Hooray! It’s December 15th! Now the entire Clipper roster is available for trades. Prior to the draft and free agency this season the Clippers only had 5 players on the team: Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon. It made sense because the Clippers were clearing the requisite cap space to go after a big time free agent, but a small side-effect of the cleaning was limiting the trade options before December 15th for management. Let’s check out the Tsar of Salary Cap’s explanation. Take us away, Larry Coon:
When can a team trade a free agent it signs? Do they have to keep him forever?
Generally, a player cannot be traded until three months after signing a contract or December 15th of that season, whichever is later. This does not apply to draft picks, who can be traded 30 days after signing their contract. In addition, if the player is playing under a one-year contract and will have Larry Bird or Early Bird rights at the end of the contract, he can’t be traded without his consent. If consent is granted and the player is traded, then he loses his Larry Bird or Early Bird rights, and enters free agency as a Non-Bird free agent. For example, Seattle signed Vladimir Radmanovic to a one-year qualifying offer on September 21, 2005. Therefore, Radmanovic could not be traded at all until December 21, 2005. After December 21, 2005, he could only be traded if he consented to the trade (he did consent and was traded to the Clippers). He became a Non-Bird free agent with the Clippers in the summer of 2006 (and signed instead with the Lakers).
For sign-and-trade transactions, the initial trade which completes the transaction is obviously allowed, even though it occurs right after the player is signed. What’s not clear is whether the player’s new team can subsequently trade him prior to three months or December 15. While a literal reading of the CBA might suggest that such players cannot be subsequently traded, the league actually considers this situation to be undefined, and won’t resolve the matter until a team actually tries to make such a trade.
So how does that affect the Clippers? All the rookies are now eligible to be traded (Aminu, Bledsoe and Warren) as well as some of the new vets (Gomes, Foye, Cook). However, the Clippers signed quite a few one year deals this year (Rasual, Craig Smith and Jarron Collins) meaning that they essentially have a no-trade clause in their contracts.
Why wouldn’t someone want to be traded away from the Clippers? Money. If they declined a trade they would be able to sign a salary over the cap unless it was met by exceptions. But the contracts are small enough that they would probably be able to get the same amount anywhere else.
So what about trade value? Let’s look at the Clips:
Blake Griffin: Ha. He’s not getting traded. The Clips wouldn’t even think about including the Unicorn even if it meant getting back Carmelo. Not even if Carmelo was willing to sign an extension (which he didn’t). That should tell you something.
Eric Gordon: Almost untouchable. The 3rd year guard jumped from consistent 3rd option on the wing to Perimeter Option #1. There are only a few better shooting guards in the NBA right now. Had Carmelo been willing to sign an extension, I think the Clips would have been willing to give up Gordon. Maybe.
DeAndre Jordan: Low cost, high value. He doesn’t even make a $1 million dollars (stay relative to the NBA, I know that’s still a lot), he’s in the last year of his contract, he is a big, young athlete with a good attitude. True, he has bad hands and no repertoire on offense, but a team would love to take him of the Clippers hands if only for a alley-oop companion/defensive rebounder and shot blocker specialist.
Chris Kaman: His value has taken a hit from the beginning of the year. He came in with only two years on his contract after playing in his first All Star game the year before. He is a talented post option, good with both hands and can shoot well out to 18-20 feet. His contract is somewhat large (2 years, $23.5 million) but it’s manageable for a team desperate for a big man. Then Kaman stunk it up for the first three weeks and turned his ankle. He came back for a game before retweaking the same ankle and he’s been talking like he knows there is a demotion coming. Kaman still has value, and may be able to get either expirings or talented players on bad contracts, but he’s not good enough to get expiring deals and young talent.
Baron Davis: Yeah. Um. He’s probably not getting traded. Although I bet Sterling would love for that to happen. There aren’t many players that are more toxic to their team while having a huge contract. You’re basically hoping for Gilbert Arenas or Elton Brand, if you can call that hope.
