According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the LA Clippers made a massive trade Friday afternoon to acquire Norman Powell and Robert Covington from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, and Keon Johnson. The Clippers are also sending Portland Detroit’s 2025 2nd round pick, acquired with Luke Kennard two offseasons ago.

The obvious centerpiece of this deal is Powell, who is currently putting up an efficient 18.7 points per game for Portland this season on good efficiency (45.6% from the field and 40.6% from deep). He’s averaged 17.8 points on 48/41 splits in 161 games over the last three seasons, so none of that production should be unsustainable moving forward. For a Clippers team starved of offensive talent (currently 26th in the NBA in Offensive Rating, according to basketball-reference), Powell should provide a lift on that side of the floor without creating major issues on the defensive end either. What Norm doesn’t do is create much offense for others: his assist numbers fall drastically short of point guards like Bledsoe or Jackson and are more in line with current Clippers like Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, and Amir Coffey. While Powell is a guard, he’s really more of a (slightly–he’s 6’3″ with a 6’11” wingspan) undersized scoring wing than a playmaker.

In Covington, the Clippers get a short-term look at a once-coveted defensive forward who has fallen off a bit of a cliff recently. Playing somewhere between the small forwar and center positions based on lineup and scheme, he’s still capable of making an impact on the defensive end of the floor (he’s averaging 2.8 steals + blocks in just under 30 minutes per game for Portland this year), but that impact has declined along with his three-point shot, really hurting his ability to add any value on the offensive end of the floor. RoCo is a bit of a wild card in this trade. In theory, he is still a serviceable veteran who can be a good team defender at power forward and give Ty Lue the versatile switchability in a small ball center that he loves. In practice, he’s not as good as the incumbents in that power forward role, Marcus Morris and Nicolas Batum, and stuck behind all three of the Clippers’ traditional centers. I could see him occupying a part-time rotation role as a depth 4/small ball 5 to replace Justise Winslow. I could also see this acquisition maybe making the Clippers feel a bit more secure in their forward depth if they were to trade Marcus Morris this week–something that has been rumored to be on the table. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see Covington’s $13M expiring contract flipped before the trade deadline passes as the Clippers deal with a glut of forwards and now find themselves in need of a backup point guard.

For Portland, the value in this deal is essentially financial. The Blazers are in dire straits as an organization, recently firing former Clippers executive Neil Olshey after an independent investigation found Olshey created a hostile work environment. They’ve struggled with injuries to core players and constant speculation that star Damian Lillard would ask to be traded, and currently sit well below .500. This trade helps the organization get their finances order in two ways: first, by shedding a total of $4M in the exchange, they avoid the NBA’s luxury tax; second, the team moves Norman Powell’s hefty multiyear deal to create flexibility moving forward. Between Powell, Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and breakout star Anfernee Simons, the Blazers had more 6’3″ guys than they knew what to do with. McCollum’s $30M+ deal will also likely be on the move soon, freeing up money for Portland to invest in rebuilding their frontcourt for next season in a last-ditch attempt to be competitive in the Lillard era. Powell signed a 5-year, $90 million dollar deal with the Blazers last summer that will pay him about $17M next year, $18M in 2023-24, $19M in 2024-25, and $20.5M in 2025-26 when he is 32 years old. It’s not a bad contract for a player of Powell’s caliber, especially since it won’t stretch too far into his 30s, but it is understandable why Portland was reluctant to hold on to it if they felt he was redunant with their other options.

Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, and Keon Johnson all could offer some utility to the Blazers, but it’s unlikely that their play is going to make a big difference for the team. Bledsoe is a solid enough backup guard, but Portland is probably already hard at work on a way to repackage him before next Thursday’s deadline. Winslow is a fun and hard-playing but flawed backup who should get some minutes in Portland and have a similar impact to the one he’s been able to have with the Clippers, while Johnson is a developmental prospect who still needs a lot of work to become an NBA player.

For the Clippers, this trade could indicate that another move is on the horizion, simply because they gave up a point guard and didn’t get one back. One key ramification here is that LAC managed to create a roster spot in a 3-for-2 trade, which will allow them to promote Amir Coffey from his current two-way contract to the 15-man roster. Two-way contract players are not eligible to play in postseason games, so that is an essential promotion for one of LAC’s key contributors this season. In theory, they could just do that and stand pat, but the current depth chart certainly suggests another move is coming:

Point GuardReggie JacksonJason Preston (INJ)
Shooting GuardNorman PowellLuke KennardJay Scrubb (2W)Paul George (INJ)
Small ForwardAmir Coffey (2W)Terance MannBrandon Boston Jr.Kawhi Leonard (INJ)
Power ForwardMarcus MorrisNico BatumRobert Covington
CenterIvica ZubacIsaiah HartensteinSerge Ibaka

In the meantime, the Clippers can get by with Jackson and Powell sharing guard duties while Coffey, Kennard, and Mann pick up the slack at SG and Batum and Covington share backup forward minutes, but by the time the deadline rolls around, it would really behoove the Clippers to have another point guard in the regular rotation. While there are any number of options for trades to accomplish that, the most obvious avenues are either a big deal involving Luke Kennard and/or Marcus Morris, or a simpler deal using the expiring contracts of Covington or Serge Ibaka to bring back a veteran guard. It’s worth noting that if the Clippers’ roster currently feels a bit crowded at the 2, 3, and 4, that’s with them still missing two All-NBA wings. Not all of these guys are going to get to stick around heading into next year. I think there’s a chance that the team views Powell as the long-term starter as a shadow point guard, with George resuming his duties as the team’s lead on-ball offensive creator. That would both alleviate some of the logjam on the wings and, with the assumption that Powell and Jackson are your point guards heading into next season, mean that all you need to do here is a simple deal to flip Covington or Ibaka. I would keep my eyes on guys like Kemba Walker and Dennis Schroder as veterans who should be available on the current trade market and can plug a short-term hole on the second unit with some playmaking.

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Lucas Hann

Lucas Hann

Lucas has covered the Clippers since 2011, and has been credentialed by the team since 2014. He co-founded 213Hoops with Robert Flom in January 2020.  He is a graduate of Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, CA and St. John's University in Queens, NY.  He earned his MA in Communication and Rhetorical Studies from Syracuse University.

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