Dominos are falling! The Wizards and Clippers agreed on a trade Tuesday, swapping Marcin Gortat for Austin Rivers. Rivers averaged 15.1 points per game for the Clips last season, shooting 37.8% from three while playing the most minutes per night of his career. Meanwhile, Gortat started all 82 games for the Wizards, but played his fewest minutes per game since 2011, averaging 8.4 points a night, also his lowest since 2011. It’s not quite a Kawhi-level blockbuster, but let’s grade the deal for each team.
This is a solid move for Washington. Rivers, despite his oft-mocked status on the internet, has been a serviceable player for the last few seasons. He’s comfortably average to above average, and that’s exactly what the Wizards need coming off their bench. For at least one season, Washington won’t have to rely on the likes of Ty Lawson or Trey Burke. Rivers may not be spectacular, but he’s consistent, and he’s a capable 3-and-D combo guard who can play enough small forward in closing lineups. (Wall-Beal-Rivers-Porter-Morris could end up being a fun unit.)
For a team that has long lacked a reliable ball handler off the bench, the Wizards were smart to pick up Rivers. As an added bonus, they dump Gortat, whose chemistry issues with John Wall were laid bare to the public last year. With Gortat also in the last year of his deal, this was a low-risk swap for the Wiz. Washington will still need to find someone to gobble up some of Gortat’s minutes, but this offseason should favor the buyers when it comes to bigs. And who knows, maybe this wakes up Ian Mahinmi in the process.
I’m going to cheat here and give the Clippers two grades because the Gortat deal seems like a precursor to a DeAndre Jordan move. Maybe Jordan opts in and the Clips find a trade partner. But even if Jordan decides to enter free agency, the move makes sense for L.A. The Clippers drafted two guards earlier this month, and they desperately needed to clear up a logjam in the backcourt. Trading Rivers opens up more time for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson. (Milos Teodosic and Patrick Beverley are still on the roster, but they’re on expiring deals that could be movable.) Gortat’s deal doesn’t complicate any long-term plans, and he’ll actually be of use on the court as a screener for the Clips’ young guards.
The trade has already accomplished one goal for L.A., but it will likely be more interesting to see what Jerry West does next before this move can be fully appreciated (or torn apart!). One thing should be clear—the Clippers appear to be very high on their backcourt of the future.