Trade rumors keep swirling around the Clippers, so here’s a list of five trade targets who are different than the usual suspects.
As we have discussed ad nauseum on TLTJTP, the common criticisms of the Clippers regarding poor late-game play and lack of a floor-general type point guard are both somewhat offbase and impossible to fulfill. The only player who fulfills the criteria of helping the Clippers out in some capacity at point guard while being good enough to actually close games over their current crop of guards is Kyle Lowry. The difficulties with acquiring Lowry are numerous, starting with the Clippers’ lack of assets, the Raptors’ lack of desire to move Lowry, and the Raptors’ surge putting them back into playoff contention.
A Lowry trade is just not going to happen, and no other candidate that’s been floated out there would either help the Clippers at all (Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose) or be good enough to actually close (George Hill), much less have the ball in their hands down the stretch of games. In fact, I think the larger point on the Clippers is the lack of a true third option. People could make the argument for Nic Batum, Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Serge Ibaka, Ivica Zubac, or Marcus Morris as the Clippers’ 3rd best or most important player, and while I’d disagree with most of the arguments (I personally have Beverley as 3rd most important, Zu as 3rd best), the fact that it’s so unclear is a weakness. Therefore, rather than looking for a mystical point guard upgrade that does not seem to exist, I think the move for the Clippers is a sheer talent upgrade – regardless of position. Below are five trade targets who I think would provide real talent upgrades for the Clippers, and are players who have not been connected to the Clippers much if at all.
The Target: Nikola Vucevic
The Baseline Trade: Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac, Terance Mann, and Mfiondu Kabengele + picks for Nikola Vucevic and Michael Carter Williams
The Reasoning: Some of the same basic problems exist with a Vucevic trade as with Lowry – both are legitimate All-Star caliber players who are critical for their team’s success. There are two main differences, however. First, while Vuc has been very good for a long time in Orlando, his tenure hasn’t had enough success to make him a franchise legend. Second, the Magic are dreadful, and this particular iteration of the team has run its course. Thus, the odds of the Magic trading Vucevic seem quite a bit higher than the Raptors trading Lowry.
The same issues exist with the package, in that the Clippers do not have many assets. That said, this is everything of positive value the Clippers can give – an expiring in Lou Williams, a stopgap starting guard on a reasonable deal in Beverley who can play alongside Markelle Fultz, a starting center of the future in Ivica Zubac, a young rotation-caliber wing in Mann, and a prospect flier on Kabengele. Just about all the picks the Clippers currently have (all the second rounders they got from Detroit) would have to be throw in, but it would be worth it. The Magic could almost certainly get a better offer, but the Clippers should sniff around if they haven’t already.
For the Clippers, the reasoning is obvious: Vucevic is a monster of an offensive player who can shoot, punish smaller players in the post, and make plays from the paint or around the perimeter. He’s also a great rebounder who would make up for Zu’s absence in that setting, and a perfectly fine defender. Simply, he’s much, much, much better than anyone the Clippers have on their roster besides Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and is an excellent fit offensively with the superstar wings. Michael Carter-Williams is a nice defender who would help make up for the departures of Beverley and Mann, and would be a good fit with Reggie Jackson on the second unit (Luke would presumably start at “point guard” in this outcome). The Clippers would have to make some moves on the buyout market to make up their depth, but a Luke-PG-Kawhi-Batum-Vuc-Reggie-MCW-Morris-Serge top nine would be pretty damn good.
The Target: Harrison Barnes
The Baseline Trade: Marcus Morris, Ivica Zubac, Terance Mann, Daniel Oturu, and Mfiondu Kabengele for Harrison Barnes and Hassan Whiteside
The Reasoning: To be honest, I am not sur that I’d do this deal. Harrison Barnes is essentially a better version of Marcus Morris, and the reason I didn’t like the Morris trade that much was that I didn’t think his skillset was as valuable on the Clippers due to the presence of Kawhi and George. While the upgrade from Morris to Barnes is real, giving up Zu, who is not much worse than Barnes in a vacuum and far younger and cheaper, is a real blow. Whiteside was actually quite good as recently as last year, but has slipped this season, and playing him even 15 minutes per game probably wouldn’t be a good outcome. Finally, Mann has developed into a nice rotation player, and losing that depth and value on a cheap deal is tough.
That said, the argument for the Clippers is also clear. Barnes is much better than Morris – a better shot creator, defender, rebounder, and passer – who brings at least some of the attacking and foul-drawing threat the Clippers need. He would immediately be the Clippers’ true third option and third-best player, and he’s also a highly durable veteran with deep playoff experience who has consistently played big minutes. Simply, he’s a talent upgrade.
