Los Angeles Clippers: Should Chris Paul Be Traded?

Nov 25, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) reacts during an NBA game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 25, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) reacts during an NBA game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The Los Angeles Clippers aren’t expected to truly contend for a title this year. Should they trade their 30-year-old star point guard?

Despite winning Western Conference Player of the Week and leading the Los Angeles Clippers to a 10-game win streak without Blake Griffin, the NBA world is wondering if the Clippers would be better off trading Chris Paul.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe and HBO’s Bill Simmons both pondered whether Paul should be on the trade block on their respective podcasts this week. They aren’t the first or the only ones to wonder if it’s time that the Clippers should trade away Paul.

The logic behind trading Paul makes sense. The Clippers are playing well, but would need injuries or some unforeseen collapse by the Warriors or Spurs to make it out of their conference.

Even though the Clippers own the fifth-best record in the NBA, they’re not true contenders. The Clippers will likely have to wait for the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs reign to run out before they can become actual contenders and Paul won’t be the same player by the time that comes around.

Blake Griffin is 26. DeAndre Jordan is 27. Paul will turn 31 during the playoffs. The primes of the Clippers’ big three just don’t match up and Paul is the old and odd man out.

The easiest way to prolong the recent success of the Clippers would be to send their All-Star point guard elsewhere while he’s still at the peak of his powers.

If Paul were to indeed be on the trade block, the teams that would give the Clippers a phone call about Paul’s availability would make for a long list. However, there is some difficulty when making a deal that would work for both sides.

The Clippers do not need to trade Paul. They wouldn’t and shouldn’t trade Paul just for the sake of getting rid of Paul. Paul is a top 10 player in the league and a player capable of turning around a franchise, something that the Clippers experienced firsthand.

This means that if the Clippers are going to trade Paul, it’s going to be on the Clippers’ terms. If the Clippers can’t get an elite trade package in return for Paul, they most likely wouldn’t make a deal.

While everyone would want a player of Paul’s caliber, not everyone has a trade package that realistically could be put on the table.

What would the Clippers want in exchange for Paul?

The Clippers are set for the future with their frontcourt of Griffin and Jordan, but have needs elsewhere. A point guard would have to be headed to the Clippers in return for Paul, with some combination of young players and/or picks involved.

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If you’re a team trading for Paul, you have to be in win-now mode. A team that’s rebuilding and hoping to contend in a few years has no real incentive to trade for Paul for the same reason as to why the Clippers would consider trading for Paul in the first place.

A team trading for Paul would have to want to win now, but have enough attractive, young trade assets to make a deal for Paul.

For both sides, it would make more sense to send Paul to the Eastern Conference. The East presents a more realistic chance for postseason success and would keep Paul out of the Western Conference, where Paul would strengthen a conference rival.

This detail makes making a fair trade for Paul an extremely difficult one. How many teams feel like they’re a marquee player away from contending and also have enough trade assets to get the Clippers to part with Paul?

After filtering out those options, the only teams we’re left with by my count are the Boston Celtics, with the Miami Heat looming as a potential team as well. It’s extremely hard to make a deal for any other team in the league.

The Celtics have approximately 300 draft picks over the next few seasons, a few young guys who are intriguing trade assets, and David Lee‘s $15.5 million expiring contract.

Let’s take a look at one potential way both sides could work out a way to get Chris Paul to Boston.

Screenshot (4)
Screenshot (4) /

The Celtics would have to attach draft picks in order for the Clippers to pull the trigger. They could deal away their crown jewel of their treasure of draft picks, Brooklyn’s first rounder in the 2016 NBA Draft. If the Celtics don’t want to miss out on Ben Simmons, they could attempt to protect the pick although the Clippers would obviously value a shot at the number one overall pick.

If the Celtics refuse to trade Brooklyn’s pick, the Celtics could combine their own pick and the Mavericks’ top-8 protected pick.

The Celtics are 10th in the East, but sit only four games back of the second seed behind the Cavaliers. Adding Paul would almost guarantee a playoff spot for the Celtics, while also still owning enough draft picks in the near future to potentially make a deal for another star player (Hey there, DeMarcus Cousins) that could be a force in the Eastern Conference.

Celtics GM Danny Ainge has collected assets to trade for stars in the past and it resulted in bringing a championship to Boston, and he has the assets to try to replicate that success.

In return, the Clippers would receive a lot of young help. Smart can start right away and is one of the best defensive guards in the league in only his second season. Young is a 20-year old wing with potential to be a solid 3-and-D player. Hunter is a rookie with a shooting stroke who could be the next in line for the designated shooter role that J.J. Redick and Ray Allen have enjoyed success in under Doc Rivers. The draft pick(s) would give the Clippers a chance to add some much-needed young talent to an old roster.

It’s also worth noting that the Clippers would be receiving three young players with very good potential at such a cheap price. The salary cap is projected to rise to $108 million by the 2017-18 season. Due to this, current rookie contracts will be the greatest bargain that an NBA team can have.

Smart, Young, and Hunter will combine to make $8.6 million in 2017-18 if all of their options are picked up by the team. That $8.6 million will be less than eight percent of the salary cap in that season and will also own their Bird rights if they want to retain those players when they eventually hit free agency. Smart is already a starting-caliber player, while both Young and Hunter could be worthy of starting jobs by the time 2017-18 comes around. Add another young player or two with the draft pick(s) and the Clippers will have plenty of cap space to lure free agents to Los Angeles to play with a promising team.

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All-in-all, it would take a huge trade package in order for the Clippers to part ways with perhaps the greatest player in their franchise’s not-so-great history. If the Clippers can’t get a loaded package of young talent in return for Paul, then they shouldn’t trade him.

Trading him makes a lot of sense, but it’s difficult to find a trade that works well for both sides.