Today, we’re trying something new: a Clippers mailbag to help 213Hoops readers get ready for the off-season. For the last two weeks, I gathered questions from readers and twitter followers to answer regarding the Clippers’ off-season plans. Enjoy, and let’s keep the conversation rolling in the comments!
CharliePalafox1 asks “What do you think should be the biggest goal for the Clippers this off season?”
Afghanstallion asks “Do you see us making any big moves this offseason, or do you see us doing a “run it back” approach, and maybe cut Trez loose type of thing?”
I’m lumping these questions together, because I think the answers to the two are connected. To state the obvious, the Clippers’ biggest goal this off-season is to put together as good a basketball team as possible to win the 2021 NBA Championship, as well as do whatever possible to set the franchise up for continued success in the short and long-term.
I feel the need to say that because I see a lot of suggestions that what the Clippers need to do this off-season is “trade Paul George” or “get a new point guard.” The Clippers should trade Paul George if it makes the team better and they should get a new point guard if he makes the team better than their current guard rotation. Those are important qualifiers, because they keep us away from some of the suggestions I’ve seen–like Paul George for Zach LaVine and Tomas Satoransky.
The most obvious sites for improvement if the Clippers want to be better in 2021 than 2020 are point guard, backup center, and the coaching staff. But actually getting better is really hard to pull off. Firing Doc Rivers was the right move, but there’s no guarantee the team will find a replacement who is better than him. Letting Montrezl Harrell walk (or sign-and-trading him away) is also the right move, and adding a backup center that will be a more reliable post-season option is realistic. Upgrading at guard is going to be the trickiest, since Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, and Landry Shamet are all already pretty good and the team basically sent all of their draft picks to Oklahoma City last summer.
It’s possible that LAC has a pretty quiet summer–replacing Harrell, re-signing some guys, and making moves around the edges. It wouldn’t be exciting, but running it back with the same roster as last year is a better option than getting worse just for the sake of making changes.
Frank the number one frank on clips twitter asks “Ibaka at the MLE, let Trez walk. Bring back everyone else including JaMychal, Morris, Lou, Bev and Sham). Get a cheap point guard like Jaylen Brunson who would be a solid 10th man. Run it back with an actual system on both ends, and actually run stuff. Also pick up another second unit defensive wing like Harkless. If that doesn’t work then look to go all in at the deadline next year for an available guy (maybe Jrue in a three team trade). Thoughts?”
Ibaka is probably a bit ambitious for the Clippers at the taxpayer mid-level, but as I said above replacing Trez and bringing the crew back isn’t a bad outcome. Adding the additional talent, though, is going to be an issue. I agree that a Bruson-esque (he isn’t a free agent) point guard would help stabilize LAC’s second unit quite a bit, but finding that diamond in the rough (Monte Morris is the gold standard in this category) isn’t easy. The Clippers don’t really have an avenue to add Harkless, as even a far-fetched sign-and-trade wouldn’t work due to the hard cap. The competition for playing time at the backup wings will likely be between the Clippers’ current cast of depth and any new prospects or minimum-salary free agents.
Diego @brlaclippers asks “I like Morris, but not on this salary. Maybe 2 years for 20M.”
It’s hard to pin down exactly where individual players’ market values will end up this summer, not in small part due to the pandemic’s effect on the league’s finances. A two-year, $20 million deal for Morris isn’t out of question, but I think three years and $36 million is probably more in line with what the two parties will find mutually agreeable. He turned down three years and $41 million from the Clippers last summer–but that ended up being a regrettable move that he split with agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports over. He went on to have a career year, but he’s now a year older and in a really tight market where only a few teams will have above MLE cap space.
At the end of the day, it’s unlikely to end up mattering. The Clippers aren’t making decisions right now with cap space in mind. The most important thing in negotiations with Morris is keeping his deal tradeable so the team has flexibility over the next couple of years. Keeping a deal to two or three years instead of four is important in that regard.
Eshaan21 asks “With Lou having such a team friendly contract, is there any way that there is a trade that involves him that gains you assets?”
The Clippers should be able to get a positive asset for Lou Williams’ expiring $8,000,000 deal, but it’s hard to see them moving on from Lou just to get something like a late first round pick in this year’s draft. That doesn’t help the team this year, and only nets them a marginal asset going forward. However, in most hypothetical deals where the Clippers acquire a bigger-name point guard, sending Williams to a third team in exchange for an asset going to the Clippers’ trade partner makes a lot of sense.
