One of the top commodities heading into the home stretch before the 2018 NBA trade deadline is Los Angeles Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan.
And with good reason.
Jordan has been nothing short of fantastic this year, averaging 11.8 points, 14.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game while shooting 66.1 percent from the floor and a respectable 60.4 percent from the foul line.
He boasts playoff experience, understands his role and excels in various play-types, such as finishing out of the pick-and-roll and in transition.
Jordan defends at a high level, attacks the glass with aplomb and is the type of player who can absolutely change a team’s fortunes merely with his massive presence manning the paint.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that various teams with serious postseason aspirations are reportedly interested in acquiring his services.
Each of the involved parties has different assets they can offer Los Angeles, whether they be high draft picks, young players with upside, grizzled veterans who can help teams win now, or a mixture of all three.
We break down some of the best packages Jordan’s top suitors could theoretically put together.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are built to win now.
As such, their roster is filled with veteran role players whose purpose is to make LeBron James’ life easier on the basketball court, but who may not be all that appealing to franchises with different goals.
The easiest (or only?) way for Cleveland to get into the Jordan sweepstakes is if they include the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, which they received from the Boston Celtics as part of the Kyrie Irving trade.
On top of the Nets’ first rounder, the Cavs also have a couple of favorable assets in the form of two young players: Ante Zizic and Cedi Osman. The former is a 21-year-old Croatian big man with strong rebounding acumen as well as soft touch near the rim, while the latter is a 22-year-old Turkish wing with 3-and-D potential… whose jumper isn’t all that reliable just yet.
Packaging either of those players, along with the Nets’ first-round pick, could entice Los Angeles to get a deal done. But to make the salary swap work, Cleveland will need the Clippers to also take Tristan Thompson as part of the transaction.
Thompson, due to injury as well as head coach Tyronn Lue going in a different direction with his starting lineup, has seen his role diminished this season. Nevertheless, he’s still a player who has value as a rebounder and finisher near the rim.
Swapping Jordan for Thompson wouldn’t be a complete like-for-like exchange, but Thompson could at least somewhat fill the same role the Clipper big man currently maintains for his team.
A deal with that foundation legitimately helps both teams: Cleveland, by acquiring an elite shot-blocker, rebounder and pick-and-roll finisher, who would help turn their 29th-ranked defense around, and Los Angeles, by landing what is projected to be a mid-lottery pick, a young player with upside and a veteran big man who can help them keep pace in the tight Western Conference playoff race.
It should be noted, though: The Cavs are taking a major risk if they do include the Nets’ pick in a Jordan swap. The seven-footer has a player option on his deal for 2018-19, and it’s likely he will opt out of his contract this summer in search of a payday. Isaiah Thomas will be an unrestricted free agent. Ditto James.
If things go south for Cleveland in the postseason even after acquiring Jordan, they could easily see him, Thomas and James walk in free agency, get nothing in return and not have the ultra-valuable lottery pick, which they could have used to begin a rebuild, to fall back on.
It goes without saying, that would be disastrous for their short- and long-term future.
At the same time, if the Cavs’ front office stands pat even despite their recent turmoil, and Cleveland winds up losing to the Golden State Warriors in the Finals yet again, would that show James a lack of commitment from his organization’s brass?
No matter what the team decides to do, it’s going to be an extremely difficult situation for general manager Koby Altman to circumvent, and one that will be fascinating to monitor over the coming weeks.
Final package: Ante Zizic (or Cedi Osman), Tristan Thompson, Nets first-round pick
Along with the Cavs, one of the most heavily talked about teams regarding a potential Jordan swap are the Milwaukee Bucks.
The fit is logical: The Bucks are among the league’s worst on the glass (27th in rebound rate at 48 percent), while Jordan is one of the NBA’s best at securing misses (2nd in rebound rate among qualified players at 25.5 percent).
Along with an outdated defensive scheme involving an overreliance on trapping (which probably won’t be a problem anymore after news of Jason Kidd’s firing), part of the reason Milwaukee struggles defensively (25th in efficiency despite having so many long-armed athletes) is their inability to secure boards.
The Bucks’ point-stopping prowess would greatly improve just by having Jordan there to end possessions with the ball in his mitts.
As far as what Milwaukee could offer Los Angeles in return for their All-Star big man, they have a few young, enticing options to present.
The likeliest package, though, would almost certainly contain both John Henson and the reigning Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon.
Henson’s lack of mass hurts him as a rebounder, but he makes up for it by being an excellent lob-finisher, as well as a respectable rim-protector and underrated passer. Brogdon, on the other hand, is a more than serviceable floor general who can slot into either guard spot, defend at a high level and knock down the three-ball.
That likely wouldn’t be enough for Milwaukee to land Jordan, though.
So to sweeten the deal, the Bucks are going to need to add another asset to the pot, either in the form of Jabari Parker or their 2020 first-round pick.
By CBA rules, they aren’t allowed to trade their 2019 first rounder, since their 2018 first-round pick belongs to the Phoenix Suns (as a part of the Eric Bledsoe trade) if it falls between selections 11-16. If it doesn’t, then Phoenix gets the Bucks’ 2019 first pick outright.
