In his relatively brief time at the helm, Clippers GM Neil Olshey hasn’t been bashful when it comes to pulling the trigger on a trade.
He’s only been on the job since March of 2010, but already he’s made several franchise-altering moves, including trades that brought Chris Paul, Mo Williams and Eric Bledsoe to town.
So, as we sit very near the halfway point of this lockout-shortened season, with the Clippers at 21-11 and atop the Pacific Division coming out of the All-Star break, how can they get better?
The club was short on frontcourt depth coming into the season, but addressed that need quickly and beautifully with the signings of Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin.
Chauncey Billups was lost for the season in January with a torn Achilles, but the team was already well-suited to deal with that blow, with a backcourt that already included Paul, Williams, Bledsoe and Randy Foye.
So, that leaves the wing position. Caron Butler has been a very solid addition so far this season, having effectively quelled the notion that his ball-stopping ways would stall the Clippers’ offense.
On the contrary, he’s accepted his role as a secondary scorer while also providing very serviceable defense on the other end.
When he’s on the bench, though, the team doesn’t really have much of a replacement. J.R. Smith, who signed with the Knicks last week, would’ve been a nice option.
Veteran Bobby Simmons was signed over the weekend to help. He averaged a career-best 16.4 points per game with the Clippers in 2004-05, but flamed out after signing a massive deal with the Milwaukee Bucks the following offseason. To expect much contribution from him would seem overly optimistic.
So, might the Clips be able to flip a piece from their overflowing backcourt, a trade exception and perhaps a draft pick for a capable small forward?
It won’t be easy.
Mo Williams certainly has plenty value, but with Billups now gone, the Clippers can’t afford to let him go.
Randy Foye is another option, but his worth is extremely limited, as there likely aren’t many teams clamoring for a severely undersized shooting guard, anyway.
So, that leaves Eric Bledsoe as your most appealing trade chip. A fine choice. Bledsoe showed tons of potential in his limited minutes as a rookie last season, but has struggled to crack the rotation in 2012 in light of the crowded backcourt and an injury that got his season off to a very late start. The Hornets were intent on getting Bledsoe in the CP3 trade, but the Clippers were able to keep him.
As for trade partners, how about the Houston Rockets?
They have a surplus of wing talent, including Chase Budinger, Chandler Parsons, Marcus Morris and Terrence Williams. They’re seemingly set at point guard with Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic, right?
Well, they’ve made no secret of their desire to land the Lakers’ Pau Gasol. In return, the Lakers would absolutely be in the market for a point guard, as Derek Fisher is still the starter, hilariously, and Steve Blake has been a massive disappointment since signing prior to last season.
If the Rockets already had Bledsoe waiting in the wings, they’d surely feel safer about dealing either Lowry or Dragic in a potential Gasol trade.
Morris was a highly-touted player coming out of Kansas, but has struggled to find a place on the Rockets’ roster, and has spent the majority of the season toiling away in the D-League, where he’s thrived, averaging over 20 points and eight rebounds per game.
There’s no telling whether or not Morris is ready to step in and play meaningful NBA minutes, but it may be worth the shot.
While Bledsoe’s upside is incredibly appealing, trading him may be necessary if the Clippers truly have championship aspirations this season.
Stay tuned, I’ll delve into more trade possibilities for the Clips on Tuesday.
About the Author
Written by Taylor Smith
Taylor Smith is a writer for the Los Angeles Clippers.