The trade that had been coming for days is finally here with some interesting kinks to it.
In a three-team deal,
Doc will regain custody the Clippers will receive Austin Rivers from the Boston Celtics.
In return, the Clippers will send Chris Douglas-Roberts (who will be waived) and a 2017 2nd round draft pick to the Celtics and give the Phoenix Suns Reggie Bullock.
The Celtics will receive Shavlik Randolph from the Suns to complete the deal per Shams Charania of RealGM.
In addition, it appears the remainder of Jordan Farmar’s contract will be bought out (per Marc Stein of ESPN). Farmar signed a 2-year deal worth $4.2 million with the Clippers in the offseason with a player option in the second season paying $2.1 million.
Deep breaths, everybody.
Obviously, there’s a lot to deal with here. So, let’s break it down.
It’s the feel-good story on a team that hasn’t exactly felt good all year! The narrative being a reunion between father and son. When Austin plays his first game under Doc with the Clippers, it’ll be the first time in NBA history where a father has coached his son in a game. How sweet.
Inevitably this will look like Doc trading three players so he can coach his son — despite reports that it was the organization and not Doc who pushed for this move.
Nepotism aside, Austin Rivers is a player who quite possibly was on his way out of the league.
Sell me “downhill” Rivers
Austin Rivers has had an underwhelming career to date. Drafted 10th overall just three season ago (Fun fact: this was the first round pick the Clippers originally gave up in the Sam Cassell deal back in 2005), you know things aren’t going well when the team that drafts you declines the fourth year option on your rookie contract. (Other guys who suffered a similar fate recently include: Thomas Robinson (POR), Jimmer Fredette (NOP), Jan Veseley (WAS) and until recently, the Clippers’ very own Jared Cunningham.)
Rivers has developed the unfortunate reputation of being a scoring guard who can’t score. He’s averaged 6.9 points per game for his career and been a streaky shooter at best. To make matters worse, this season his shooting numbers are down again. Rivers is shooting just 39 percent from the field and 33.2 percent from deep. He has a decent first step and an ability to get into the lane — unfortunately he just can’t seem to finish. If nothing else, Rivers provides a change of pace guard who can come off the bench and play some spot minutes. Doc calls him a “downhill” guard — whatever that’s supposed to mean.
From a basketball perspective, this is a somewhat of a nothing deal if not a confusing one. Rivers hasn’t shown much since entering the league three years ago, but a fresh start (and that added curiosity of whether his dad can bring out the best in him) make bringing him in worth a flier.
However, it’s what the Clippers gave up in the process that has people scratching their heads.
There’s little doubt that the Clippers’ bench has been downright awful this season.
Jordan Farmar was disgruntled. Chris Douglas-Roberts was either injured or in the doghouse. And Spencer Hawes has developed a top bun to try and turn his form around.
The confusing part of this trade is that the Clippers needed a wing defender who could knock down threes. So, L.A. traded its two back-up small forwards for a combo guard. Furthermore, the Clippers have been fairly hamstrung when it comes to having assets to leverage in potential trades. So, the Clippers gave up a draft pick and their only semi-moveable asset in Reggie Bullock.
On the court, Bullock has offered only glimmers of the player he might become. He occasionally showed flashes but never could work himself into consistent minutes. Injuries and Doc’s apparent aversion toward developing talent (especially rookies) derailed Reggie’s potential progress.
Chris Douglas-Roberts struggled since his arrival. Besides talking a big game about his short-shorts, he never quite could get it together on the court. A lot of that can be attributed to an achilles strain he brought into the preseason. CDR missed a month of action and then was relegated to scrap minutes at the end of blowouts.
Jordan Farmar has been displeased with his role for months. Brought in as a shooter, Farmar’s having the worst shooting season of his career. Consequently, he’s averaging a career low in minutes as well. His PER for the season (although not the only thing to measure his success) has been a lowly 9.9 — the worst of his career and well below the NBA average.
The inclusion of the 2017 second round pick in the deal is just salt into the wound. Since Doc’s arrival with the Clippers (which cost the team a 1st round pick), the Clippers have been happy to throw around draft picks like confetti.
Once again, the Clippers have Doc Rivers trying to remedy his own poor offseason acquisitions in the middle of the season. As discussed on Clipperblog Live a few nights ago, Andrew Han mentioned that the Clippers went 0 for 4 in their offseason transactions; none of Spencer Hawes, Jordan Farmar, Chris Douglas-Roberts, or Ekpe Udoh has contributed positively this season. Clipperblog’s Fred Katz quite rightly asked how much could bad luck be attributed to the new reserves’ uninspiring performances this season and how much of the blame belongs to poor talent scouting?
The Big Picture
If the Rivers trade is just one part of making a bigger deal then it’s probably fine. As it stands, it’s by no means a move of the similar ilk to what the Mavericks, Rockets, and Grizzlies have already pulled off in the Western Conference Arms Race — but it has created some more flexibility for the Clippers to go after other pieces.
However, Doc’s usual bread and butter is circling the bargain buyout bin, and it looks like there are already candidates to reboot the Clippers’ bench. It’s been widely reported that the Clippers are pursuing Nate Robinson as soon as his buyout with the Celtics is complete (Big Baby and Nate reunion?!) Supposedly, the Heat, Cavaliers, and Wizards are also interested in Krypto-Nate as well (per Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports).
Another Boston buyout option is Tayshaun Prince. Indeed, Prince was another piece of fodder in the Jeff Green trade with the Celtics having little interest in keeping. Tayshaun has been a target of the Clippers for years —unfortunately, he’s a shell of the player he once. But it wouldn’t be surprisingly if the Clippers go after him anyway.
Although these guys may help, they’re by no means home runs in the grand scheme of things. They’re band-aid solutions for problems caused by Doc.
Doc the GM
For all Doc’s talents as a head coach, he’s got as many flaws as a GM.
He just doesn’t make very smart moves. He’s constantly chasing his tail trying to untangle messes he’s already made.
The Clippers have been a revolving door of ring-ins for the past couple of years: Big Baby, Hedo Turkoglu, Stephen Jackson, Danny Granger, Sasha Vujacic, and now Chris Douglas-Roberts.
Rivers also drafted Reggie Bullock and then CJ Wilcox — two guys with very similar skill sets — two years in a row.
Rewind all the way back to the Bledsoe trade, then signing Spencer Hawes too soon, which then led to the Dudley trade. It’s been one blunder after another.
Clipperblog’s Fred Katz broke down the failings of Doc the Exec at length late last year. It’s worth re-reading in full and shuddering at the turmoil he’s brought in the front office but here’s just a taste:
Not to harp on Doc’s first major move as an exec, something that happened more than a year ago, but the disaster of the Eric Bledsoe trade (which sent away Bledsoe, Caron Butler’s $8 million expiring contract and a future second-rounder for J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley) is still hurting the Clippers today, and not because Bled has become one of the league’s feistiest combo guards, a development any Clips fan could’ve guaranteed you was inevitable over the past three years.
In reality, this deal isn’t in the past, because it set off a series of transactions still reverberating within the organization.
So yes, the Rivers trade for Rivers calls into question Doc’s decision-making once again, and accusations of nepotism are entirely justified. Rembember, it’s Doc the GM who’s largely responsible for how the Clippers got into the position they’re in to begin with.
How Doc responds both on and off the court will be telling – and perhaps even more so when his kid’s a free agent this summer.