The NBA trade deadline is on Thursday afternoon, and the Los Angeles Clippers are in limbo.
They currently find themselves in eighth place in the Western Conference standings, so if the season ended today, they would be in the playoffs, but they aren’t going anywhere.
Let’s face it: if the Clippers do make the postseason, they do nothing but merely serve as a sacrificial lamb for a team like the Golden State Warriors in the first round.
Would it be nice to get young guys like Montrezl Harrell, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson the playoff experience? I guess, but that should not be the ultimate goal.
If the Clippers qualify for the playoffs, they lose their first-round draft pick to the Boston Celtics. Should they miss the postseason and end up in the lottery, they will keep their pick, which could pay significant dividends.
Why? Not for the simple fact that the Clippers will have a chance to add another piece to their growing stable of young talent, but because they will have another asset they could potentially use in a trade for New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis.
Put it this way: if the Clips end up without a first-rounder, they can pretty much kiss their Davis dreams goodbye, because they simply don’t have enough to acquire him without the benefit of a draft pick. Actually, even with the pick, they still might not have enough, as it would likely be late in the lottery, but it’s still better than not having a pick at all.
So, what should be the solution for Los Angeles in the lead-up to Thursday’s deadline?
Sell. Sell. Sell.
The Clippers have numerous veterans on their roster whom they should look to re-home, with guys like Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley and Marcin Gortat representing viable trade candidates (although the salaries of Gortat and Bradley may make things a bit tricky).
Beverley in particular would be a cheap, valuable pickup for a contender, as he is making just $5 million in what is the last year of his deal.
Williams has another full year at $8 million left on his contract and has a partially guaranteed deal for the 2020-21 campaign and is making just $8 million this season, so he is definitely worth trading for.
Bradley is making $12 million this year and has a partially guaranteed deal for next season, which, at his production, could make him a difficult salary to match without taking on money beyond this season. Same goes for Gortat, who represents an expiring contract but is making $13.6 million this season.
Regardless, all four of those players can absolutely help contenders, and trading them would help the Clippers achieve what should be their goal in missing the playoffs and earning a lottery pick.
Another piece LA has who may draw some interest is backup forward Mike Scott, who, at the very least, can spread the floor for somebody.
Basically, the Clippers have a lot of veterans to shop around the league between now and Thursday, and if Los Angeles can find a deal that is even somewhat worthwhile, it should be made.
Now, to be fair, even if the Clips do nothing at the deadline and move forward with what they have for the remainder of the season, there is a good chance they still miss the playoffs as it is, as LeBron James is now back for the Los Angeles Lakers, and they are just one loss behind the Clippers for the last playoff spot in the West.
The Clippers have not exactly been playing all that well since their 16-7 start, as they have gone just 13-18 since, so it’s entirely possible that LA might just play itself out of postseason contention as is.
Still, the front office would be wise to ensure that the Clippers end up in the lottery while also picking up some assets in the process.
For Los Angeles, it’s all about the future. There is some good young talent in place, and they will have a boatload of cap space to make additions. On a team that already has Tobias Harris plus those other aforementioned young players, a strong offseason could make the Clippers a powerhouse for years to come.
There have long been rumblings about Kawhi Leonard potentially signing with the Clippers this summer, for example, and who knows? Maybe someone like Kevin Durant or Jimmy Butler will join him?
Los Angeles is in pretty good shape going forward, but to put itself in the best position to succeed in the future, the front office needs to take action.