The Boston Celtics seem poised to make a move before the Feb. 21 trading deadline and Paul Pierce seems to be their most movable asset.
Across the coast, the Los Angeles Clippers are in no situation to make a move. In fact, they might be better off sticking with what has fetched them a top-four position in the Western Conference. But, they may also be wise to make a hard push for Pierce.
Here’s a question: Do the Clippers really have a bench that could make up a starting lineup on some teams?
Well, that’s a tough question. It obviously doesn’t hurt to have a deep second unit, but come playoff time the Clips won’t have the benefit of using their bench excessively. For one, the quality of their opponents will improve dramatically, which would suggest that the starters will play more. Secondly, a championship bench doesn’t need a more than five options, like the Clippers have and will continue to add to as Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups return.
So, why not use some of these spare parts to upgrade their small forward situation?
It seems smart on the surface, but there’s obviously a big risk, as clearing out their bench would put a bigger burden on the starters.
In the Clippers’ case, however, clearing out three or four of their bench corps wouldn’t risk their season. Now, if trading for Pierce involved Jamal Crawford, the Clips would drop out immediately. In all likelihood, though, the Celtics would prefer a couple of expiring or near-expiring contracts to clear cap space, as if they’re looking to rebuild, Crawford wouldn’t be much of a help.
Of those three, Bledsoe is the only one that Los Angeles truly values beyond this season, or at all. He’s currently filling in for the injured Chris Paul and figures to be the Clippers’ backup plan at point guard if Paul sprints for greener pastures in free agency. However, there aren’t many greener pastures than Los Angeles at this point in time.
Paul doesn’t seem intent to leave Hollywood given the success he’s had there. Of course, there will be other teams willing to offer him a fat check. The Clippers also have the ability to pay Paul, however, and the fact that Paul has enjoyed his stay in LA makes it all the more possible that he won’t be going anywhere. But they can’t afford to assume anything, yet.
Thus their unwillingness to deal Bledsoe.
However, a half-season of Pierce–and one more if they pickup his option–may be worth the not-so-steep price.
Currently, Caron Butler is the Clippers’ starting forward and he hasn’t provided them with much offensive firepower … or anything else, for that matter. The 32-year-old is averaging a mere 9.5 points (his career-low is 9.2) in 23.7 minutes per game. Worse, he doesn’t have much upside, scoring at least 20 points just three times this season.
If Butler supplied Los Angeles’ lineup with defense on the other hand, then his 9.5 points wouldn’t look so dull. But that hasn’t been the case. The Clippers have a defense rating of 96.3 with Butler on the bench and a much worse 101.7 when he’s on the court.
Pierce wouldn’t bring lockdown defense to the Clippers, but he would compensate for any shortcomings on that end with offensive firepower on the other end. He actually may be a near-perfect fit in Los Angeles with Paul at the helm.
You might be thinking that anyone could work smoothy with Paul, arguably the NBA’s best distributor. This might be true, but for Pierce to be effective, he needs a point guard who can create open shots for him because he can no longer consistently create his own shots. Nearly 63 percent of his baskets this year have been assisted (102 by Rajon Rondo alone) and with Rondo out for the year, the Celtics don’t have a proven facilitator.
So, Pierce’s value is basically dead in Boston, unless general manager Danny Ainge trades for someone to replace Rondo. On the other hand, Pierce’s value would see a massive upswing if the Clippers pulled off a deal for him.
In addition to his on-court value, Pierce would equip Los Angeles with championship experience. He won the title with Boston in 2008 and the title is exactly what the Clippers are gunning for. Bringing in Pierce could make that goal a bit more realistic.
Simply put, winning anything in the playoffs would be more realistic by trading for Pierce. There would be little harm done in trading two of their weaker players and an unproven point guard for Pierce. In retrospect, bringing Pierce in may be the difference between the Finals and an early exit.
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