When the news of the Eric Bledsoe trade broke, I was in the middle of looking through lineup data regarding Rajon Rondo-Avery Bradley two-man lineups. It was all for some grand piece that was going to compare the prospect of a Bledsoe-Chris Paul backcourt to the Rondo-Bradley backcourt that played under Doc Rivers. But after Bledsoe and Caron Butler were shipped off to Phoenix to bring in free agent shooting guard J.J. Redick and small forward Jared Dudley, those dreams of a Paul-Bledsoe backcourt were shipped off with it. And with that, we need a new hashtag.
Why do we live in a world where I no longer can see a CP3-EBled12 backcourt? What will Han replace #PaulBledsoeBackcourtAlert with?
There are some spots contending to be the new, chic hashtag, but there probably isn’t anything that can eclipse #PaulBledsoeBackcourtAlert in excitement. That said, #JaredDudleyStretch4Alert could lead to some really fun, high-powered, small-ball lineups and if you pair that up with #PaulRedickCrawfordBackcourtAlert, we could see a load of threes from that group.
I hope that this is in response to the Clippers’ trade and not a reaction to my announcement that I’m writing another mailbag. Either way, I’m sorry, @KCorch, this was actually a pretty good deal and I’m definitely writing this mailbag. The trick to accepting the trade (and the existence of ClipperBag) is that you have to consider the premise legitimate. Trading Bledsoe was tough for all Clipper fans. There were plenty of advocates out there – myself proudly included – that thought Bledsoe didn’t need to be traded at all. If he could play shooting guard, that’s someone who the Clippers could have re-signed. But if you accept that trading Bledsoe was an inevitability, then this trade actually looks pretty good from the Clippers’ side.
The interesting part about this swap is that it’s a three-team deal that is actually pretty good for all three teams. Milwaukee essentially gets two second-round picks for free, considering it was never going to re-sign Redick. Phoenix gets someone that could be a franchise point guard along with an $8 million expiring contract and the Clippers get two elite three-point shooters that are smart, system defenders. Add in the fact that the Clippers now have the best-looking backcourt in the NBA (seriously, who is more handsome than a pairing of Chris Paul and the immaculate J.J. Redick?) and it seems like a win for everyone.
The critique of the deal is that the Clippers may have been able to milk the Suns for more than Phoenix actually gave up. The Suns parted with only Jared Dudley and a second-round pick to get their piece of the deal. If the Clippers demanded a second-round pick from Phoenix (after L.A. and Phoenix each gave up a second-round pick to Milwaukee for Redick), would that really hold up the deal for the Suns? If the Clippers wanted Phoenix to throw in a player like Luis Scola (who is owed a team-friendly $9.4 million over the next two seasons and who isn’t at all a part of Phoenix’s future), would that make the Suns pull the plug? The Clips might have been able to make the Suns bleed just a little bit more.
Which backup big would the Clippers rather have? Carl Landry or Jermaine O’Neal?
After this trade, what’s the biggest need? Rim protection or pick-and-pop big?
This one’s easy. I’d rather have Carl Landry for the mid-level exception than Jermaine O’Neal for the veteran’s minimum any day of the week. The Clippers have needed a stretch 4 for a couple of years now and Landry would be the perfect guy for that. He’s a consistent midrange shooter that nailed 43.4 percent of his shots from 16 feet out to the three-point line last season and he’s played (albeit quite briefly) with Chris Paul in the past. O’Neal, meanwhile, has a history of injuries and one year in Phoenix in which he played 55 games with arguably the best training staff in all of sports shouldn’t change that perception.
But really, the Clips need that floor spacer. They need a forward to stay out of the paint for 20 to 25 minutes a night with DeAndre Jordan or Blake Griffin. There have been too many times over the past few seasons that we’ve seen DeAndre sprint into the paint right as Griffin is about to make his move on the block. It’s been one of the more frustrating aspects of the Clipper offense. With Landry on the floor, that doesn’t happen. Blake would be free to post up, get set and go into his hook shot or up-and-under or whatever else he decides to go to. DeAndre can worry about taking a righty hook without knowing Blake Griffin’s defender is right there with him. Floor spacing has to continue to be a priority with the bigs and that means bringing in Landry has to be a priority.
