With the trade deadline quickly approaching, it seems unlikely that the LA Clippers will be making any major moves. They are hard-capped after using the non-taxpayer mid-level exception to sign Serge Ibaka, and they do not have any first-round picks available after trading their entire treasure chest to Oklahoma City for Paul George two summers ago.
However, there is still an avenue to improve their team on the margins before the playoffs start, in the form of the buyout market. Here are three players that the Clippers might consider signing for the veteran’s minimum should they be bought out by their current team.
For what has felt like a century, fans and media have been calling on LA’s front office to sign or trade for a “true point guard” that can run the offense in late-game situations and help Paul George and Kawhi Leonard facilitate. 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.
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.
At the very least, Hill would be a slight upgrade over Reggie Jackson as a backup point guard. He’s played on the biggest stages in basketball, going to the finals with the Cavaliers back in 2018. He would bring another veteran presence to help the Clippers navigate the postseason and hopefully avoid another collapse.
While it seems as though every team, including the Los Angeles Lakers, has shown interest in Ariza, it wouldn’t be too shocking if the Clippers can pry the veteran away from their crosstown rival after he is bought out. Though Ariza won a championship with the Lakers back in 2009, the Clippers can probably offer him a more substantial role.
A team can never have too many three-and-D wings, and Ariza has been the go-to example of that role for over a decade now. He might be getting up there in age, but he has excellent size for his position and can shoot the ball at an efficient clip. He would also give LA another switchable body to throw out when they go small with Marcus Morris Sr. at center.
Ariza has had plenty of time to get his body right and prepare for a playoff run, as he has yet to report to the Oklahoma City Thunder, to whom he was traded last offseason. The Thunder likely have been shopping him around the trade market, but so far have yet to find any suitors. If Ariza is bought out, it’ll be interesting to see who will claim the veteran.
While Ellington does not offer the defensive prowess that Ariza does or the playmaking that Hill does, he might be a better shooter than either of the two names above. The Clippers have been the best three-point shooting team in the league so far this season by percentage (42%), but are middle of the pack in terms of attempts (15th in the league). Ellington is not shy at all when it comes to chucking, as he’s taking 10 three-point attempts per 36 minutes this season with Detroit, and nearly 79% of his shots have come from beyond the arc. He’s still hitting 42.4% of his threes despite this high volume of attempts. Ellington would bring a gunner mentality to this Clippers squad, and can spread the floor for bench units at the very least.
While all three of these players could make small contributions to LA’s playoff run, their core eight or nine guys will remain the same. What is even more crucial than securing a buyout player is confirming the chemistry with the current roster. Their defense needs tightening and their late-game execution must be improved if the Clippers hope to make it to the promised land.