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Clippings: Is more star power the solution?

The Clippers are frequently mentioned in big trade rumors, but a big trade could mean big problems.

Los Angeles Clippers v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

First, it was DeMar DeRozan. Then, it was Ben Simmons. Now, it’s John Wall. The Clippers’ name has been mentioned countless times this offseason as a potential party to blockbuster trades. These trades, which featured recognizable names and proven talent over role players, were sometimes portrayed as a silver bullet to the Clippers’ basketball shortcomings. However, there are reasons why none of these trades have occurred just yet, and while we don’t know the particularities, it does suggest that the front office has confidence in its squad.

After all, the roster coming into the 2021-22 season is remarkably intact and consistent from last season, and we saw how impressive they could be even without their premiere talent in Kawhi Leonard last playoffs. The question that all those hypothetical trades attempt to address is whether or not swapping some depth for a proven starter would finally push the Clippers out of the West and to the NBA Finals, but as we saw in the playoffs, depth could make all the difference. In the two series against Dallas and Utah, head coach Ty Lue seemed to have an endless bag of tricks up his sleeve, from deploying Nicolas Batum as a small ball center to moving Terance Mann into a much larger role than before, and the Clippers’ depth clearly lead to a wide breadth of in-game options at the coaching staff’s disposal. But still—that didn’t get the Clippers to the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

2021 NBA Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v LA Clippers
Reliable role players like Nicolas Batum could be on the chopping block if a big trade happens.
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Perhaps the most significant issue facing the practicability of these trades is Kawhi Leonard’s injury. Trading players who have bought into the Clippers’ system and have proven themselves in a Clippers’ uniform for another player purely based on their basketball talent may have unintended consequences for when Leonard returns. The fit with another ball-dominant player raises concern, whether that player be John Wall or Ben Simmons. And ultimately, it comes down to this: do the Clippers have to make a big trade to win the trophy? Well, last year’s playoffs seemed to have convinced enough decisionmakers to answer that question with a no, but it won’t be for at least two more seasons until we see the answer for ourselves.

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