The Los Angeles Clippers haven’t had the start to the 2022-23 season that they were hoping for. They have struggled with injuries to key players and inconsistent play up and down their lineup all season long, and the result has been a 23-24 record, which is good for just eighth place in the Western Conference right now.
Things could always be worse for the Clippers, though, and the Toronto Raptors serve as a prime example of that theory. The Raptors are just 20-25 so far this season, which is way below expectations, and they currently find themselves in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, which wouldn’t even be good enough for them to qualify for the Play-In Tournament at this point.
Both teams are heading into the upcoming 2023 NBA Trade Deadline in an interesting spot, and they may benefit greatly from pulling off a trade with each other centered around Fred VanVleet. Let’s take a look at a hypothetical trade between the two sides (courtesy of ESPN’s Bobby Marks) and see whether this deal would make sense for both sides.
Clippers get: Fred VanVleet, Dalano Banton, Juancho Hernangomez
Raptors get: Jason Preston, Brandon Boston Jr., Robert Covington, Amir Coffery, 2028 1st-round pick top-five protected (becomes second-round picks in 2028 and 2029 if not conveyed)
VanVleet wasn’t expected to be a potential trade chip for the Raptors, but that’s just how the season has gone for them. VanVleet has taken a pretty big step back in terms of his production this season, and he’s been just one reason for the Raptors struggles this season. It’s to the point where VanVleet’s name is actively in rumors, and there’s a decent shot he gets moved prior to the deadline.
The Clippers would be a team obviously interested in VanVleet because their point guard rotation of John Wall and Reggie Jackson hasn’t exactly worked out this season. VanVleet hasn’t been having the best season (18.7 PPG, 6.3 APG, 4.4 RPG, 38.4 FG%) but he still would be a vast upgrade over the duo the Clippers are currently rolling with.
Getting VanVleet also wouldn’t cost the Clippers a ton here either. Jason Preston, Brandon Boston Jr., and Amir Coffey all have potential, but they aren’t going to help Los Angeles win a championship anytime soon. Robert Covington is a versatile frontcourt player, but he hasn’t been getting as many minutes as he usually does this season, which would make moving on from him something L.A. could afford here.
In addition to VanVleet, the Clippers would get Dalano Banton, who is another prospect-type of player, and Junacho Hernangomez, who may or may not be able to crack the rotation. Neither guy is going to move the needle, but again, that’s not the point of this trade.
What this boils down to is basically the Clippers sending a top-five protected pick in 2028 for VanVleet. That may seem a bit steep, but when he’s playing his best basketball, VanVleet is one of the most valuable players in the game because of the cheap deal he finds himself on. Even this season, VanVleet is making $21.25 million, which isn’t a super steep price for an All-Star caliber guard.
It also helps that there’s a decent chance this pick won’t come close to cracking the top-five, which should help the Clippers feel at ease when it comes to including it in this deal. And if it doesn’t end up conveying, parting with a pair of second round picks isn’t going to hurt anyone.
The Raptors may be hesitant to just give up on VanVleet, but for a team that can’t seem to decide whether or not they want to contend or rebuild, this would be a move that could give them a bit of time to figure things out. They still have some solid players, such as Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes, leading the way, and this gives the team a chance to see if they can succeed without VanVleet and his poor shooting.
If things don’t work out, Toronto can continue to blow things up, which won’t be hard to do. But if they have a change in fortunes, the Raptors still have some players to build around in the future. It would obviously be more ideal if they could just go out and win, but things can’t always be perfect in the NBA.
The Clippers need a guard desperately, while the Raptors need time to plot their next move. This hypothetical trade would give both teams exactly what they are looking for, and it could help propel both squads on deep playoff runs. For two teams stuck in interesting spots heading into the deadline, this deal could be precisely what they need to get themselves back on track, which is why it makes so much sense for both sides.