The Los Angeles Clippers pulled off one of the best moves at the 2022 NBA Trade Deadline. Coming into the deadline, moves were expected out of the Clippers. They are currently eighth in the West with a 28-30 record but without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for the time being, and it is unclear if they will be back this season.
Thus, the team had to make a move and they made a great one, getting Norman Powell and Robert Covington from the Portland Trail Blazers for Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow and Keon Johnson. Yet, they still did not improve one part that they could have. Not getting a boost in the frontcourt might end up being the Clippers’ biggest mistake at the 2022 NBA Trade Deadline.
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Clippers’ biggest 2022 NBA Trade Deadline mistake
Once again, it has to be reiterated how great of a move it was to get Powell from the Blazers. The Clippers moved a few inconsequential parts of their roster for a proven scorer, something they desperately need with their two best players out. Powell has averaged 21.0 points on 47.6% shooting from the field and 42.9% from behind the arc in three games played so far for the Clippers. Yet, while that move was amazing and will help the Clippers hold on as their stars hopefully come back, it was followed by a move that made them weaker.
Getting backcourt firepower is good, but it cannot be ideal without a frontcourt to go with it. The Clippers did a deadline deal with three other teams where they got rid of Serge Ibaka and got Rodney Hood and Semi Ojeleye. Ibaka is past his prime and has not been playing well, averaging just 6.6 points in 35 games played for the Clippers, with players like Ivica Zubac and Isaiah Hartenstein ahead of him in the rotation.
However, even though the Clippers wanted to trade Ibaka to get him more playing time, they could have tried for another option in the frontcourt. Even if they end up in the play-in tournament, when George and Leonard come back this team will definitely contend. They were one Kawhi Leonard injury from making the 2021 NBA Finals, and while it is unknown what form the two players will be in when they come back, their aim remains the same: bringing the first title to the smaller team in Los Angeles.
It is also not the case of there not being any options. In the same deal they did with three other teams, Marvin Bagley III was sent to the Detroit Pistons. Granted, he was not the greatest of options available, as he was mostly silent with the Sacramento Kings. However, insisting on him in the deal could have been another slam dunk for the Clippers' front office after getting Powell. Bagley's poor play was more due to the Kings being very inconsistent with his minutes, but with more consistent minutes, he could have added a new dimension to the Clippers' attack. He also would have made sense financially, as he is still on his rookie deal and is likely to get a team-friendly deal in the summer due to the lack of production in his last Kings season.
If they wanted to go for something more secure, another option was another Blazers player: Jusuf Nurkic. Obviously, Nurkic is not the focal point of an NBA offense, but he is quietly averaging almost 15 points, together with 11 boards, on 53.3% shooting from the field. He has been especially impressive in his last 16, averaging 17.3 points, 13.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 steals on 52.2% shooting from the field. That includes games like the 21-point, 22-rebound outing against the Orlando Magic, and a gargantuan 29-point, 17-rebound effort against the Boston Celtics. He is also an expiring deal coming from a team on the selling side, so getting him might not have cost as much, even with the Blazers thinking about keeping him around.
If they wanted to go in a completely different direction, the Clippers could have acquired someone like Mitchell Robinson from the New York Knicks. The Knicks made basically all their players available ahead of the deadline, including the athletic youngster playing in his fourth season in the NBA. It is unknown how much the Clippers would have had to pay, but his rookie contract is up and because the Knicks did not re-sign him yet, there could have been a window for other teams. He is not going to amaze anyone with his offense, but he is averaging a ridiculously efficient 76.8% from the field while adding 8.6 boards and 1.6 blocks per contest. Granted, it is for a poor Knicks team and not on a ton of attempts, but Robinson could have been the frontcourt boost the Clippers needed for their playoff battles.
Of course, this season is not the ultimate for the Clippers. They have both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard tied up for the foreseeable future and now have Norman Powell and Reggie Jackson to bolster their attack. Yet, it would not have hurt them to go for it this season. If their stars plan to come back soon, they would have a deep team in every regard ready to help them reach the final goal. Not getting the needed frontcourt boost might end up hurting the Clippers and could wind up being their biggest mistake at the 2022 NBA Trade Deadline.