The Los Angeles Clippers have two gaping holes in their roster they should really look to fill for next season. The first problem is that they have no reliable big men besides Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan (actually they don’t have any under contract for next season) and since they’re over the cap, they will have a tough time filling out the roster barring trades. Playing small with Hedo Turkoglu and Danny Granger was pretty much a disaster and Glen Davis didn’t really provide anything.
The second issue is that they aren’t big enough on the wing. Matt Barnes is okay, but Jared Dudley fell out of the rotation completely by the playoffs. Considering that Dudley has two more years left on his deal at $4.25 million, you’d really like that to change. During the playoffs Chris Paul was actually forced to guard Kevin Durant for significant stretches at a time because of the lack of trust Doc Rivers had in every single wing player on the roster.
Playing a lineup of Paul-Darren Collison-Jamal Crawford is cute in the regular season, but in the playoffs when the importance of matchups is highlighted, that pretty much goes out the window. The Western Conference is loaded with good wings – Nic Batum, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant etc. You have to be able to defend them in a manageable way.
The Clippers have at five free agents this summer; Turkoglu, Granger, Collison, Davis and Ryan Hollins. Out of those guys, you’d hope Granger could bounce back and you could get him on the cheap but based on his performance at the end of the season, he looked done.
The point is that the Clippers have some roster spots to fill, and no real cap space to do so in free agency.
One potential way to improve is of course by trade, so the question becomes: Who on your roster are you willing to trade that would have value on another team? Considering that Blake and Paul are pretty much untouchable and Jordan took a leap last season, you are most likely not trading any of your super high valued assets. J.J Redick has three more years remaining on his deal, but Rivers really likes what Redick brings to the table and he uses him wonderfully in the offense as a sort of Ray Allen lite version.
With Redick on the floor, the Clippers scored at a monster rate of 116.3 points per 100 possessions, compared to 110.8 when he sat, per Basketball-Reference.com. He’s not the guy the Clips should be looking to trade. The other pieces are pretty much useless in trade discussions, since no one has seen or heard of Reggie Bullock in the NBA yet and Dudley has been pretty bad with the Clippers so far.
The Clippers don’t have a draft pick to trade until 2017 because they sent their 2015 pick to the Boston Celtics for Rivers. So whatever team takes that pick back would have to be willing to be patient, and possibly swallow the remainder of Dudley’s contract.
That leaves Crawford. He’s already 34 years old, doesn’t play a lick of defense and isn’t really the most efficient player; Crawford shot 41.6 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from three-point range last season, a significant drop from the previous year. The Clips were actually better without him on the court last season, especially on the defensive end where their rating went from 103.8 to 106.3 when he was on the court.
On the other hand, he’s an exciting shot creator who can work both on and off the ball and is still valuable on the offensive end. He’s the type of spark plug off the bench that many teams would love to have, someone who can come in and create offense out of thin air when the ball movement and execution bogs down and nothing is really going for you. The ability to get space for your own shot at the end of a shot clock is valuable, and Crawford is still one of the best at that.
So who are the teams crazy enough to gamble and give up at least semi-valuable assets for a 34-year-old who has shown poor effort when being unhappy with his situation (both Crawford and Raymond Felton were shamefully out of shape after the lockout with the Portland Trail Blazers)?
It’s probably going to be one of the Eastern Conference teams like the Charlotte Hornets or Washington Wizards, who are over-excited after having solid seasons and are looking at the landscape in the East thinking: “Hey, we can make the conference finals next season!” Or, someone else who really wants to be good right now like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings or New Orleans Pelicans.
If the Clippers are willing to part with a first round pick, perhaps a team that doesn’t care at all about winning right now could be enticed into a trade, provided they don’t care about a sulking Crawford and whoever else gets dumped. Mainly I’m thinking of Philly here. Who knows what those guys are doing, since they already boast the largest collection of future second rounders in the league by far, and might be willing to at least talk for the prospect of getting a first round pick that’s likely in the high-20′s.
The best bigs that are at least semi-available for the Clippers right now are Thaddeus Young and Ryan Anderson, but to make both of those work they would have to willing to take back Dudley’s contract to make the salaries work. If the Clippers can get either of those guys with Crawford, a first-rounder and a bunch of second-round picks they should do it in a heartbeat. Both would be great fits on the roster.
Anderson would make them unguardable in pick and roll situations and Young’s versatility would be a great fit next to Griffin and Jordan, and you could do all sorts of things with Griffin at center and a great shooting lineup or go ultra big with Young as the small forward. Alas, both of these seem like long shots. The Pelicans do have a shaky history of trades and signings in the past year, but I’m not sure even they would go for this.
Carl Landry from the Kings would have been a good choice a year ago, he’s been a great backup for a long time but was injured for most of last season and when he played, he looked terrible. Maybe you hope a change of scenery would do him some good and the Kings are in a enough of a “win-now” mode that they would probably pull the trigger on a trade like this, even if it meant taking back Dudley. I’m not much of a Derrick Williams fan and don’t think the Clips should be going after him.
Ersan Ilyasova on the Milwaukee Bucks should be a candidate for the Clippers, even though his shooting percentages have gone off a cliff; Ilyasova shot over 44 percent from three for two consecutive seasons before shooting under 30 last year. But the Bucks don’t really have a reason to want to take back a veteran like Crawford on a multi-year deal.
There are some additional, but unexciting names that the Clippers should be looking at, like, for example, Trevor Booker (a potential sign-and-trade candidate).
The point is, you’re not getting back Tristan Thompson or Kenneth Faried in a deal for Crawford, there’s just no way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a gem if you’re willing to part with some picks. The Clippers should be calling and looking for every possible trade partner to try and get back a real impact player.
The market for Crawford is smaller than most Clipper fans realize. Good teams don’t want to give anything of value back, and teams like Boston and the Detroit Pistons with the newly appointed head coach Stan Van Gundy are too smart to do so. The Clippers should be able to fill 80 percent of what Crawford does with Redick, Collison and something out of the Reggie Bullock/C.J. Wilcox combo, and if they want to find some answers for their other needs they are going to have to either settle with an okay player, take a gamble on a young player who hasn’t succeeded yet or get a massive coup in a lopsided trade.