Parker, on the other hand, presents an interesting case because he was enjoying the best season of his career in 2016-17, averaging 20.1 points and 6.2 rebounds nightly while showing improved defense, before his campaign ended last February with another tear of his left ACL.
He is set to return soon, and by all accounts, his recovery has been a rousing success.
Regardless, his consistent lack of health will be an issue for any team acquiring him in a trade.
Additionally, Parker becomes a restricted free agent this summer, which will be a headache for whichever organization he’s a member of to deal with. It’s not a certainty he’ll land a max offer sheet since there is a serious lack of spending money league-wide, but it can’t be totally ruled out either.
Even so, his next team would also acquire his Bird Rights, meaning they can go over the cap to re-sign him.
Parker has his issues, but he can score and provides superb size on the wing – two traits that are very much coveted around the Association. If the Clippers believe he can maintain some semblance of health over the coming years, it could be a worthwhile gamble.
The Bucks don’t have to fret that much over potentially losing Parker, considering they already have their off-ball starters set for the foreseeable future in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. And Tony Snell, with his pristine three-point stroke, gives them additional depth on the wing as well.
Final package: Jabari Parker, Malcolm Brogdon, John Henson
Portland Trail Blazers
The New York Times’ Marc Stein surprised basketball aficionados with the following news on Jan. 22:
The report came as somewhat of a shock because the Portland Trail Blazers like to tout their Big Three of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and big man Jusuf Nurkic as their building blocks of the future.
It’s only right, as the trio did make a nice run late last season after the team acquired the Bosnian center from the Denver Nuggets.
This year, however, the same success has been hard to come by.
The Blazers boast a mediocre 104.5 offensive rating in 2017-18, the league’s No. 16 mark, and for a team with two scorching scorers like Lillard and McCollum on the roster, that’s simply unacceptable.
The dirty secret for Portland is that Nurkic has struggled mightily this season.
Although his play picked up a bit recently, the Blazers are actually 2.3 points per 100 possessions worse with their starting center on the floor.
Among 5s who attempt at least 10 shots nightly, Nurkic has the sixth-lowest field-goal percentage at 47.1 percent. Even more damning: Of the five centers who shoot a lower percentage, all of them attempt at least three triples per contest; Nurkic has taken seven all year long.
His blend of awkward flip shots near the rim and long 2-pointers have made him a greatly inefficient player in his fourth campaign, so it makes sense why Portland may quietly want help down low.
To acquire Jordan as Stein suggested, a package of Nurkic, Shabazz Napier and Evan Turner checks out financially.
The Blazers would be savvy to sell high on Napier, who finally, in his age-26 season, is starting to resemble the prospect who made LeBron tweet the following back in 2014:
But on top of those three players, since the Clippers would be doing Portland a major favor by taking Turner’s bloated contract off their hands, the Blazers are probably going to have to add their 2018 first-round pick to the pot as additional sweetener.
Would that big of a haul be worth it for Los Angeles’ behemoth?
It’s tough to tell, but at the very least, adding a veteran like Jordan, who’s so aware of his limitations and plays to his strengths so exquisitely, would give the Blazers’ offense a much-needed jolt of life. And he would only help bolster their seventh-ranked defense.
Meanwhile, in return, the Clippers would get an exciting, relatively young point guard, a serviceable wing, a starting-level center and a premium asset in the form of an unprotected first-round pick.
Final package: Evan Turner, Shabazz Napier, Jusuf Nurkic, 2018 first-round pick
The Washington Wizards have been close to an unmitigated disaster this season.
Their only saving grace is that they somehow don’t have a losing record at this point, which is an insane benchmark considering their payroll and the expectations they had coming into 2017-18.
Most recently, the Wizards got blown out by the rebuilding Dallas Mavericks 98-75. More interesting than the result of the game, however, were the remarks JJ Barea made after the outing:
To that, veteran reporter Stein added:
It’s tough to say a trade will help sort those types of problems, the kind that lie ingrained deep within a team’s culture, out. After all, head coach Scott Brooks seems exasperated at what’s gone on with his unit; multiple team meetings have already failed, the most recent in spectacular fashion.
But a trade could help kick-start a resurgence for Washington, especially since Jordan is thought of as a great locker room presence.
In return for their center, the Wizards could offer Los Angeles their own starter at the position, Marcin Gortat.
Along with Gortat, Washington could also include third-year pro Kelly Oubre, who’s really starting to look like a player this season, to a potential Jordan deal. The Kansas product is averaging 12.2 points and 4.9 boards per contest, while knocking down an outstanding 40.5 percent of his three-point looks.
Oubre’s size on the wing, defensive potential, ability to play small-ball power forward and three-point shooting makes him a highly coveted archetype – and the Clippers would be thrilled to land the 22-year-old as part of a Jordan package.
To make the salary swap work, Washington would need to add Jodie Meeks to the trade, but even then, Los Angeles would be getting an experienced center who would help them win games now, as well as a young two-way wing on an extremely team-friendly contract.
And considering the Clippers’ utter lack of youthful building blocks, the latter would be extremely appealing.
Final package: Marcin Gortat, Kelly Oubre, Jodie Meeks
You can find Frank Urbina on Twitter @frankurbina_.
HoopsHype’s Alberto de Roa contributed to this article.
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