Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix recently reported that the LA Clippers have shown interest in three point guards as the NBA’s trade deadline approaches: Charlotte’s Terry Rozier, Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio and Oklahoma City’s George Hill.
After coming to the realization that they simply do not have the draft picks or young pieces to swing a bigger name like Kyle Lowry, it seems the Clippers have begun looking into the solid-starter/elite-backup point guard market.
Any of these three names would be a solid fit in LA and bring a dynamic that the Clippers currently lack, but Rozier stands above the other two as a clear starter. He’s averaging 20 points per game on excellent efficiency, and has hit some big shots for the Hornets this season. He would be an ideal fit next to Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, as he can play off the ball and bring solid defense for his position. However, Charlotte has seen some success with their Rozier/LaMelo Ball backcourt, and are currently firmly in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Charlotte would have to be blown over by an offer to give up Rozier, and the Clippers simply do not have the ammo.
Rubio is a more realistic option, as the Timberwolves are nowhere near a playoff spot and have no need for the veteran point guard other than as a mentor for their young talent. Still, he comes at a hefty price tag of $17 million a season that continues into next year. He is also shooting just 31% from three this season on 2.4 attempts a game—not exactly a perfect fit for the Clippers, who lead the league in three-point shooting percentage. While Rubio is a solid defender and a creative passer, his shooting deficiencies definitely subtract from his value. A move like this would only make sense if LA believed that Patrick Beverley’s injury troubles are a big enough issue that they need to acquire a healthier replacement, regardless of fit (Beverley is probably better than Rubio when healthy, but he continues to struggle with knee soreness). If so, a package of Beverley, Reggie Jackson and Mfiondu Kabengele might be enough to get a deal done. Still, it feels like a bit much for the aging Rubio.
Hill is the most realistic of the three options, as he comes with the least amount of caveats. His contract is reasonable (around $10 million for this year and next year) from a team with no playoff aspirations, and he is a reliable shooter and defender. If Oklahoma City thinks they can get a first-round pick for Hill somewhere on the market to add to their treasure chest, then the Clippers will have to bow out of the bidding war. But if they’ll settle for second round picks, expiring contracts and a young big man with some upside in Kabengele, there might be a deal there.
As has been reported, the Clippers are likely staying put at the deadline. It seems they are just covering their bases in terms of available guards before they inevitably settle into their current roster.