The LA Clippers have put themselves in position to build a new big three and become a contender in the Western Conference.
Don’t tell Jerry West and Elton Brand that the trade deadline is typically meant for small tweaks ahead of a playoff run. For the LA Clipper and Philadelphia 76ers, it provided an opportunity to go all in on their efforts to build their respective super teams.
Early Wednesday morning, the Clippers agreed to send almost-All-Star Tobias Harris, partner in crime Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott to the Sixers in exchange for a 2020 first round pick, Miami’s unprotected 2021 pick and a pair of second rounders (2021 and 2023) plus rookie guard Landry Shamet and the expiring contracts of Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala.
It’s a big gamble by the Sixers, who push (nearly) all their chips in for a core four of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler and Harris (the latter two of which they plan to resign this summer). Meanwhile, the Clippers are aiming higher.
Under the triumvirate of Jerry West, team president Lawrence Frank and general manager Mike Winger, the Clippers have done of the league’s most creative jobs in remaking its asset portfolio. The shut the window on the Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin trio. Since Steve Ballmer took over as owner, he brought with him his Silicon Valley mindset. The Clippers have not only been willing but dedicated to aggressively pivoting.
After signing Griffin to an extension two years ago, the Clippers stumbled out of the gate and traded him to the Detroit Pistons for Harris and other assets. Despite a promising start to this season, the Clippers have fallen back in the playoff hunt, and so the team decided to punt on this season and flip Harris after building up his value.
The Clippers have turned Griffin’s undesirable contract into three first-round picks (Detroit’s 2018 pick that they used on the budding Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Philly’s protected 2020 pick and Miami’s unprotected 2021 pick — which could end up being the new ‘Brooklyn pick’), three second-round picks and a promising rookie in Shamet. That’s an incredible haul for one All-Star player.
It took Danny Ainge gutting a championship-winning core to get something in a similar ballpark (though nothing will ever be quite what the Celtics got for fleecing the Brooklyn Nets).
By getting this trade done more than a day before Thursday’s deadline, the Clippers still have time to make more moves. Do they flip Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley — who they got from Houston for Paul — for more picks?
The Sixers process resulted in a window that Brand is acting on now. For West and the Clippers, they will act on their window this summer. The Clippers are confident they can land Kawhi Leonard, and they’ll have a second max cap slot to add another star. (Remember, it was West when he was working for the Warriors who made the last-minute phone call to Kevin Durant that reportedly helped nudge him toward Oakland.)
They now have the capital to go get a third. The Clippers are in a position to possibly outbid the Lakers and Celtics for Anthony Davis, though ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the deal wasn’t necessarily made with Davis is mind. Either way, it says a lot that Davis reportedly had the Clippers on his list of teams he would be willing to re-sign with. West and Co. will have the ammunition to land him or the next star that shakes loose.
The Clippers valuation right now is through the roof. Now they just have to build a product that delivers on their investment.