After a slow start with James Harden, the Los Angeles Clippers have looked like a legitimate threat to win the Western Conference. The Clippers are just a half-game behind the Minnesota Timberwolves for first place in the West, with the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder also in the mix at the top. However, the 2024 NBA trade deadline was rather quiet for LA.
While the Clippers had already made their big trade splash this season by acquiring Harden in November, they still could have made a small move or two to legitimately bolster the roster. There were plenty of rumors surrounding a P.J. Tucker move, but he ultimately didn't go anywhere.
LA knows the core they will rely on when the games are being played in April and May. Health will be the key factor for this Clippers team as they continue to build their chemistry and improve so they can elevate when the lights are brightest. But despite the incredible success of LA's 2023-24 campaign so far, there is still one thing they missed out on before the Feb. 8 trade deadline.
Adding a veteran shooter for second unit
The Clippers' roster construction is focused on surrounding James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George with ancillary pieces that fit their style of play. A prime example is when Russell Westbrook volunteered to come off the bench for their squad because he knew that Terance Mann would complement LA's Big 3 in the first unit. Westbrook was right on the money with this, as the Clippers have been exceptional ever since that change.
If they are healthy until the end, LA's starters are set, and they can compete with any lineup in the Association. Their bench is also superb compared to their counterparts, but they could have used another knockdown shooter. While Amir Coffey has been a revelation with his 44.0% shooting from 3-point range, he's still rather unproven. It would have been nice to acquire a more veteran option.
The only plausible strategy was trading either Bones Hyland or P.J. Tucker for an eighth or ninth man in the playoffs, but it was unrealistic because their market value was extremely low. LA didn't have the draft capital to tinker with trade packages for someone like Malcolm Brogdon or Dorian Finney-Smith. These aforementioned names were in the rumor mill for a couple of months, and they would have been a tremendous fit for the Clippers' system and culture.
LA was linked to P.J. Washington ahead of the trade deadline, but he wound up going to the Dallas Mavericks. Maybe somebody like Danilo Gallinari or Joe Harris could have been an option, and they are still possibilities on the buyout market.
Despite this quiet trade deadline, it's not a major concern for the Clippers because rotations shrink in the postseason, and they have the ability to stagger the minutes of Harden, Leonard, and George. These stars will likely play over 35 minutes a night in the most crucial contests, so LA will definitely compete when it matters as long as they're mostly healthy. Failing to make a notable trade isn't necessarily a mistake, though it could wind up being a missed opportunity.