Why the Clippers should trade for Elfrid Payton
As the season progresses, it’s becoming clearer that the Los Angeles Clippers still need a playmaker.
Don’t get me wrong here, Ty Lue has done a phenomenal job transforming the Clippers offense’ into a fast-paced moving offense. Due to their insane ball-movement, they’re able to generate a ridiculous number of open three-point shots, which is why they lead the league in three-point percentage (41%).
However, the truth is, you can’t win a championship with this type of offense because, eventually, the threes will stop falling. And when the three’s stop falling, you have to rely on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George hitting difficult shots.
In other words, what the Clippers are basically doing right now is “masking” their playmaking problems. When the playoffs start, their offense will start becoming more predictable in a seven-game series. Defenses will start clamping down the three-point line, meaning, Leonard and George will have to hit their tough one-on-one shots, or else they’ll go on offensive droughts. This has happened numerous times this season, which is one of the reasons why they keep blowing leads.
If you look at the past 10 NBA championship teams, they’ve all had true playmakers (Steph Curry, Kyle Lowry, LeBron James, Tony Parker). This is no coincidence, every team must have a true playmaker to win the championship. Leonard has grown a lot as a playmaker but he’s simply not good enough to consistently run the offense. Leonard doesn’t play well in ISO either, which is why he needs a true point guard to set him for his mid-range shots.
So with that being said, the most realistic playmaker the Clippers can trade for that can fulfill their needs is Elfrid Payton. He has played a vital role in the Knicks’ success this season as they have emerged as a playoff-contending team. However, with the recent acquisition of Derrick Rose, the New York Knicks may be seeking to move on from Payton. According to Ian Bagley of SNY, one contender team has already inquired the Knicks about the possibility of trading for Payton.
Yes, there are far more talented playmakers out there in the market such as George Hill, but realistically speaking, trading for him is highly improbable. First and foremost, the Oklahoma City Thunder would never do a trade that would benefit the Clippers. Since the Thunder own three of the Clippers’ first-round draft picks, they’re hoping the Clippers championship aspirations can fall apart so that they can get higher draft picks. Also, there have been rumors circulating about the Clippers trading for Kyle Lowry, but that’s also unrealistic because the Clippers would have to trade around four players to match salaries.
Nevertheless, for those who aren’t familiar with Payton’s game, he’s a pass-first point guard who looks for his teammates first. The 27-year-old point guard is averaging 12.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in just 28.0 minutes per game.
To be honest, Leonard and George have had their best seasons be with a point guard that can run the offense. With Payton’s playmaking ability, he’ll be able to set them up for great shots in their spots. This will be very beneficial for Leonard, especially since he likes to sit at the elbow spot to do his mid-range jumpers.
Also, having Payton on this team will be very beneficial for Nic Batum, Serge Ibaka, Luke Kennard, and Patrick Beverly. Since Payton consistently likes to drive to the paint, he can easily just kick out to them for the three-point shot.
Here’s a video of Payton aggressively driving to the paint:
Also, another underrated thing about Payton’s game is his defense. Standing at 6’3 and possessing a 6’7 wingspan, Payton has excellent size and length for a point guard. Earlier this season, when Stephen Curry was defended by Payton, he shot 38.1 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from three-point range. Then a few weeks ago, when Payton guarded John Wall, he held him down to just 50% shooting from the field.
With all this being said, it’s safe to assume that Payton won’t be a liability on defense in the final minutes of the game, unlike Lou Williams or Reggie Jackson.
Here’s a video of Payton putting the clamps on John Wall:
Here’s another video of Payton locking down Trae Young:
Nevertheless, if the Clippers do a trade for Payton, he doesn’t necessarily have to be a one-year rental. Payton is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason and the Clippers will have enough cap space to re-sign him to a deal worth around $11 million per year. Furthermore, Payton is only 27 years old and has already proven this season that his game is still evolving. So with that being said, he could most definitely be the point guard of the future for the LA Clippers.
Here are a few hypothetical trades the Clippers can do:
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: G Elfrid Payton
New York Knicks Receive: G Lou Williams, F Mfiondu Kabengele, 2022 first-round pick, 2023 second-round pick
Lou Williams has done so much for the Clippers’ organization in the past four years, but sometimes the hardest choices require the strongest wills. We’re already halfway finished with the season, and it’s clear that Williams isn’t the same player as he was last year. The 34-year-old guard has been highly inconsistent this season, and that should be a major concern for the Clippers, considering that he’s supposed to be the best player coming off the bench.
Nevertheless, his inconsistently is nothing new, for example, taking a look back at last season, Williams was nowhere to be in the Denver Nuggets series, especially in Game 6, where he scored just four points. The media likes to talk about Leonard and George choking in that series, but Williams deserves to get the same slack as them as well.
Heck, in the 16 years he’s been in the league, he’s never been on a team that has won a championship — so that should say a lot about him. Furthermore, he’s been in the playoffs eight times in his career, and in seven of those times, his scoring average took a dip from what he was producing in the regular season.
So the truth is, Williams isn’t a player you can count on in the playoffs — and he never has been, which is why the Clippers should trade him as soon as possible before it’s too late.
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: G Elfrid Payton
New York Knicks Receive: G Reggie Jackson, F Mfiondu Kabengele, 2022 second-round pick
Reggie Jackson played phenomenally as a starter during Patrick Beverly’s absence back in February, however, his decision-making and inconsistently is still a concern to this day. When the playoffs start, it’s very likely he won’t be getting any minutes because of those two flaws. Also, his defense is horrendous — he has a defensive rating of 114.0, which is one of the worst in the NBA. If the Clippers do trade Jackson, they won’t be losing much either. Payton can easily match his scoring, which is what Jackson ultimately brings the most to the Clippers.
However, since Jackson re-signed with the Clippers on a one-year contract, he has the right to veto the trade. So with that being said, it might be difficult trading Jackson away.
As for Mfiondu Kabengele, his time with the Clippers will most likely be coming to an end this offseason, so trading him now won’t be such a bad idea. Since the Clippers declined Kabengele’s third-year option for the 2021-22 season back in December, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: G Elfrid Payton, 2022 second-round pick (Via Detroit), 2022 second-round pick
New York Knicks Receive: G Terance Mann, F Mfiondu Kabengele, C Daniel Oturu
While Clipper fans will disagree with the idea of trading Mann, but the truth is, this is a championship or bust season – meaning the Clippers must do whatever it takes to upgrade their roster — even if it means trading their young prospects.
Mann has exceeded many expectations this season — and has slowly found himself becoming a rotation player for the Clippers. However, when the playoffs start, it’s very likely he won’t be getting any minutes. Nevertheless, if the Clippers do trade Mann, they won’t necessarily be losing much. Payton is only two years older than Mann and has already shown way more potential than him.