Al-Farouq Aminu: All draft experts said he was going to be a work in progress and to some extent that’s still true. But they also said his shot was rickety and that hasn’t been the case. Farouq has been nailing his threes, top ten in the NBA, and that only adds to his athletic build and good character. He could be a centerpiece in a viable trade.
Eric Bledsoe: Cheetah fast, humble, eager, wildly athletic and showing signs of a better outside shot. He still has some work to do with his turnovers, but that’s largely a part of being a rookie point guard. He’ll be able to cut those down in time. On top of which, he’s on the rookie salary scale for an 18th pick, not a top-10 or top-5 like some people believe he could have earned had he gone to a program where he could have showcased his skills better. His low pay increases his overall value. As with Farouq, Bledsoe could be a centerpiece for a trade, but would need a larger contract to bring back anything close to fair in return.
Willie Warren: Sneaky valuable. The kind of trade chip that could make or break a trade. He has been extra careful with the ball in his limited minutes and he’s show signs of evolving past being the gunner that he was last year in Oklahoma. He has a scant $500,000 contract, with one year beyond. Again, he’s a fantastic sweetener to a trade.
Recently Signed Vets:
Randy Foye: His contract is actually decent, 2 years and $8.5 million, but due to injuries and a crowded backcourt, he has struggled this year. He’ll never be the centerpiece but he could be decent filler if he plays better over the course of the year. Back healthy and on the right team, he could be a good bench player. I still feel that Donald Sterling’s comments about Foye in the offseason hurt him.
Ryan Gomes: Very similar to Foye, he has a manageable contract, 3 years and $12 million, but he has played like garbage this year, turning in a career low Player Efficiency Rating. If he found his game again, his value goes up. As for right now, he’s just a decent contract that could get the Clippers a different player with a mediocre to bad contract. Also like Foye, I think the negative comments by Sterling didn’t help.
Brian Cook: Surprisingly valuable. I’m going to eat some crow here and say I thought he wouldn’t be a good fit, but he has made threes, behaved and shown signs of average defense. Never thought any of those would happen. And he is only on a $1.15 million contract with a player option next year for $1.27 million. He’s definitely outplaying his contract now, so it might work as an expiring contract since he could easily opt out and look for more money.
Vets with No-Trade Clauses
Rasual Butler: If a team needs a wing that can make a decent number of threes and is on an expiring contract, Rasual is their man. He’s on a one year, $2.4 million deal. On a better team, he could take the place of a smaller, more specific role and flourish. Maybe even play some defense. But he has to do too much on this Clippers team. Some value. I can see him using his no trade if he won’t get as many minutes and will go to a team that won’t re-sign him.
Craig Smith: How can you not love the Rhino? And he’s on a one year, $2.3 million contract and he’s the only Clipper outside of Gordon and Griffin to have a PER over the league average of 15 (Smith has a 15.4 PER). Lots of value. He’s efficient around the basket, is a good teammate and when he wants to, has one of the better mohawks in the league. I can only see him holding fast to his no-trade if he really likes it in Los Angeles. But it seems like anywhere else, he would get more minutes and be on a team that wins more.
Jarron Collins: He’s really tall. He has a $1.15 million contract. He gets a few minutes. He’s basically only included if the team that the Clippers hypothetically trades with needs a million dollars to salary match. I only see him using his no-trade clause if he really loves the weather in Los Angeles.
This should give a good idea of how the Clippers can now act whenever names like Carmelo, Iguodala, Chauncey or Steve Nash get floated out in rumors. But, what makes this trade season so difficult is that the Clippers’ high paid vets are playing disproportionately awful (Baron, Kaman and to a much lesser extent Foye and Gomes) and the younger ones are way overplaying their contracts (Blake, Gordon, Bledsoe, Aminu) so their values are so skewed that it’s going to make it difficult for trading because opposing teams are going to want all the young guys but won’t have the ability to provide adequate compensation without taking back the big anchor contracts.