For the Kings, Barnes has been a nice presence, but their current team isn’t going anywhere, and he’s quite a bit older than their young core of Fox and Haliburton. Zu and Mann fit their timeline a lot better, while Morris offers some of the veteran presence and shooting that Barnes also brought. It’s a decent haul, though dealing with Morris’ contract isn’t great. I’m not sure if the Kings are shopping Barnes, but if they are, the Clippers should have interest.
The Target: John Collins
The Baseline Trade: Lou Williams, Daniel Oturu, and a lottery protected 2022 1st round Sacramento Kings pick to the Hawks; John Collins and Cory Joseph to the Clippers; Ivica Zubac and Terance Mann to the Kings
The Reasoning: John Collins is just one season removed from averaging 21 and 10 on good efficiency, and is just 23 years old. That seems reason enough right there. Collins is on an expiring deal, sure, and the Clippers would have to pay to keep him – but he’s worth it. Collins is a better shooter than Ibaka or Zu, a far superior rim-running presence than either (though Zu is the superior finisher), and has much more juice as a creator both in the post and attacking off the dribble. Really, he’s just a much better talent than Zu or Serge (at this point in his career) and would instantly become the Clippers’ third offensive option.
The Kings move off Cory Joseph’s contract, get their center of their future, and a nice rotation piece in Mann. Sure, they are giving up a 1st round pick, but its lottery protected, and Zu is probably better than any player they’d find in the mid-1st round anyway. As for the Hawks, they flip a guy they don’t seem to want to pay into a 1st round pick, an Atlanta legend who would help with scoring and creation when Trae Young is out of the game and probably re-sign with the team in Lou Williams, and a flier on a young big man. It’s not a great return for Collins, but they aren’t getting multiple firsts for him, and probably aren’t getting an unprotected 1st round pick either.
The Target: Victor Oladipo
The Baseline Trade: Ivica Zubac, Patrick Beverley, Terance Mann, Mfiondu Kabengele, and a couple second-round picks for Victor Oladipo
The Reasoning: This is the trade that presents the greatest risk, but also the highest reward. Oladipo has been a shell of himself the past couple seasons due to injury, and there’s every chance he’s never the same player he was in 2017-2018, when he looked like a future top 10 NBA player. Even the broken down Oladipo offers plus defense, solid playmaking, and more juice off the bounce than anyone currently on the Clippers. If he can find a medium where he regains his shooting and a bit more burst, he’d be a near-perfect fit next to Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, and would make the Clippers title favorites.
The downside, of course, is that the Clippers are losing their heart and soul in Patrick Beverley, a warrior on the court who does a lot of positive basketball-related things as well. His rebounding, defense, and shooting would be desperately missed, and that’s not even getting into leadership. Zu has been discussed already, but the Clippers would need to find some playable backup center, even if the Oladipo acquisition would mean a much-improved small-ball lineup that would probably close most games.
The Rockets turn around a player they aren’t planning on keeping for a fan favorite in Beverley, a very nice young center in Zu, a promising player Mann, and further assets. It’s not an awesome haul for Oladipo, but considering his contract is expiring and he hasn’t played well for them, it’s not like they’re probably going to get much better offers either.
The Target: Thaddeus Young
The Baseline Trade: Ivica Zubac, Lou Williams, Terance Mann, and Mfiondu Kabengele for Thaddeus Young
The Reasoning: First off, I don’t think I’d do this deal. Zubac might not be better than Young (who has been awesome this year), but he’s cheaper and over a decade younger, and is therefore the better asset. That’s not even counting the other assets the Clippers are giving up here. However, this trade is being made under the assumption that the Clippers want to go small to close games. And, in that scenario, Young makes a great deal of sense. Young is bigger than Morris or Nic Batum, and is a superior defender than either current Clipper as well as a far better rebounder. He’s therefore the better option as a small-ball center. If the Clippers got Young without trading Batum or Morris, they could roll out a switch-everything lineup with George-Kawhi-Batum-Morris-Young, a nightmare to deal with for any team but those possessing monstrous big men or devastatingly quick point guards. Young is just a very good NBA player, and is one of the most respected and seasoned veterans in the NBA to boot.
Chicago is close to the playoffs and is desperate to make the postseason for the first time in a handful of years, so on first glance it doesn’t make sense that they would trade Young. But again, as with many of these teams, the Bulls are mostly young, and the veterans clearly aren’t there for the long haul as the Bulls continue to rebuild. Getting a pretty good package of young players for Young while his value is high is a smart move from an asset perspective, even if Zu does play the same position as Bulls’ youngster Wendell Carter Jr. Mann offers defense next to Zach LaVine and Coby White, and Chicago is one of the few places Lou might consider playing considering his reverence for the United Center.
Well, those are five unusual trade targets who I think the Clippers should look into. What do you think of these guys? Are there any others that might be out there that you have interest in? Let me know in the comments below!