Goons asks “Clips get: Jrue & Josh Richardson
Philly gets: CP3 & Lou
Thunder get: Tobias & Trez
Pels get: Pat Bev (hate to do it), McGruder, Pelle & multiple draft picks (2 2020 1st, 2022 1st, 2020 2nd & 2022 2nd)
I hate to just be the “no” guy, but no. The Clippers make out like bandits in this trade, Philly does really well to move off of the Tobias Harris deal, OKC gets screwed, Montrezl Harrell has to play along, and it’s unclear where those Pelicans draft picks are coming from, but the team with the most in the war chest is the Thunder, who are already getting the raw end of this trade in a big way. This doesn’t strike me as realistic.
Register to Vote in CA by Oct 19 asks “Who do you think the Clippers are looking at for the draft? Do you see them doing anything to move up?”
It’s basically impossible to predict who the Clippers are looking at with the 57th overall pick, but I have a feeling they’ll make something happen on draft night, even if it’s minor. The Clippers still have a little over $4M in cash left to spend in trades for the 2019-20 season, which legally ends when Free Agency opens after the 2020 NBA Draft, so the team using that cash to buy an additional pick earlier in the 2nd round seems fairly likely.
Paul George Trades
SnekHN asks “If the Clippers ship away PG13 on a cheap trade where we receive much less salary than we send out during the offseason and get some draft assets plus players in their rookie contracts or cheap contracts, what is potentially the most cap space we can create? Would we be able to sign some good players and potentially keep Marcus Morris?”
So, back to the above point about the team’s ultimate objective being getting better, there isn’t really an avenue here where this happens. Even if George came off of LAC’s books entirely with nothing coming back, they’d only open up cap room in the $12M range. You can get a nice player for $12M but trading PG without getting another star-caliber player back is never going to be a path to making this team better.
Grap old school like your dad asks “give us 1 blockbuster PG13 trade(realistic).”
Sam asks “Simmons for PG deal? If PG commits long term to Philly what side would have to include extra. Both solves issues for other team.”
Well, GRap, Sam’s suggestion is my answer to your question. I’m not ideologically opposed to trading PG, I just don’t really have any interest in the Clippers being a worse basketball team next year. If Doc Rivers’ Sixers want to break up the Simmons-Embiid pairing (it seems like they don’t, but you never know), there’s possibilities there.
The Clippers could offer George, Beverley, and McGruder to the Sixers for Simmons and Horford. LAC adds a new second star whose skillset is less redundant with Leonard, and who importantly is a 24-year-old All-NBA player who is under contract for the next 5 years. The Sixers get a new backcourt with the extreme perimeter scoring upgrade they need, as well as offload the Al Horford deal. Alternatively, if the Sixers are committed to Simmons over Embiid, a similar package works financially to bring in Embiid and Tobias Harris (I wouldn’t really want to bring in Embiid and Horford given their twin giant deals and on-court incompatibility).
It probably isn’t on the table for Philly, but that’s the kind of PG conversation that gets me to pick up the phone if I’m Lawrence Frank.
Diego @brlaclippers asks “Any chance of LAC firing Doc?”
This question came in just before the news of Rivers’ firing broke–and frankly, I was surprised by the news even though I supported the decision.
@cdappnba asks “How many coaches are out there as options that will be better than Doc, especially in a year where the sole goal is retaining Kawhi and PG (outside of a chip)?”
This is the question alluded to above: firing Doc for his shortcomings is one thing, but finding a better coach is another thing altogether. The truth is, there’s no way to be certain that any replacement coach is going to be better than Doc–not many would have made his egregious Montrezl Harrell mistakes, but not many would have successfully gotten the franchise to where it is today either. It’s a big risk, but my opinion is that Rivers’ failures in the playoffs, particularly this past year, made it hard to believe in his ability to take this team where they want to go.
Let’s keep in mind that unproven names have had unprecedented success in the NBA recently. Erik Spoelstra was a rookie head coach for Miami in the 2009 season and now has two championships and five NBA Finals appearances to show for it. Steve Kerr had never even been an NBA assistant before he took over the Warriors in the 2015 season, and he made five straight NBA Finals, winning three titles. Ty Lue took over the Cleveland Cavaliers as a rookie head coach midway through the 2016 season, and promptly made three straight NBA Finals and won a ring. Nick Nurse was hired as Toronto’s rookie head coach just two years ago and won the championship his first year before putting forward another phenomenal season this year. There’s a lot of recent evidence supporting going outside the box.
Grap old school like your dad asks “Pick one of JVG/MDA and tell us why.”
And these are two of the most inside-the-box candidates on the market. I’ll take MDA over JVG, but I don’t love the choice. I don’t think that Jeff Van Gundy should be a serious option to replace Rivers–his track record is worse than Doc’s and he hasn’t coached in 13 years. D’Antoni isn’t an appealing option either, and I would be opposed to him taking the team in a super-small direction that went away from Zubac, but I have more faith in him than Van Gundy. I’d grade a JVG hiring a D, and a MDA hiring a C-.