Do you think both Dudley and Redick start or does Jamal move up? Jamal now primary backup at PG and SG?
Who is the primary backup for Paul? Will trading Bledsoe cause Paul to play more minutes?
Total guess: Crawford stays on the bench because that’s where he’s been so successful the past few seasons, but it’s doubtful Crawford will be the backup point guard. Sure, there might be times when he comes in and runs the point on occasion, but that can’t be something the Clippers want in the long term. When Crawford had his severe down season in Portland a couple of years ago, plenty of that had to do with the fact that he played the 1 too much. That wasn’t the initial plan, but Raymond Felton was such a disappointment that the Blazers didn’t have much choice but to make a move.
The Clippers are in a much more amenable situation right now than Portland was with Crawford and Felton. They have time to go out and get a “real” backup point guard and on the market, there are two point guards that stand out: Shaun Livingston and Earl Watson.
Aside from the sentimentality of Livingston’s return, he makes sense because he is long. The Clippers need someone like that: a long player that can defend bigger point guards. Let’s remember that as great as Chris Paul is, he can struggle against length. The Clippers had Eric Bledsoe to come in off the bench and help in those situations last season. It’s safe to say they’re not going to find another point guard quite like Bledsoe on the open market, but what they can do is fill the need that is created with his departure. Crawford actually has that length, but he almost never uses it to his advantage on the defensive end. Livingston, however, is one of the tallest point guards of all time, someone that can surely guard bigger guards and Watson is a feisty defender that will stick to the ball for 94 feet if you need him to. Either of those guys could be a good fit in red and blue.
How many players left on the Clippers can create their own shot? Will Doc mitigate the situation or is there more responsibility on CP3?
All we heard for the past two seasons is that the Clippers ran the “Roll the ball out and let CP3 do his thing” offense, but the irony is that they might be even more dependent on Chris Paul in some ways in the upcoming season. With the loss of Eric Bledsoe, the Clippers have three guys on the roster that can consistently, under all circumstances create their own shots: Paul, Crawford, and Griffin. (And with Griffin, that assumes he has the ball in the post.)
Redick is a pretty good pick-and-roll ball handler and Clipper fans are going to be pleasantly surprised with his well above-average passing ability, but he’s not necessarily someone you can dump the ball off to and say, “Ok J.J., you take this one”. That means we’re going to see a bunch of offense run through Paul and Griffin with the first unit. But that might not be such a bad thing considering how many quality shooters with which the Clippers have surrounded those players. The fact that a real offensive scheme now exists should make that transition much easier.
Do you think the Clippers need to get a defensive wing stopper to stop the more athletic wings? (LeBron, KD, Melo, etc.)
This is where Matt Barnes comes in. The Clippers have to try to lock down Barnes as soon as they can. The problem is that the situation might be out of their hands. It’s hard to have leverage when you can only offer someone 120 percent of the veteran’s minimum salary he made last season. It’s even harder to get a commitment when that player is clearly worth more than that value. Aside from Barnes’ L.A. ties, what the Clippers have going for them is that Barnes has always taken less money to play on contenders. If he does decide to re-sign, he could play less of an offensive role in the upcoming season. With guys like Dudley and Redick already there, Barnes’ role could turn into him playing like a mad man as a perimeter defender and rebounder and then worrying about everything else later.
Does this trade tarnish the Reggie Bullock draft pick at all? Wish we had drafted more for defense and less for shooting?
This is a legitimate question, but the answer is that the Clippers probably knew a trade like this was coming. Even though free agency hadn’t yet started on June 27th, when the Clippers picked Bullock in the NBA Draft, they knew their targets. They knew they were interested in J.J. Redick. They knew they were going to try to load up on shooters. This plan didn’t come out of nowhere.
Besides, Bullock may not be fully ready to come in and contribute for 20 minutes a night anyway. Let’s keep in mind that this is a rookie, 25th overall pick – not a lottery pick. Bullock could need time. That’s not to say that he won’t be a contributor. There’s a good chance he will be. There’s even a good chance he’ll have some games this year that will lead to fans calling for him to get more playing time. He’s a lights-out shooter when he gets hot and he’s a pretty good defender. But for now, Bullock is probably slotted in for the role that Grant Hill played last year, which is fine for someone on the first year of a rookie contract.