With the trade deadline fast approaching on February 23rd, today we will take a look at what moves the LA Clippers could have in store for us.
The Clippers are a very interesting team as the deadline approaches. They are clearly a playoff team this season with a record of 33 wins and 21 losses and the current 5th seed in the Western Conference. That means they will be looking to buy assets to move from a playoff team to an NBA championship caliber team, but a big roadblock stands in the way.
LA is currently about $20 million over the salary cap and that means trading becomes difficult. Under the current CBA, the Clippers can only take back 125% of the outgoing salary in any trade plus $100,000. You can read more about the CBA’s trade rules here, if you are so inclined. This limits the Clippers from acquiring a high salary player unless they are willing to give a high salary player back in the deal.
With all the being said, let us take a look at a few of the Clippers assets that could be traded away and what the Clippers may receive in return.
Jamal Crawford - SG
Jamal Crawford has been a valuable 6th man to the Clippers since arriving in 2012. He is a professional scorer who can handle the ball and knock down three-pointers with the best of them. Crawford is a great player to bring off the bench when you need some instant offense.
Crawford is 36 years old and the production is starting to decline. Couples that with his $13.2 million salary, and he will most likely be part of any trade where the Clippers take back a player with a superstar's salary.
The problem with trading him for a big ticket item is what use is Jamal Crawford to a rebuilding or retooling team? He is 36 years old and not exactly at the point in his career to join a team like that.
He would be traded mostly in a salary matching situation if he is moved, so keep that in mind.
Potential Landing Spots
I think Crawford would have to head to the Big Apple if the Clippers made a trade for Carmelo Anthony. The Carmelo Anthony case is ever publicized, but if he is going to switch teams I genuinely believe he would either move to Cleveland or the Clippers. The trade can only happen if the Clippers include Blake Griffin (and why would they do that if Anthony is the piece they need to win a title) or Jamal Crawford because the salaries need to be close and Melo makes almost $25 million this season.
I don’t believe any player making superstar money joins the Clippers during this trade deadline, but if you hear a rumor of a superstar coming, then expect Crawford to be gone to make the salary figures work.
Austin Rivers - PG/SG
>Austin Rivers is often a player who seems to get a bad rap. Rivers is the son of Clippers Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations, Doc Rivers, and I think a percentage of NBA watchers believe nepotism and not talent got Austin Rivers to where he is today.
This 24-year-old can play basketball and he is in the midst of a career season. Rivers is playing a career high 28.2 minutes per game and for the first time in his career has a positive value over replacement player (VORP). He is also proving to have a consistent three-point shot, be a bit of a playmaker, and has the ability to defend one through three on the court.
To a rebuilding or contending team, Austin Rivers is an asset worth acquiring. He has NBA talent and despite not being a superstar can be a solid role player on a contending team. Rivers is also young enough to allow a team to grow and be in his prime when they are ready to contend.
Austin Rivers has two more years on his contract after this season at $24.475 million combined. His $11 million salary this season allows the Clippers to trade him as the main salary piece for a skilled player and not have to give up an astonishing amount of picks as well.
Potential Landing Spots
The Denver Nuggets are shopping Danilo Gallinari and with the Clippers rumored interest I see Rivers as part of that trade. It gives the Nuggets another young asset to flip or develop and it gives the Clippers the small forward they need to be a complete team. The Clippers would need to add a bit more salary and meet the Nuggets needs to make this trade happen, but if it does happen, then expect to see Austin Rivers in Denver blue.
Rivers could be on the move to any team that is willing to part with a superstar player and his salary. If the Clippers make a big move it will be Rivers as one of the names involved in the deal.
Brice Johnson - SF/PF
We now move on to the two young assets the Clippers have in the cupboard. The first is Brice Johnson, the Clippers 1st round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has still yet to play an NBA game. He herniated a disc in his back during the preseason and is finally returning to the practice courts in hopes of playing this season.
Johnson is a virtual lottery ticket at this point. He was a 1st round pick and clearly has talent and size at 6’10 230, but without seeing him on an NBA court is difficult to predict what if anything Brice Johnson can produce.
Below is a highlight video of Brice Johnson from his final college season at North Carolina to give you a glimpse at his game.</p>
A rebuilding team would be interested in Johnson, though. He is young and has talent meaning some team will be willing to bet on that horse.
Potential Landing Spots
Whether it be the New York Knicks, the Denver Nuggets, or any other team offering the Clippers a player that brings them closer to winning the NBA title this season, I could see Brice Johnson being attached to the deal as a young asset for that rebuilding club. It is virtually the Clippers trading them a 1st round pick, just the pick is already made and the player ready to be developed.
Diamond Stone - C
The second of the Clippers young players is Diamond Stone. Stone is a 6’11 255 pound center who is 20 years old and a 2016 2nd round draft pick.
Diamond Stone has only seen 5 games of action this season with Clippers and just 20 minutes total on the court, so it is difficult to make any value judgments based on that data.
Stone has been good in the D-League this season. In just 21.7 minutes a game, Stone averages 16.2 points, 0.8 three-pointers made, 7.0 rebounds, 1.0 block, and 0.5 steals per game while shooting 49.1% from the field and 82.6% from the line. His most impressive stat is his 37.0% accuracy from three-point land, given the sample size is not large, but if Stone can be a stretch five on the NBA court that is a valuable asset to any team.
Potential Landing Spots
This is another upside flyer that any rebuilding team would probably be interested in having in return for a high-value asset. I think the Clippers would part with Stone in a second if they thought it brought in the piece to bring a title to LA, so don’t be surprised if he is wearing a different uniform in a few weeks.
Available Draft Picks
The Clippers have done a fair amount of trading away their draft picks in the recent season so below is a list of the picks they still have in the next few seasons.
2017- No picks
2018- 1st round pick
2019- 2nd round pick
2020- 1st round pick, 2nd round pick, 2nd round pick from Cleveland
With the rules put in place under the current CBA, you can only trade away your 1st round pick every other season (http://www.hoopsrumors.com/2013/12/trading-future-draft.html). By rule, the Clippers cannot trade their 1st round pick until the 2021 draft, making any trade involving a 1st round pick that much more difficult to execute.
There you have it, a look at the players the LA Clippers are most likely to move at the trade deadline and what could be coming back in return.
It will be interesting to see if the Clippers decide to make a big move because their title window is closing as free agency comes for both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin after next season. Will the Clippers push all the chips to the middle in hopes of walking away with the title or do they think they have the pieces right now? That is only a question Doc Rivers can answer, but I am watching this team closely as the deadline approaches.
Do not buy into the Blake Griffin trade rumors for what that is worth. The injuries have lowered his value enough that I doubt the Clippers would trade him away at a discounted rate. Do not be surprised to see a move or two out of the Clippers this deadline, even if they are smaller ones.