As the trade deadline edges closer, trade rumors are picking up throughout the league, and the Clippers seem to be at the center of many of them.
There was a widely publicized (really, just google it, it was everywhere) rumor surrounding Kevin Garnett being shipped to LAC, but KG took to his own devices, claimed to “bleed green”, and dispelled it. Now, there is a new rumor, reported by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein, that Utah and Los Angeles have been in discussions surrounding a deal that would swap Paul Millsap for Eric Bledsoe.
Let’s take a look at how real this could be and/or the potential impact if it were to go through.
On the Utah side, things are simple. There is a real argument to be made that all four of their best assets play the power forward and/or center positions. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap form one of the best front-court tandems in the league, but both guys are expiring contracts ($15+ million for Jefferson and $8+ million for Millsap). Behind them, former high-lottery pick Derrick Favors and Utah’s 2011 #3 overall pick Enes Kanter are waiting. Obviously, this brings the rumor mill to life surrounding Millsap and Jefferson, as the Jazz can’t possibly afford to sign both guys in the off-season.
For Los Angeles, there is a feeling that the Clippers are exactly one piece away from joining the Heat/Thunder/Spurs tier as an absolute, no-question title contender. Bledsoe is a luxury asset for LA at this point, as he is blocked by Chris Paul from ever ascending into many more minutes, and Bledsoe’s reputation (and subsequent trade value) likely outweigh his current production for the Clippers.
What does it all mean? Simply, this deal would be a great fit for both teams, and the rumor makes absolute sense. Utah is in desperate need of a game-changing perimeter player, and Bledsoe could (eventually) fit that mold. Los Angeles could supplant Deandre Jordan and/or Lamar Odom in their late-game lineup with a player in Millsap that produces a 20+ PER in big-time minutes for the Jazz, and while undersized, could be electric next to Blake Griffin. It’s honestly a close-to-perfect fit for both sides.
How does it work? In order to match the salaries, Utah would likely have to take Caron Butler back in the deal. Butler is owed $8 million for next year, and that would present the clear sticking point for the Jazz. Outside of his inclusion, LA would have to include Jamal Crawford (not happening), Lamar Odom (not happening… I don’t think?), or a pu pu platter of cheaper assets. Most scenarios for “improving” the Clippers stem from the inclusion of Bledsoe and/or Deandre Jordan, but this is one move that Jordan wouldn’t be included in. Utah simply has no incentive to take him back with their stockpile of young, front-court assets.
In short, I would work hard to pull this deal off if I was the Clippers. Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe for Paul Millsap could be a title-winning move for the Clippers, and that’s the end of the story. For Utah, there’s an argument to be made that getting solid value for Millsap now (Bledsoe represents that) would make them a far more dangerous team in the future, but if they choose to build around Millsap while letting Al Jefferson go instead, this deal wouldn’t make sense.
This is the kind of juicy rumor that we all salivate over during this time of the season… even if it could be coming from nowhere. Enjoy the festivities.