As the NBA trade deadline approaches, the absence of needle-moving trades has been glaring despite there being so many potential buyers and a number of rebuilding teams hoarding talent that would be better suited elsewhere.
The Los Angeles Clippers had been quiet on the trade rumor front until Marc Stein reported last week that they’d be interested in a potential move for Mike Conley. Since then, they’ve been linked with deals for Serge Ibaka, Naz Reid, Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry. Some may see value in those trades, or simply any for that matter, but to others it’s a pretty uninspiring list.
Ibaka has of course spent time with the Clippers before, but he fell out of favor as time moved on as he couldn’t offer what Tyronn Lue was looking for in a big man. The head coach seemed to eventually find something close to that in Isaiah Hartenstein, before he rightly took a bigger bag to move to the New York Knicks. Now, the former is being tipped for a possible return, according to Sam Amico from Hoops Wire.
It’s hard to see how the front office could square bringing back Ibaka, who they cast off to the Milwaukee Bucks for next to nothing, but perhaps it could come down to a lesser of two evils versus upgrading Moses Brown to the main roster – you just can’t help but feel like Hart could still do a much better job, especially after being misused by current coach Tom Thibodeau, though the price would obviously be steeper.
Naz Reid represents an option that several big-time buyers may have their eye on, no less the Clippers and the Brooklyn Nets as reported by HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto, especially with the Minnesota Timberwolves flattering to deceive in the Western Conference. The franchise have been rumored to already be willing to part with D’Angelo Russell, mentioned in whispers with a possible trip to this side of LA, so blowing it up completely may send more pieces to other contenders.
For the Clippers, Reid doesn’t represent exactly what they need. The idea of bringing in a backup center would be to ease the pressure on Ivica Zubac, but ideally that player would be another seven-footer who could bring a combination of size and switchability. Therefore, sacrificing depth or draft capital for a player that stands around the same height as Marcus Morris Sr. wouldn’t exactly fulfill that brief, despite representing a more athletic option than any of the team’s current small-ball centers.
The idea of VanVleet is better than the practicality of making such a move, not least because it’s unlikely that the Toronto Raptors feel the need to give him up on the cheap, even though he hits free agency in the summer as pointed out in Kevin O’Connor’s report for The Ringer. They’d likely have to sacrifice some rotational wing depth for yet another undersized guard, since it’s unlikely that John Wall or Reggie Jackson would prove key components in the deal or that they’d even consider trading Norman Powell, Luke Kennard or Terance Mann. Yes, it would be another memeable move towards the “L.A. Raptors” but it’s hard to see how this one gets done before the deadline.
Lowry being mentioned in the same article as a potential target scares me just as the links to Conley did, and perhaps even more so. Though the Utah Jazz’s 35-year-old has experienced a drop-off, he still seems capable of the kind of moments the Clippers could hang their hat on, while the Miami Heat’s 36-year-old has been more noticeable in his absence than his presence in Florida this season – with Eric Spoelstra’s team going 6-1 without him in the rotation as of a couple of weeks ago. The idea that an already aging team experiencing problems trying to implement undersized guards into the lineup goes and adds another aging undersized guard to its rotation is nonsensical to me, and the money he makes would mean a serious scrabble by Lawrence Frank and company to match his salary.
Overall, you can clearly count me in on the side of the “uninspired” by the names that have been touted in Clippers trade rumors so far. However, I have a belief in both the front office and Coach Lue to figure out the right moves for the franchise, and I don’t think the answer is major surgery regardless. Just a few cosmetic tweaks here and there coupled with some good health heading into the postseason could see this team hit a sweet spot.