The Los Angeles Clippers, just past the midway point of the 2019-20 season, sit at 31-14, No. 3 in the West and boast the league’s No. 5 net rating (+6.2), all while only having their two big acquisitions from the summer, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, together for 18 games. In those 18 outings, the Clippers have been at another level, winning 14 times and dropping just four.
Even so, Leonard’s ongoing load management and George’s inconsistent health this year do bring some concern that Los Angeles could lag behind the NBA’s other top contenders in the chemistry department, an issue that is reportedly already starting to sprout, according to a report from The Athletic.
The upcoming trade deadline could be a way for the Clippers to bolster their rotation and stymie potential roster weaknesses.
As veteran reporter Marc Stein mentioned on Thursday, the lack of consistent game action for Leonard and George this year could force the team to seek out additional wing depth on the trade market.
What’s more, L.A.’s 35.6 three-point shooting percentage as a team for the season ranks a mediocre 15th league-wide, so whatever wings the Clippers do look at should be of the floor-spacing variety.
Besides on the perimeter, L.A. could also stand to upgrade their frontcourt rotation, where they have just four reliable bigs, only one of whom is anything more than just a decent role player. So an upgrade at big man could also benefit the Clippers, who have an in-town rival loaded in the frontcourt.
POTENTIAL TRADE CANDIDATES
As far as players who the Clippers could put up on the trade block in hopes of strengthening their team, pretty much anyone not named Leonard or George could probably be had for the right price.
That might seem cruel, considering the team won 48 games last season and built a strong culture that helped them land the two superstar wings in the first place, but it’s well-established that owner Steve Ballmer and executive Jerry West don’t mess around when they think they can swing a move that will help the Clippers’ chances.
For what it’s worth, Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley would probably be pretty expensive if another team came calling, so they’re probably the two safest L.A. players who aren’t Leonard or George.
The two guys who rival teams likely would covet most in a potential deal are productive big man Montrezl Harrell and second-year 2-guard Landry Shamet; the former is averaging over 19 points and seven rebounds off the bench but is a pretty so-so defender. Plus, the fact he’s in a contract year and set to get paid this summer could convince L.A. to move him now as opposed to losing him for nothing in the offseason.
Meanwhile, Shamet is a low-maintenance player shooting 41 percent from three for his career and signed to a team-friendly contract through 2021-22, making him a desirable asset to opposing franchises.
POTENTIAL TRADE TARGETS
Based on reports, it’s obvious the Clippers are trying to address what they feel are their biggest needs, in the frontcourt and on the wing.
Some of the players they have been tied to in recent rumors include Phoenix Suns big man Aron Baynes, who would toughen them up on the inside while spacing the floor offensively, Minnesota Timberwolves swingman Robert Covington, an excellent 3-and-D wing fit for any contender, and Chicago Bulls power forward Thaddeus Young, a solid inside scorer who can defend multiple positions.
Other less bandied-about options recently that would also make sense for the Clippers include Andre Iguodala, Marcus Morris and Jae Crowder.
Iguodala is still waiting to be freed from purgatory with the Memphis Grizzlies, and would bring championship experience to a team with high expectations this season; Morris and the New York Knicks would rather commit to each other long-term, but contenders, like the Clippers, are still going to very interested in his services; and Crowder had his best game of the season against Los Angeles, and is an experienced 3-and-D wing option who might not be that expensive, which could pique the Clippers’ interest.
On their roster, the only trade restriction Los Angeles possesses is that JaMychal Green would need to approve of any trade, which could make him difficult to move.
Besides that, the Clippers cannot reacquire Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander since they traded them within the last 365 days. No need to fret about that anyway, as the Oklahoma City Thunder would probably shut down any trade talks for the latter option anyway.
Although they owe three future first-round picks to the Thunder as part of the Paul George deal (2022, 2024 and 2026, specifically) as well as other potential pick swaps, the Clippers can still offer teams their 2020 first-rounder in any theoretical trade, which could come in handy.
They also have a cupboard full of second-round picks to sweeten up potential offers.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.