This is a good piece of business for the Clippers, who had no interest in Kabengele going forward, and now have some more options for trades and buyouts to fill out their roster for the rest of the season.