Of all the teams in the NBA, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Brooklyn Nets have taken up residence in a club that is exclusive to them: Laker killers. This club is defined by one thing: the goal of taking down LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers under any means necessary. It's gone by other names over the years, (re: the superteam club), but right now, both squads are the only two that have been build with the Purple and Gold in mind.
No other team in the NBA can say that. Say what you want about the other contenders in the league, but they all have a homegrown feeling that the Clippers and Nets simply don't right now. These are two lab-grown juggernauts, and they have received the requisite amount of spotlight that they deserve.
But if we know anything about the NBA, it's that X-factors matter in basketball more than in almost any other sport. There are so few players on the court, and scores can change so quickly that in the shadow of the stars, a Derek Fisher, Robert Horry, or Steve Kerr can come out of nowhere and change the hands of destiny. And in the cases of the Nets and Clippers, one oft-forgotten trade may have these huge implications going into the 2021 postseason.
None of the players involved are stars by any stretch of the imagination (especially the third player involved), but this trade sent potential game-changers to both the Nets and the Clippers that could tip the balance in their respective conferences come playoff time.
🔥 LANDRY SHAMET 🔥 pic.twitter.com/5FJdWJTTNI
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) April 18, 2021
The 2020 NBA draft will likely be most remembered for its deep crop of players, highlighted by Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball. However, this under-the-radar three-team trade between the Nets, Clippers and Detroit Pistons might be the move that spark a championship for either of the first two teams listed. In summary: the Nets and Clippers sent the 19th pick (Saddiq Bey) and Rodney McGruder, respectively, to Detroit, who gifted the Clippers with Kennard. To get the Nets to play ball, Los Angeles tossed in Shamet in exchange for the pick.
Now, while McGruder doesn't matter, all three teams kind of walked away from this trade as winners. Kennard was and is the clear best of himself and adds a legitimate sharpshooter that the Clippers have been missing since JJ Redick left. Saddiq Bey is shaping up to be a very solid rotational piece for the Pistons in his first year, and Shamet is a natural in Brooklyn's high octane offense (call him Diet Joe Harris).
But for now, let's focus on Kennard and Shamet. Both are absolute knockdown shooters, especially Kennard who is making 46 percent from deep. But what works even better is their fit.
Shamet has had his up-and-down moments through the season thus far, but he is a microwave just waiting to go off at any moment. In fact, he has scored in double digits in seven of the past nine games, peaking by dropping 30 on the Miami Heat–one of the better defensive teams in the league. Kennard, meanwhile, is his own brand of consistency, similar to your Joe Harris and JJ Redicks.
Both players benefit from defensive attention and focus being someplace else (a.k.a their team's stars). Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are still possibly the best two-way duo of wings in the league, and don't even start on the Nets' three-headed snake of playmakers (not to mention Blake Griffin).
No Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Patrick Beverley, Rajon Rondo, Reggie Jackson, or Serge Ibaka… and the Clippers still defeat the Grizzlies.
Luke Kennard and Marcus Morris combine for 53 points on 19-of-25 FG and 10-of-13 3PT in the win. pic.twitter.com/al8hVJTvNm
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) April 22, 2021
Long story short: history has been made on reliable, cold-blooded spot-up shooters. Fisher, Horry, Kerr and an older Ray Allen line the halls of fourth or fifth-option role players who have put their teams over the edge. Both the Nets and the Clippers have all the top-end talent in the world, but the league has proven that without the right support beams, a contender can fall really quickly. In Shamet and Kennard, these teams look poised to make history.
Who can stop a wide-open Kennard, or the boundless playmaking of the Nets with Shamet and Joe Harris stalking the arc? We'll find our answer in the postseason. For now, this trade has the potential to be looked back on as a kingmaker of a deal.