So many big names have been thrown around in Clippers-Celtics trade rumors over the past few days, it’s hard to keep track of who’s in and who’s out.
Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, DeAndre Jordan, Paul Piece, Caron Butler, Eric Bledsoe, first-round draft picks – all we need is a “player to be named later” and a third team involved and we’ve got everything a good trade should have.
But all the Clips need to do is to keep playing it smart and everything will be all right. That’s because L.A.’s resistance to include Eric Bledsoe in this deal might be what puts them over the top.
Even a few weeks ago, it seemed like Bledsoe may have been the Clippers’ only real trade chip. Though there were teams out there who might want DeAndre Jordan, his stock is not as high as it has been in the past. And as for draft picks, consistently picking in the 20s doesn’t exactly make someone want to take your first rounder off your hands for you. But in this Celtics trade, the Clippers actually do have non-Bledsoe assets. That’s because Boston is high on DeAndre Jordan. Add in an expiring Butler deal and the Celtics are at least thinking of dreamy scenarios that would bring Doc and KG to the West Coast. Leverage Bledsoe in another deal and the Clips can take care of some serious renovating.
Except there is one big elephant in Eric Bledsoe’s room that we are, for the most part, completely overlooking: The Clippers don’t have to (or don’t necessarily need to) trade Bledsoe.
In fact, Bledsoe never needed to be traded. What he’s needed all along is for someone to believe that he is actually a shooting guard. Then the game changes.
A consistent Eric Bledsoe-Chris Paul backcourt would surely be a change in philosophy, considering Bledsoe isn’t exactly a spot-up shooter. But he doesn’t need to camp out in the corner to be effective. Bledsoe is a strong off-ball cutter, which is something a team needs in its shooting guard. It’s no coincidence that he shot 65.2 percent off cuts this past season. Get him moving off the ball and he’s an effective offensive player.
Paul and Bledsoe barely got to play together last season. So few times did we see that duo get extended court time. They compiled only 185 minutes on the floor together, but those Paul-Bledsoe lineups had an offensive efficiency of 115.9 (which would lead the league) and a net rating of 11.1 points per 100 possessions. It was a duo that the numbers (and even the eyes) say deserved more of a look than it received.
So maybe Bledsoe can play shooting guard. We know he can guard there. We know how pesky a Paul-Bledsoe backcourt, which would harbor the players who were No. 2 and No. 3 in the NBA in steal percentage, would be. Bledsoe might even get to shoot a little better. Only 20 of his 78 three-point attempts this year came from the corner, where he made 10 of those shots. If he played off the ball, well over a quarter of his three-point attempts would come from the corner. Just check Iman Shumpert for proof of that.
If the Clippers do pull off this Celtics trade and big names travel from place to place, city to city, they’re hoping they can keep Bledsoe. And it’s not just so they can swing him for another piece. Look at what Doc Rivers did in Boston. He decided Avery Bradley was no longer a point guard, took him out of Rajon Rondo’s backup spot, made him a 2, and turned him into an excellent defensive starting shooting guard. That can happen with Bledsoe. Those players are of similar mental makeups and style. Bledsoe just needs to be in the right situation for that to happen. And maybe this trade can bring him just that.