Prior to Sunday’s Clippers-Celtics tilt that ended with a 106-104 Boston triumph, The Sporting News reported that Los Angeles would be interested in trading for veteran forward Kevin Garnett.
The rumored trade would send forward Caron Butler and young guard Eric Bledsoe to Boston in exchange for the future Hall-of-Famer.
So, would the Clippers be wise to tinker with a team that appears headed for a top-four seed in the Western Conference as-is?
In short, if the deal is right, then yes, they would. And, it just so happens that this would be the right deal.
The Clippers have one of the youngest foundations of any team in the league centered around Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but they are in win-now mode. Garnett will turn 37 during this year’s playoffs, and he’s obviously no longer the same dynamic force that helped lead the Celtics to an NBA title in 2008.
However, he still appears to have plenty left in the tank, after battling injuries over the past few seasons. Garnett is still averaging 15 points and nine rebounds per game, and hasn’t lost much (if anything) in terms of being one of the league’s premier defenders in the post.
For the Celtics to do this deal, they’d likely have to feel as though they can’t possibly contend for a championship this season. Alongside Garnett, they have another aging star in Paul Pierce, and the clock is ticking on this team’s title window, if it’s not already shut.
They lost Rajon Rondo for the season with an ACL tear about a week and a half ago, but, interestingly enough, they’ve managed to win all six of the games he’s missed thus far, including wins over Miami, the Clippers and the Lakers.
Bledsoe has been fairly up-and-down since being thrust into the starting lineup in place of the injured Chris Paul, but he just played the best game of his career in Wednesday’s win over Washington, racking up 27 points, six steals, six assists, three rebounds and three blocks.
Butler is clearly on the backside of his career, but he’s still a guy that can get you points in bunches. However, his involvement in this would-be trade would be to make the salaries match.
It seems highly likely at this point that the Clippers will be able to re-sign Chris Paul once his contract expires after this season. Bledsoe is under contract through the 2013-14 season, after which he’ll become a restricted free agent.
A unique talent like Bledsoe (still just 23 years old) will likely fetch starting point guard-type money once he reaches the open market, as he should. There are tons of teams out there right now who could use a guard like Bledsoe and start him immediately.
The point is, the Clippers are likely to lose Bledsoe after next season, anyway. His value will likely never be higher than it is right now, because the team that acquires him will still have a full season with him at a very reasonable price ($2.6M) left after 2013.
The addition of Garnett pads the relatively-thin Clipper frontcourt, and gives them a reliable center that can play in crunch time. DeAndre Jordan, as entertaining as he is and as productive as he can be from time-to-time, can’t be played down-the-stretch of close games because he’s shooting a miserable 43 percent from the free-throw line this season. Garnett, conversely, is hitting nearly 80 percent of his foul shots.
Having a big that can also stretch the floor and consistently knock-down 15-18 foot jumpers is something the Clippers don’t have. Griffin has shown the ability, but his execution on those plays is inconsistent, at best.
Butler is a starter, but the Clippers already have Matt Barnes and Grant Hill playing small forward, so one of them would presumably just slide into his place.
As for backup point guard, Chauncey Billups has played the position throughout his career, so there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t assume ball-handling duties once Paul hits the bench. Jamal Crawford and Grant Hill are also fully capable of initiating the offense on their own.
You have to give a little to get a little, as they say, and the potential long-term sacrifice (Bledsoe) would be worth the gamble for short-term success.
About the Author
Written by Taylor Smith
Taylor Smith is a writer for the Los Angeles Clippers.