Bill Simmons’ annual trade machine column coming out yesterday was a nifty early Christmas present. I’ve always been a huge geek for this sort of thing, ever since video games entered (and subsequently ruined) my life all those years ago. My brother and I used to play the Madden series somewhat religiously, except we would never really, uh, play. We’d draft, make millions of trades with each other, and spend hours on free agency, but rarely ever would we play an actual game. So yeah, I’m that guy, and I imagine Bill Simmons is as well.
It’s really no surprise that Simmons’ trade scenario for the Clips revolves around Marcus Camby, who has sort of become the giant elephant in the room at this point. We’ve previously discussed what makes Camby so valuable, but we’ve barely touched on what the Clippers should expect in return for him, if they choose to move him at all. Let’s look at some of the different options:
Option One: Don’t Trade Camby
There’s a common perception regarding expiring contracts around the league, and that perception is that an expiring contract is useless unless it’s included in a trade that nets something in return. Letting a player “walk for nothing” is typically frowned upon, but shouldn’t cap space become paramount with the best free agent class ever looming? While cap space may only have value in capable hands, there’s still no better time to gamble than next summer.
Remember when Corey Maggette was on the last year of his contract? The Clippers chose to play it out and essentially let him “walk for nothing”. The only thing is, that nothing eventually turned into Marcus Camby, who was acquired from Denver with the available cap space for a couple of jock straps. By not panicking and making a trade, the Clippers netted an elite defender and shot blocker instead of being stuck with whatever measly compensation they could have got in a Maggette trade. Just look at what the Thunder were just able to accomplish with their cap space recently. Simply by having the financial capability to take on the remainder of Matt Harpring’s contract, the Thunder were able to net a promising rookie point guard in Eric Maynor for practically free. With the salary cap and team revenues headed south, the amount of teams in the league who are cash strapped is only going to grow. Even if the Clippers strike out completely in free agency, they’d possibly be able to use that cap space to absorb a contract and pick up a piece via trade. If Marcus Camby never gets traded, the Clippers don’t lose his value – it just changes form.
But would keeping Camby result in a logjam in the front-court? It certainly doesn’t have to. Chris Kaman has been playing 7 minutes over his career average per game and has been dragging late in games all year. He could stand to have 7 minutes shaved off his per game average. Marcus Camby is 35 years old and is also playing more minutes than his career average. He could probably sacrifice 5 minutes. Craig Smith has talent, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he rarely played. He’s averaging 14 minutes a game that could essentially all go to Griffin. Dunleavy has also made it clear he’d like to play Griffin some at small forward, which is probably good for another 7 minutes, at least. Add it all up and you get 33 minutes, which is more than enough for a rookie coming off major knee surgery. Remember, close to every season the Clippers expect to have a “logjam” somewhere. How often does everyone stay completely healthy and those logjam fears materialize? Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman haven’t played a full 82 games once in a combined 19 seasons. I think we’re safe from a logjam.
Option Two: Trade Camby For Other Expiring Contracts
Since Marcus Camby is one of the more appealing expiring contracts, wouldn’t it be easy to flip him for a combination of other expiring contracts? That’s essentially what Simmons proposes in his column, where he builds a trade that nets the Clippers a young European prospect in Victor Claver along with the expiring deals of Travis Outlaw and Steve Blake. It’s a fine trade, Korolev comparisons aside, because the Clippers gain a prospect and keep all the cap space. Could the Clippers get more than just Victor Claver? Probably, but the self-proclaimed VP of Common Sense still makes a lot of sense here. Camby is going to be coveted, and the Clippers could be able to pick up some prospects or draft picks in exchange. I fired up the trade machine myself to do some exploring of my own:
Thunder Receive: Marcus Camby (9mil/1yr)
Clippers Receive: Etan Thomas (7.9mil/1yr), Rights to Phoenix’s 2010 first round draft pick
Why the Thunder would do it: If the Thunder are in the playoff race, a trade for Camby could really help push them to a new level. Maybe they’d be reluctant to make the move for fear of stunting Serge Ibaka’s growth, but the potential playoff success would probably outweigh that. The Phoenix pick is also going to be a late first rounder, so the value on that selection isn’t as high as it sounds, and the last time I checked Oklahoma City isn’t exactly strapped for 2010 draft picks.
Why the Clippers would do it: It’s important to mention this caveat: The Clippers would likely only move Camby if they were out of the hunt. This particular trade is very similar to the Simmons deal, except the Clippers don’t have the stress of dealing with Steve Blake and they get to hand pick their own prospect.
Cavaliers Receive: Marcus Camby (9.1m/1yr) and Rasual Butler (3.9m/1yr)
Clippers Receive: Zydraunas Ilgauskas (11.5/1yr), 2011 1st round pick
Why the Cavaliers would do it: Cleveland is clearly in full blown win now mode. Marcus Camby is a mobile big who would fit much better alongside Shaq, Varejao and Hickson. If LeBron stays, the 1st round pick in 2011 doesn’t matter. If he leaves, well, they’re screwed anyway, so might as well put your eggs in one basket and try and win a championship. I actually think this is the best strategy for them. LeBron can’t leave if he wins a title, right?
Why the Clippers would do it: It’s a gamble, but it’s one that comes with no risk. Trading Camby is essentially chalking up the season anyway, so the Clippers might as well shoot for the stars and try to land what could be a top 10 pick if LeBron bolts town.
Option Three: Trade For A Locked Up Piece
Option three is the most dangerous, because the Clippers would completely pull themselves out of the running for a free agent. How good of a player would the Clippers need to justify tossing away 9 million dollars in cap space and committing themselves to someone long term? We can likely assume the Clippers wouldn’t target any position but Small Forward, so who is good enough at that spot to warrant trade consideration?
Bulls Receive: Marcus Camby (9.1m/1yr)
Clippers Receive: Luol Deng (60m/5yr)
Why the Bulls would do it: The opportunity to recruit Wade and Bosh to team with Rose. That’s one heck of a core.
Why the Clippers would do it: The lengthy contract is frightening, but Deng would be a great fit and would permanently fill the small forward gap in Los Angeles. Is Deng a superstar? No. But he does provide a rare combination: He’s a proven commodity, but still young at age 24.
Wizards Receive: Marcus Camby (9.1m/1yr), 2011 first round pick
Clippers Receive: Caron Butler (20m/2yr)
Why the Wizards would do it: Washington is in a weird spot. Clearly this trio is no longer championship material, so what do they do? If the Wizards moved Jamison and Butler, they’d clear up 23 million in salary next year alone. It’s hard to tell if they’re going to go down that path, but picking up cap space and a first rounder would be a decent return on Butler.
Why the Clippers would do it: Caron is a gifted scorer and a tenacious defender, but he turns 30 (!) this March. Would that scare the Clippers away? Probably not. A Baron-Gordon-Caron-Griffin-Kaman starting five would be tough to handle, and the Clippers would finally have their late game scoring option.
If you haven’t checked out the trade machine, I suggest you give it a whirl. Let’s see your best trade ideas in the comments section, and make sure you show your work by linking to your trade. All of mine were fairly simple, but if you try something insane, you might want to provide a visual for the rest of the class. Go have some fun with it.