We haven’t traditionally engaged in a lot of trade speculation in these parts. As such, the goal of the preceding exercise wasn’t so much to lob spitballs as it was to get a price check on the rights to sign Blake Griffin — and have a little fun with the appraisal process. Think of Blake Griffin/#1 pick as the house you own, love, and have every intention of living in until the kids are grown. If asked, “Would you sell the house?” your answer would reflexively be, “No. It’s not for sale,” which it’s not. But what if someone were willing to overpay wildly for it?
There are some good reasons to be ecstatic over the prospect of Griffin in a Clippers’ uniform, and there are also reasons to be a little cautious. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be breaking down Griffin’s on-court assets and liabilities on both ends of the floor. Oklahoma has produced some talented basketball players over the years: Mark Price, the late Wayman Tisdale, Alvan Adams, (and Bryant Reeves, too). Barring catastrophic injury, Oklahoma City native Blake Griffin will most likely join the list, and you have to imagine that a franchise in the NBA’s smallest market — a franchise that happens to be in need of big man — just might be willing to compensate the team holding Griffin’s rights a king’s ransom to get a hometown hero in uniform, on billboards, and out into the community. On the other hand, there’s little in Sam Presti’s history as a strategist to suggest that he’d factor in a variable like where a player happened to play his amateur ball into any transaction.
With that, let’s take a look at some of the offers the Naçión would deem acceptable for the pick, starting with Oklahoma City as the trading partner and D.J. Foster as our ceremonial GM:
Baron Davis (12.1/4yr)
LAC 2009 1st round pick (1st overall) -Blake Griffin
Earl Watson (6.6/1yr)
Jeff Green (3.5/1+1yr)
Thabo Sefolosha (2.7m/1yr)
OKC 2009 1st round pick (3rd overall)- Ricky Rubio
2010 1st round pick VIA Phoenix Suns
Why this works for LAC:
The Clippers get to dump Baron Davis and his lengthy contract, freeing up the starting spot for PG Ricky Rubio. The Clippers also get a valuable expiring contract in Earl Watson, and two young, defensive minded players in Green and Sefolosha. By dumping Baron, the Clippers guaranteed contracts would total only 15 million in two years. In addition to cap flexibility, the 2010 Suns pick is unprotected and could very well become a top 10 pick considering Phoenix’s troubles and the inevitable fire sale on the horizon. The trio of Rubio, Gordon, and Green are all under the age off 22 and Thornton, Sefolosha and Camby (if he’s not traded) could instantly become one of the better second units in basketball.
Why this works for OKC:
The Thunder get hometown kid Blake Griffin, who would immediately create tons of interest around the team and sell plenty of jerseys. The 3-4 combination of Durant and Griffin could immediately become one of the best in the league. The trade allows Russell Westbrook to move off the ball and embrace his inner Monta Ellis playing next to Baron Davis. Davis and his lengthy contract are a risk, but with Oklahoma City being pretty low on the desired free agent location totem pole, he might be one of the best players they could get. A starting 5 of Baron, Westbrook, Durant, Griffin and Krstic would most likely lead the Thunder to the playoffs- which would be a nice bargaining tool to keep Durant in OKC.
Why this might not work:
This trade would have to be done after the draft, as Memphis could actually select Rubio and ruin everything. Out of the two teams, Oklahoma City would be most likely to blink first. Sam Presti is a brilliant general manager, and using his valued cap space to take a chance on Baron doesn’t sound like something he would do.
Henry Abbott has published a caveat emptor on Rubio that’s well worth a read and serves as a reminder than any reservations we might have about Griffin’s can’t-miss potential have to be applied even more carefully to Rubio. Disclaimers aside, there’s some wisdom to a deal like this if you feel that replacing Davis with a dynamic, long-term prospect at the PG is a noble goal. Watson is a confounding player whose adjusted +/- numbers have been strong throughout his career, even though his offensive limitations drive you nuts. He’d buy Rubio a year of acclimation and begin to address some of the weak on-ball defense. Meanwhile, the Clippers could turn the page on Baron Davis, retain Camby and Kaman as chips for additional retooling, get the defensive flexibility they need with Sefolosha, move Thornton to the bench where he belongs as an energy scorer, and get another forward who can facilitate — albeit one not without weaknesses — in Jeff Green. The deal would almost certainly leave the franchise is a better place. It would also be far riskier than drafting Griffin and just tweaking around the margins.
Moving beyond Oklahoma City, Zhiv asks a daring question: Is it possible to retain Griffin, and still acquire Rubio for the long term? Zhiv turns his eyes toward Memphis:
The deal I like best right now is to try to make a trade with Memphis (one that doesn’t include the #1 pick) to get the #2 pick, so that the Clips could draft both Griffin and Rubio. It would mean giving up Kaman or Randolph, and taking back Jaric and Darko, but it would work. I’d rather take the risk with Griffin rather than adding to the deal to get Rudy Gay, and making a big time swap to end up with Gasol and Gay and Rubio while giving up Griffin and big men doesn’t make much sense to me. And I think that Randolph is a better fit than Kaman in Memphis — let them keep Gasol.
The task of swapping bad contracts is an art, and one that good franchises manage with finesse. Memphis is a fiscally-minded franchise right now and zhiv’s deal would allow them to dump their two worst contracts. Though they’d get a bloated contract back in Randolph, he’d give them offensive production at the position where they need the most help. I’m with zhiv on the matter of Rudy Gay who, though more talented than Al Thornton, presents some similar problems at the 3. The Clippers, meanwhile, would be trading cultural dead weight for basketball dead weight — an acceptable exchange for a team looking to clear minutes in the frontcourt, get younger, and become more defensive-minded.
Trapp has also put together some ingenious three-way deals involving Washinton that enable the Clippers to retain the #1 pick.
The Clippers will probably listen to offers for Griffin, but the most likely transactions this summer are deals that involve existing players. As Zhiv writes:
I’m approaching the trade machine by 1)looking for teams that need a PF like Randolph (Memphis, OKC, Milwaukee, Chicago); 2) teams that need a center like Kaman (OKC, Charlotte, Minnesota. Indiana, Chicago); 3) bigger deals that might involve either or both of those players, or Camby, BDavis, DJordan or Thornton. So it’s a stretch to think of deals for Griffin and the #1 pick.
In this spirit, Seth touches on a couple of deals I’d like to see, one of which involves the Chicago Bulls, the Clippers’ most likely trading partner this summer:
Trade #1: Kaman to the Bulls for Kirk Hinrich. The Bulls need a big man and Hinrich can back up Boomdizzle and Hinrich can play the SG and PG positions.
I’ll go one further than Seth: Hinrich can defend SFs, as we witnessed in the Celtics-Bulls series when he was on the floor with Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon, doing solid work on Paul Pierce. It’s not a deployment tactic you’d use every night, but Hinrich would offer the kind of flexibility defensively the Clippers desperately need on the perimeter. If Baron disappears, Hinrich is more than capable of stepping in. In fact, he’d look great next to Eric Gordon, whose penetration would give Hinrich a boatload of spot-up opportunities. If Gordon got hurt for any extended period, Hinrich does stellar work off the ball. He’s a 40% three-point shooter, hits 44% of his 2-point jump shots, and plays with a level of grime (watch those borderline screens from Hinrich) the Clippers could use as they rebuild.
The idea that the Clippers should behave conservatively solely to escape the “only the Clippers could screw this up” rap is misguided. They’re going to be ridiculed no matter what they do, which is all the more reason they shouldn’t act out of fear. It’s more than likely that selecting and developing Blake Griffin as their power forward of the future is the best course of action — but that should be the reason the Clippers draft him.