Should the Clippers try to acquire Lamar Odom? Yes. He is the prototypical stretch-4 the front office has been targeting. Though there are lingering concerns about his capacity to get back to top form, if Coach K still thinks he’s got it, then so should you. Odom will also be back in his adopted city where he feels comfortable and where his family feels comfortable.
Should the Clippers try to deal Mo Williams? Yes. Mo’s agent issued a soft-trade request via Ramona Shelbourne and understandably. With the firm belief that he is a starting point guard, Williams isn’t pleased about his role as Sixth Man (and potentially seventh next season, behind Bledose). While sulking his way through last year, he still managed to be the primary bench scoring option—but the team should have higher aspirations for the $8.5 million in cap space Mo occupies.
Should the Clippers simultaneously acquire Odom and rid themselves of Mo Williams in the immediate future? Absolutely. The basic structure of the trade-talks first reported by Marc Stein last night are a three team trade with Odom going to the Clippers, Mo going to the Lakers, and the Mavericks getting access to the cap space used by Odom (almost assuredly to make a run at unrestricted free agent Deron Williams).
The foundational premise of this reasoning is that the new CBA is actually effective at driving salaries down. Under the previous labor agreement, Mo may have been a little overvalued at $8.5 million per year, but his take was in the right ballpark. He’s not going to be able to demand near that amount on the open market anymore, mostly because teams can’t be spending that kind of money on, effectively, a shooting point guard. Plus, much of his all-star pedigree has evaporated since he departed Cleveland. He may have been a starter in this league, but his defensive issues and shoot-first mentality mean his value won’t be amongst the top half of NBA starting point guards. This phenomenon is exacerbated when considering the glut of traditional point guards and shooting point guards in free agency this summer.
The previous paragraph was just a wonky way of saying that I don’t think the Clippers will find many takers for Mo unless the situation has some wrinkles in it. But the Lakers have those requisite wrinkles. They currently possess Odom’s $8.9 million trade-exception and, more importantly, they have no misconceptions about Mo being a long-term solution. The Lakers are considering what they can do this upcoming season and that’s about it. Their goal is to be under the luxury threshold in 2013-14, and Mo’s contract is up after this season. The Lakers are already above the threshold, so Mo just brings the value of his game without having any of the cap implications to which most teams would object.
Over at ESPN radio’s LA station (AM 710), Max & Marcellus along with Mason & Ireland were verbally drooling all over the possibility of acquiring Mo Williams. After an unsatisfying experience with Ramon Sessions at the point, Mo would fill the gaping hole in the Lakers lineup of perimeter shooting while also helping end negotiations with the now unrestricted free agent Sessions. Not surprisingly, the Lakers would prefer to just slide Mo into the trade exception without giving anything up, but the Clippers have enough leverage to make sure this doesn’t happen. The Clippers should attempt to squeeze some variation of the following: a future draft pick, Devin Ebanks, and/or cash. The first two options speak for themselves, but the cash could be particularly strategic if the Clippers end up in a situation where Donald T. Sterling needs to be convinced to amnesty Ryan Gomes.
The relationship where the Clippers hold the most leverage isn’t with the Lakers, but rather with the Mavericks. Marc Cuban is in a big hurry to clear cap space because the Deron Williams sweepstakes start on July 1st—the same day the Mavs would need to waive Odom by if they don’t want to be on the hook for his fully guaranteed $8.2 million salary this season. Moreover, Odom is really no use to anybody in Dallas. Lamar is an emotional guy who needs to be in the right place to thrive and last season proved Texas doesn’t quite work for him. So really, Dallas would need to incentivize the Clippers to get Odom off the Mavericks.
In Larry Coon’s coverage of the possible landing spots for Odom, he makes clear that Dallas would have to sweeten the deal for any team to take a chance on the veteran. Coon posits that Roddy Beaubois, a future first-round draft pick, and cash would be enough to offset the risk of Odom sputtering his way through another ambivalent season. Personally, I think those pieces would be more than enough for the Clippers to consummate the deal, especially if the Lakers are willing to exchange any of the previously mentioned assets for Williams.
If the Clippers decide not to move Mo now and hope to sign Odom outright after he’s been waived, most of the realistic scenarios aren’t that peachy:
- So that would mean saying goodbye to Odom and keeping Williams, at worst, for the foreseeable future, or at best, for a crucial period in free agency, muddling the coherence of plan moving forward.
- Lamar might make a splash for Team USA in the very near future which could drive up his value around the league. The corollary to this is that, right now, he’s not viewed as valuable and the Clippers could be committing a legitimate theft.
- If Dallas gets fed up and decides just to waive Odom, the Clippers would need to act fast on getting rid of Mo if there is any desire to use the mid-level exception on assets beyond Odom. As said before, it will be difficult to find a place for Mo at all, let alone quickly. His value as an expiring grows as we get closer to the trade deadline, but this is not the year to have a roster in flux at the outset of training camp let alone in February. Further, if Williams leaves as Odom arrives in the next 48 hours, the 53rd pick could be used to address actual need as opposed to expected need (to say nothing of having the entire offseason to figure out the best means of using the bi-annual AND the mid-level).
The last real upside of getting this deal done now is that it gives the Clippers a good-faith basis to offer Chauncey Billups a medium-sized deal. With the mid-level and bi-annual exception unused, the Clippers could only offer Chauncey a few million dollars if they don’t want to go over the luxury tax (an incredibly reasonable standard which Billups would have to respect). With Chris Paul making public overtures about the need to bring Chauncey back (not only has he called him the best backcourt partner he’s ever had, he also said the Clippers would have won the title if Chauncey stayed healthy), it would show Paul that the front office can make things happen in a way that gels with the desires of its stars.
Ultimately, the root of the issue with waiting Dallas out is that getting a better deal than what’s near the table would take a lot of dexterity by the Clippers front office and also requires much of the status quo to be maintained around the league (Deron Williams, seeing the market value of other point guards, teams filling their needs at point guard, Lakers using their trade exception, etc.) But the biggest worry should be the moral hazard involved with Odom getting his entire contract guaranteed. There is always the chance he just wants to be back in LA to film his reality TV show and start having little Khardashian-Odom’s.