Update: The Los Angeles Times’ Andrew Greif has strongly stated that sources are “adamant” that the Clippers are not looking to trade Luke Kennard. It is unclear at this time what the Clippers are looking to do–they’re obviously working on stuff, but the team hates to have leaks and rumors surrounding them. It’s also possible that they were talking about Luke, but nothing materialized, so they are now covering their tracks.
According to Sean Deveney, a lower-profile but established NBA reporter, the Clippers are shopping sharpshooting guard Luke Kennard. While it’s likely that the heaviest flurry of trade activity this off-season will focus around today’s NBA Draft, Deveney notes that the Clippers are expected to continue looking for a deal for Kennard during free agency if he isn’t moved today. He listed the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, and Sacramento Kings as suitors; subsequent (questionable) Twitter scuttle this morning has linked the Celtics to Kennard:
Kennard is coming off a fantastic bounce-back second year with the Clippers where he stayed healthy to make 70 appearances, averaging 11.9 points while shooting a league-best 44.9% from beyond the three-point arc. It’s no wonder, in today’s high-scoring game, that teams would covet the highest-efficiency three-point shooter in the league. And the Clippers, despite Kennard’s strong season, have reason to look to move on–they have a severe logjam at the wing positions as Paul George and Kawhi Leonard retake their full-time starting spots and trade deadline acquisition Norman Powell plays his first full season with the team. Kennard would be competing on the fringes of the rotation with Terance Mann, whose defensive-minded skillset is a better complement to the aformentioned players, and Amir Coffey, who can’t be traded as the Clippers hope to retain him in restricted free agency next month. Trading Kennard would hopefully allow him to find a larger role to flourish in during his prime (he turns 26 tomorrow) as well as net the Clippers an asset and allow them to avoid awkward playing time disputes this season.
Of the three teams mentioned, Chicago could likely put together the most appealing package for the Clippers. Assuming little-used center Tony Bradley picks up his $2M player option, the Bulls could make the math work by trading young guard Coby White and Bradley for Kennard. White is only 22 years old and appears to have some upside, but hasn’t really emerged as a good player yet. For the Clippers to bite, I’d expect they’d also want Chicago’s 18th overall pick in tonight’s draft, which they could either use to add another developmental piece or flip again (eyeing Marcus Morris + 18 for Malcolm Brogdon or Kyle Kuzma in this space). But to give up both White and their first round pick, the Bulls will likely want to hunt bigger game, and without both, it’s hard to make a deal that is both legal and attractive for LAC.
Boston and Sacramento both have an easier time making the math work on a Kennard trade–the Celtics have a massive, soon expiring trade exception from Evan Fournier last summer that they could absorb Kennard into, and the Kings have small, expendable contracts. To add value, each team would have to look at prospects or picks. Boston is dangling Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard in talks, but neither is super appealing in a straight-up swap for Kennard since the Clippers don’t have roles for them to fill anyway (I could maybe see the Clippers eating the downgrade on a Kennard-Pritchard swap to get a cheap, solid, younger backup PG for the next two years and save a bunch of luxury tax money).
Once Sacramento refuses to put Davion Mitchell in a deal, as they should, they don’t have enticing young players for LAC to consider. Boston doesn’t have a first round pick this year to offer LAC, and Sacramento only has #4, which they’d never surrender in this deal. Both teams have plenty of their own future picks, but that’s complicated as well–Boston, fresh off a Finals appearance, should be very good for a long time, making those picks low-value, while Sacramento is perpetually bad and likely wouldn’t surrender their own future firsts without strong protections.
It’s possible that a deal could be workable, but the protections would have to get wonky. Would Boston give LAC a pick 4 or 5 years out, increasing its value and giving them more time to flip it in another deal? If it’s their 2023 pick, would they be willing to reverse-protect it (so if it’s 21-30, Boston keeps it and LAC gets 2024, but if it’s top-20, LAC gets it)? What protections would Sacramento require? All protected future 1sts either eventually lose their protections as they role over year-to-year, or convert to 2nd round picks instead. How many years would the Kings let it roll over with lottery protections, tying up their ability to make future trades? And when the protections changed, would the pick grow less and less protected or would it simply convey as a 2nd rounder instead? Negotiating out these tiny details can be painstaking, but they determine how much value teams are really getting out of these future picks.