With the trade deadline just a week away and the Clippers going through a bit of a rough patch (losing eight of their last 13 games), LA’s front office might feel compelled to make a move. However, there are two issues at hand: 1) LA is hard-capped, meaning they cannot bring in any more salary than they’d be sending out in any trade, and 2) they have no first-round picks available to trade after sending quite a few of them to Oklahoma City in the Paul George trade. This means LA cannot go big game hunting (Kyle Lowry, etc.). Any moves they make will be on the margins. With that being said, here are three realistic trade scenarios for the Clippers.
LAC receives: Ricky Rubio
MIN receives: Patrick Beverley, Patrick Patterson, Mfiondu Kabengele
“Do the Clippers need a ‘true’ point guard?” asks every national TV NBA media figurehead for what has seems like every day since LA lost in the playoffs last year. The answer? Maybe. Their offense has been extremely efficient all year, but they have struggled mightily in the clutch this season (albeit in a small sample size). There have been several reports that LA’s front office has been targeting fringe-starter level point guards, and Patrick Beverley’s continued knee injury issues might push them to make a move before this year’s playoff run.
Rubio is a polarizing piece. Defensively, he might not be as tenacious and aggressive as Beverley, but at 6’4, he brings size and a knack for forcing turnovers when he’s engaged. Offensively, he’s definitely a true point guard in the sense that his first instinct is to pass, and he’s shown off some flashy ones throughout his career. He can run an offense, push the pace in transition and could get the ball to George and Leonard in their preferred spots.
However, once he does hand off the ball, defenses are going to treat him like he doesn’t exist. He’s been a below-average shooter his entire career, and is shooting just 32.7% from three this season on only 2.5 attempts per game. Contrast that with Beverley, who is knocking down 38.3% of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game. Defenses respect Beverley when he’s off the ball, and the same cannot be said for Rubio. Lawrence Frank and Michael Winger will have to decide whether this trade off is worth it.
LAC receives: George Hill
OKC receives: Lou Williams, Mfiondu Kabengele
This all depends on how much LA values Lou Williams. If they still view him as a key member of their franchise, both as a bench scorer and a leader in the locker room, then this notion of getting a ‘true point guard,’ without giving up Beverley, cannot be a discussion. However, if they are willing to part ways with the Sixth Man due to his defensive limitations in the postseason, Hill might be a viable option.
Hill suffered a thumb injury in late January, and has been in a cast since then, but Oklahoma City Thunder Head Coach Mark Daigneault says that he could be out of the cast in the next few days. Prior to his thumb injury, Hill was having another decent season for a middling Thunder squad, averaging just under 12 points per game on 50% shooting and 38% from beyond the arc in 14 games played.
While George Hill is by no means a star, he’s made a career off of being a reliable ball-handler who makes good decisions, plays tough defense and can shoot the three exceptionally well.
LA needs to keep their finger on the pulse of the league for this trade. If there is no trade market for Hill (his thumb injury makes this more likely), the Clippers can just wait until after the deadline when Oklahoma City inevitably buys him out, and they wouldn’t have to give up anything to get him.
LAC receives: D.J. Augustin, David Nwaba
HOU receives: Lou Williams, Daniel Oturu
Augustin is essentially George Hill lite, though he doesn’t bring quite enough defense. To sweeten the deal, Houston would add David Nwaba, a stout wing defender. Nwaba is essentially a non-shooter, but he could play a role if the Clippers ever need a stop on a given possession. LA would be giving up Oturu in place of a second round pick, in addition to making the salaries match (we’re really getting into the weeds here).
As previously stated, the Clippers are probably better off waiting until after the trade deadline, where they can snag a player for essentially nothing after he is bought out. But as the pressure continues to mount with the Clippers losing every other game as of late, they might feel forced to make a deal.