The Los Angeles Clippers have struggled to build any consistency over the last month and a half of the season. They’ve played 14 games since Feb. 17 and haven’t strung together back-to-back wins even once during that stretch. Every time they drop a game, the ‘Clippers need a point guard’ crowd rises like The Undertaker and drops the Tombstone Piledriver on NBA Twitter with reasons LA needs to trade for a guard.
I’ve personally disagreed with the notion that the Clippers need a point guard because they lack playmaking on their roster. Head coach Tyronn Lue has built his offense around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George as the Clippers’ primary playmakers, and the plan is to continue to play through them using their strong suits.
The talk of the Clippers needing a point guard initially came due to the belief that they don’t generate enough easy looks, mainly around the rim. Over the last couple of weeks, however, we’ve seen the team increase their activity in the paint and around the basket, despite missing guys like Patrick Beverley and Serge Ibaka from the lineup. So it would appear, at least so far, it has been a matter of attacking the paint with a purpose as opposed to simply driving to kick out for open 3s.
The Clippers DO need point guard depth, yes, but it’s not because they NEED a playmaker. The most pressing concern is their inability to stay healthy at that position. While he is a fantastic player and a guy you need on a championship team, Beverley, to no fault of his own, has simply become unreliable when it comes to his availability. Lou Williams is also a guy who has seen a tremendous drop-off in scoring, field goal percentage, and free-throw rate, three of the things that made him a three-time Sixth Man of the year winner.
The Clippers have enough with their current roster to win an NBA championship, but health and age are likely the biggest obstacles in their way. With that being said, if the Clippers do make a move at the NBA trade deadline, here are some players that have been linked to them that they can also realistically acquire.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard George Hill still has one year left on his deal after this season. While the team could always use a veteran on the roster, both sides would likely love to get a mutually beneficial deal done that sends Hill to a contender.
Another thing the Clippers have going for them here is George Hill’s relationship with Paul George. George is actually the player Hill has played the most games with as a teammate, with 335 games combined between the regular season and playoffs.
Hill likely wouldn’t cost the Clippers much more than Lou Williams and Mfiondu Kabengele in a potential trade, although the Thunder will likely try to extract whatever remaining picks they allowed the Clippers to keep in the Paul George trade two summers ago.
It’s also worth mentioning that as of right now, Hill is sidelined after undergoing thumb surgery six weeks ago. As of this past weekend, he’s still in a cast, and sources tell me you can’t hoop in a cast. The Clippers won’t just trade to trade. They need a legitimate upgrade of talent and/or availability as the playoffs near.
At the start of the season, Terry Rozier was linked to the Clippers due to Charlotte’s deep guard depth. Drafting LaMelo Ball and adding him to a team with Rozier, Devonte’ Graham, Malik Monk, Gordon Hayward (in big lineups), and the Martin twins gave them lots of options. Rozier’s strong play this season has quieted trade rumors, and Ball’s likely season-ending injury could throw a wrench into this. Still, the Clippers should keep exploring the Rozier possibility.
Scary Terry makes $18.9 million, so it’d take a combination of Beverley and Williams just to make the trade work. The Clippers most valuable trade chip (if you want to call him that) is likely Ivica Zubac. Charlotte has been featuring PJ Washington and Cody Zeller as their floor-spacing centers while also giving Bismack Biyombo minutes as well, so it’s unclear if they’d even entertain this kind of deal.
Additionally, the Clippers love Zubac, and a significant part of their moving on from head coach Doc Rivers was the belief that Zubac should’ve played more last season. There’s zero indication that they’re even entertaining moving him, especially with how well he has played this season. As we know, one of the best abilities is availability, and Zubac has appeared in all 145 games since the trade to LA. The only two games he didn’t play in, Games 4 and 5 of the 2019 NBA Playoffs, were healthy scratches.
In fact, Zubac has evolved into Golbac under Ty Lue, averaging career highs in minutes per game, field goal percentage, and free-throw percentage.
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio is the more traditional playmaker of the guys listed here. He’s a pass-first point guard who hasn’t become the knockdown 3-point shooter his teams have needed him to be.
Rubio has been a great veteran for the young Timberwolves, but how needed is he for a team that also features D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jordan McLaughlin, Jarrett Culver, Anthony Edwards, and Jaylen Nowell at the guard positions? At least from an outside perspective, the Timberwolves likely wouldn’t mind a Ricky Rubio deal if it brings them more draft capital heading into what’ll likely be another top-three pick for them.
The Clippers could certainly plug Rubio right into their starting unit and have him be the guy who ignites transition opportunities and puts pressure on defenses. The big concern he’s a career 32 percent 3-point shooter, and for a team that centers so much of their offense on Leonard and George driving and kicking for open 3s, can you rely on Rubio to knock down those open triples?
Rubio’s another guy that would likely cost the Clippers Beverley and Williams if they do pull the trigger.
A healthy Victor Oladipo would be a dream acquisition for the Clippers. He’s in the last year of his four-year deal, will look to sign a max or near-max deal this upcoming offseason, and would be a fantastic third option next to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George when healthy.
And that’s the thing with Oladipo: how healthy is he and how healthy can he be? Victor Oladipo played 36 of a possible 86 games during the 2018-19 season (he missed all four playoff games), 23 of a possible 77 games during the 2019-20 season (he played in all four playoff games). Oladipo has played 29 games and miss about a third of the possible games this season, although most of his missed games have been due to load management.
There’s no denying the Rockets guard is a stud when healthy. He was a rising star during the 2017-18 season when he averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2.4 steals per game on 47.7 percent shooting, but his devastating knee injury has left him looking like a shell of himself.
A trade for Oladipo would require Beverley and Williams as well, but that’s not nearly enough for the two-time All-Star. One would think the Rockets could likely find themselves a better offer than anything the Clippers could offer. However, the market for Oladipo has been relatively dry because of the many questions surrounding him.
Oladipo has long been linked to the Miami Heat. He trains down there in the offseason and was heavily pursued by the Heat before he was traded to the Rockets in the James Harden trade.
If an Oladipo trade is on the table and he’s attainable without gutting the roster, that’s something the Clippers have to seriously consider.
Kyle Lowry is way too far out of the Clippers’ price range, although they reportedly remain interested in him. He, along with Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka, led the Raptors to the 2019 NBA championship. Getting a deal done for Lowry, who makes over $30 million this season, would be very improbable albeit not impossible.
Lonzo Ball is more attainable for the Clippers than Lowry, but the question is what do the Pelicans value him at? The Pelicans aren’t just going to give him away for the secret recipe to Serge Ibaka’s beef penis pizza because they don’t want to pay him this summer. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Ball because it’s my understanding that while the Clippers are very much interested in Ball, the Pelicans have a number of likely better offers on the table for the fourth-year guard out of UCLA.