Diego @brlaclippers asks “I think Jrue Holiday is a good idea for us, do you? We could trade Pat + Shamet + Lou. For a big, I think of Ibaka in FA, or sign and trade with Harrell, or Embiid in a trade starting with Lou + Harrell (sign and trade) + McGruder.”
Jrue Holiday would be a great get for the Clippers, but it’s unclear if the Pelicans are actually going to make him available. If I was in their seat, I wouldn’t–they have enough young talent already that keeping a high-quality veteran starter will help them compete. If he is available, I wouldn’t be surprised if Williams went to a third team to give a pick back to the Pelicans in a deal like this. I’ll talk a bit more about a potential Harrell sign-and-trade later on when I tackle those questions, but that Embiid trade isn’t going to get Philly to pick up the phone.
@Alex_MVG asks “Other than a back up center, the Clippers are lacking a playmaker. What do you think is our best option available via either a trade or free agency for that position?”
Finding a playmaker is a lot harder than it sounds. The Clippers’ guard trio of Beverley, Williams, and Shamet are all individually good but the weaknesses of each (Beverley: playmaking and availability; Williams: defense; Shamet: playmaking and defense) and the lack of size across the board makes it really hard to just add a guy to the mix without introducing new problems. Career starter Reggie Jackson wasn’t a good enough playmaker to make things work as a fill-in when Beverley was hurt, and his lack of size and defense made him a poor fit in a second unit with Williams and Shamet. Reggie is obviously flawed, but so is pretty much anyone the Clippers could have their sights on in their price range.
If the Clippers are going to do much more than a lateral move at emergency guard from Jackson, it has to be a big-time upgrade. The guys to keep your eyes on are probably Holiday, Chris Paul, and Ricky Rubio–but I expect all of those options will be outside of LAC’s reach. Will the Pacers be willing to move on from Malcolm Brogdon? Will the Heat shy away from paying Goran Dragic? Will Toronto finally budge on a Kyle Lowry deal? Each seems unlikely.
SpencerLin89 asks “Thoughts on Darren Collison as a cheap backup PG?”
Collison had a chance to make serious money as a free agent last summer, and chose to retire. Neither the Clippers nor Lakers–who he could be starting for in the Finals right now–could talk him out of retirement at the trade deadline. I don’t think he’s in the picture, and even if he is he should be able to get more money and a better role elsewhere.
Adam D (@a_drooks) asks “I’ve heard speculation that the Clippers will go after a new point guard who’s more of a ball handler / floor general — Goran Dragic has been tossed around as the ideal candidate. What would getting someone like that mean for Bev? Would they keep him or move him? If they move him, how do you think that impacts the identity of the team?”
I love Dragic, and I have for a while, but he almost certainly won’t be in play for the Clippers this summer after his stellar performances during Miami’s run in these playoffs. The Heat have no choice but to give Goran a nice deal to return. If the Clippers did get the 34-year-old Dragic, it would make the most sense for the Clippers to let Beverley and Dragic split PG minutes and trade Williams. Shamet would be able to play his natural position of shooting guard on the second unit full-time and the team would get an asset in return for Williams.
But much like with Ibaka or Harkless, any pathway to getting Dragic seems entirely predicated on the Clippers just having good enough recruitment to get veterans to walk away from significantly more money to return to their current (very good) teams. Even if a sign-and-trade could be agreed to in principle, the hard-cap ramifications on LAC would make it next to impossible. A steep paycut is basically the only way.
Lob City Fan asks “The Clippers could use an elite point guard. Is there any chance they go after Paul or Lowry? Is there a trade package that would make sense for one of them?”
@primeyemz asks “Is CP3 a realistic target for the Clippers?”
Socially Distant asks “There is a lot of talk about bringing CP3 back, but what do you imagine it will actually take to make that happen?”
Paul makes all the sense in the world for the Clippers. They need a better distributor, another scoring option down the stretch, and a vocal leader who is respected by his teammates (George and Leonard are the Clippers’ best players but they didn’t fill that leadership role this season). He’s still incredibly good, earning All-NBA 2nd Team honors last season, but he’ll turn 36 during the 2021 season and is due a massive salary for the next two years. Those factors wipe out his trade value and make him a rare star who is attainable for a Clippers team without much in the way of assets, but the finances are a headache.
The Clippers could also enter the talks with an advantage over the rest of the league–Paul’s family still lives in LA and he has enough league-wide clout and goodwill in OKC to have some say in his future. But making the money work is incredibly difficult because of Chris’ huge contract. If the Clippers tried for a CP3 trade in the 2020 salary cap year (like a draft-day trade, for example), they’d have to send out at least $30,725,186 in 2019-20 salary to bring in Paul’s $38,506,482. That means not only giving up Beverley, Williams, and McGruder, but also starting center Ivica Zubac.
