If you follow the NBA with any sort of consistency, you’re almost certainly aware by now that the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft is held by the Cleveland Cavaliers, by virtue of having won last week’s lottery.
Now, not only does Cleveland own the top overall pick, but they also have the No. 4 overall selection. How did they manage to find themselves two lottery picks? Well, that’s because they acquired the first-round choice of the L.A. Clippers as a part of the deadline deal that brought Mo Williams to L.A. and sent Baron Davis east.
Despite that pick having a miniscule 2.8 percent change of rising to the top, that’s exactly what it did, and the Cavs have a pair of top-five choices while the Clippers are on the outside looking in.
However, by no means does this prevent the Clips from being involved in the first round. Teams trade their way into the lottery every single year, so why can’t the Clippers?
Obviously, by virtue of having made the playoffs just once since 1997, we’re used to seeing the little Clippers represented in the lottery. And, in recent years, it’s actually paid off, as they’ve found their way into taking Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon with a couple of those choices.
Nearly immediately following the lottery it seemed as though a rumor spread with regards to Minnesota GM David Kahn’s interest in trading the pick. It’s looking increasingly likely that this is a “two player draft”, with those two being Duke point guard Kyrie Irving and Arizona forward Derrick Williams.
Irving appears destined to be taken by Cleveland, so that leaves Williams to the Timberwolves. Minnesota, as owners of the league’s worst record last season, could obviously stand to get some help from anywhere. However, Williams likely best translates as a small forward to the next level. The Timberwolves took more than one small forward in last year’s draft, including fourth overall pick Wesley Johnson.
Johnson struggled at times as a rookie, but he did spend most of his time backing up Michael Beasley, who averaged over 20 points per game last season.
As has been documented several times in this very column space, the Clippers have been interested in a small forward for quite some time. They drafted Al-Farouq Aminu with the eighth overall pick last year, and there’s always a chance that he can improve rapidly and become a legitimate starter. However, most seem to be of the belief that Aminu is best-served as a rotation energy guy rather than a go-to scoring option.
Because the Clippers have never been particularly successful in terms of luring major free agents, adding that small forward piece may prove to be much easier through the draft. So, with the Timberwolves’ relative depth at the position and the Clippers’ open desire to find themselves a small forward, don’t the two seem like natural trade partners?
Due to the aforementioned thought that this is a “weak” draft class, holding the No. 2 overall pick in a “two player draft” could prove to be quite valuable for those T-Wolves. There’s certainly going to be plenty of interest from other teams in trading up to that spot.
Kahn, who has been the team’s general manager since 2009, is obviously going to be trying to fleece someone into giving up more than the pick is worth. That may be the problem for the Clippers.
Their two prime trade pieces are Griffin and Gordon, neither of which will be dealt. So what’s left?
DeAndre Jordan is the next name that comes to mind, but with him headed for restricted free agency, and the uncertainty that comes with the league’s upcoming labor apocalypse, he’s ineligible to be dealt during the draft.
Chris Kaman will be a free agent after next season, and is just one year removed from an All-Star season. However, he missed 50 games last season and his performance suffered as a result. When healthy, though, he’s one of very few centers in the league capable of scoring 20 points per game. He’s not an elite defensive player, but he’s not exactly a saloon door, either.
He may ultimately be the most appealing realistic trade chip the Clippers have. The young Eric Bledsoe showed lots of promise as a rookie last year, but considering the assets the Timberwolves have used in order to bring in point guards in recent years, it’s very hard to imagine them having much interest.
Any deal would also almost certainly have to include future draft considerations. Under current league rules, a team cannot trade its first-round pick two straight years, so the team would have to part with its 2013 first-rounder in all likelihood.
Having enough to entice the Timberwolves to part with the No. 2 overall pick isn’t out of the question, but it would seem as though other teams may have more to offer. Even if a pick that high may be out of reach, there’s no reason to believe the Clippers will be completely dormant through the first round of the draft.
The team’s primary goal heading into next season is almost certainly to find a way to make the playoffs, and that is something that won’t happen without certain upgrades here and there.
I’d expect Neil Olshey and company to be quite active by the time draft night rolls around.
About the Author
Written by Taylor Smith
Taylor Smith is a writer for the Los Angeles Clippers.