As the NBA trade deadline approaches, the Los Angeles Clippers are a buying team of particular interest, with D’Angelo Russell and Christian Wood the latest reliably reported targets per Marc Stein.
After dodging a bullet with an unsuccessful – and frankly deeply concerning – offer to acquire Kyrie Irving, the franchise is still looking for a backcourt upgrade, while the frontcourt situation has needed attention since the summer.
Russell would solve the former issue. The Minnesota Timberwolves are reportedly struggling to reach an agreement on an extension with their point guard, who is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and could be looking to cash in while his trade value is high. The problem for the Clippers is how high that price will be with the 26-year-old having the most efficient season of his career, as well as the amount of other suitors that have more attractive assets to a team that committed wholeheartedly to buying when trading for Rudy Gobert.
I would like to see this trade happen if the front office could find a way to do it on the cheap, but after getting finessed on an aforementioned Frenchman in the summer, I think this target seems a more unrealistic one than a few other names floating around. Truthfully, if Ty Lue is insistent on getting an upgrade at the point-guard position, then the only options on the market would either provide a minimal improvement or cost them a couple of popular rotational players – if that concerning Kyrie offer was anything to go by.
Wood, on the other hand, could well be a more realistic option and his salary is over half what Russell is earning in his contract year. The Mavs forward is also an unrestricted free agent in the summer, though he’s reported to have been offered an extension already, but this is a possible rental that would be much less costly in the long term for the Clippers. For a start, his salary is an exact match with both Marcus Morris Sr. and Robert Covington, who you feel aren’t safe from being thrown into a trade – I mean, who is besides the stars?
Personally, I’d rather it was the former given the skill set of Wood – by which, I mean a good amount of offensive firepower but a lack of solidity on the defensive end. The 27-year-old has put up 18.4 points in 29 minutes per game this season on splits of roughly 54/39/74, bettering Morris’s output this year without losing the defensive capabilities of Covington. Unfortunately, given the latter’s current spot within the rotation, it’s more likely that he would be the one heading for the exit door.
On that basis, and at risk of sounding like a fan who refuses to be impressed by any and all of the potential trades on the table, I don’t like this one for the Clippers. The idea of having Morris at the four and Wood at the five when Ty Lue looks to go small is enough to give me nightmares. Going small has already made the Clippers too easy to beat, that frontcourt in a postseason scenario would be like a welcome mat to paint pushers.
One of the many trades I’ve already tried to pour water on this season was Mike Conley, but if the franchise is committed to making a move before the deadline, I’d like to see them pry him and Olynyk from the Utah Jazz. Both have manageable salaries and controllable contracts, which alongside the likely price to capture both, gives them an edge over Russell and Wood for me.
The possibility of a more sensible trade seems to be dwindling and, I have to say, I can’t wait for the deadline to pass.