Things might be a little easier during free agency, in a potential 2020-21 cap year trade–but Paul’s contract increases to $41,358,814 and the Clippers would have to send out $33,007,052 to make the deal work. Raises for certain Clippers help here, but they’d still have to trade almost everyone down the roster (like Mfiondu Kabengele and Terance Mann) to scrape the salary together. An outgoing Clipper free agent (like Montrezl Harrell, Reggie Jackson, or Patrick Patterson) departing in a sign-and-trade as part of a multi-team Chris Paul deal could help the Clippers orchestrate something like this, but it becomes immensely complicated and would require additional teams and players to be willing (or incentivized) to cooperate. I’m not ruling it out but a lot of things outside of LAC’s control would need to fall perfectly into place for it to even be possible.
Regarding Lowry, he would be a fantastic get for the Clippers and his lower salary ($30.5M next season) makes the finances workable. But the Raptors don’t seem to want to move him, and they definitely want to keep their books clear in 2021, which means they wouldn’t want Patrick Beverley’s contract.
Phillip @phillycheeze_ asks “Thinking outside the box… Should the Clippers look into bringing back Harkless if they strike out on getting a PG? Maybe a S/T with Trezz works both ways as Moe is probably on his way out, Knicks get a high motor player in return instead of just letting him walk, Trez possibly looks for a redemption year to boost his value with the Knicks, and clippers get a solid wing to beef up the defense on the bench. Then you could possibly have a Lou/Sham/Harkless/Green/Ibaka IF they can secure both Ibaka and Green. If you can’t replace Lou, hide his weakness?”
Importantly, acquiring a signed-and-traded free agent would hard cap the team. While the exact figures will depend on how things go with guys like Marcus Morris and JaMychal Green, the Clippers are almost definitely going to dip into the luxury tax. They wouldn’t be able to keep both of those guys and fit a decent contract for Harkless under the hard cap, especially if they also used the taxpayer mid-level exception.
Sam asks “Also do you have any ideas on what a Harrell S&T could be?”
Sending out a signed-and-traded free agent, however, doesn’t hard cap your team. The Clippers have very limited above-minimum salary slots, so a sign-and-trade for Harrell would help the Clippers maintain flexibility regardless of what (if anything) they get back. One thing Clippers fans will have to come to terms with, though, is that you don’t get good value in sign-and-trade deals–they’re about team leverage, not player value. Last summer, the Warriors had to give up a draft pick to exchange Kevin Durant for D’Angelo Russell in a double sign-and-trade, because the Nets had the flexibility to sign Durant without Golden State’s help and the Warriors needed Brooklyn’s help to land Russell.
If Harrell agrees to terms with a team that has cap room and doesn’t need the Clippers’ help to sign him, a S&T deal becomes very unlikely unless there’s another angle–like that team having a contract it wants to dump and the Clippers being willing to take it on, or the Clippers offering that team an asset to acquire Harrell via sign-and-trade instead of free agency. But if Harrell goes to a team that doesn’t have cap space, the Clippers could be in business. Ultimately, though, the Clippers don’t have any say in where Trez goes, they can just try to make the most of whatever options may be available with the team he chooses.
One other consideration: the base year compensation rule. For trade math purposes, Harrell’s outgoing value from the Clippers’ perspective will only count as $6M or 50% of his new salary, whichever is greater, but his incoming value for his new team will be 100% of his new salary. There are creative ways to facilitate deals, but it’s just another wrinkle making a deal complicated in any circumstances and potentially impossible.
@ClipperSpencer asks “Does it make sense to resign Trezz and let him recoup his value during the regular season (where he can play at a 6moty level) so we can trade him at the deadline and package him with other players if need be? Or is it better to try and do a sign and trade during the off-season/let him walk?”
The idea here totally makes sense. Like I said, the Clippers have limited options to add above-minimum guys to the roster, and letting Harrell walk and losing his bird rights for nothing is getting nothing out of a potential opportunity. It’s why a sign-and-trade, even if the Clippers just get a TPE or a random contract back, would be better than Trez walking outright.
But if a sign-and-trade doesn’t work out, I would rather the Clippers let Trez walk than re-sign him with the goal of trading him later. Backup center was the team’s most glaring weakness, and there are only so many minutes to go around. If the Clippers use Harrell, that means someone else isn’t playing backup center. I don’t want them to head into the season with Trez in that role, hoping that they’ll be able to find a maneuver mid-season that both ships Trez out in a trade and lands them a quality backup center. There are a number of good veteran bigs available in free agency, and the Clippers shouldn’t waste an opportunity to bring one in just to gamble on potentially finding this backup C upgrade mid-season.
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