5 NBA Teams That Should Make a Play for Clippers' Eric Bledsoe

Sam CooperCorrespondent IIIJanuary 18, 2013

5 NBA Teams That Should Make a Play for Clippers' Eric Bledsoe

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    As the trade deadline nears closer, more and more NBA teams will inquire about Clippers backup point guard Eric Bledsoe.

    Realistically, the Clippers won't trade Bledsoe unless they really get an offer that they can't refuse. After all, the Clippers are one of the top teams in the NBA, they have the deepest roster, and they don't have any glaring weaknesses. So as the saying goes, "If it ain't broken, don't fix it."

    On the other hand, Bledsoe is a potential future All-Star whose talents are being wasted. He's averaging 16.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.8 steals a game per 36 minutes and has a PER of 20, but he's only playing 19 minutes a game behind MVP candidate Chris Paul. Keep in mind, Chauncey Billups hasn't even returned from injury yet.

    Bledsoe is a great player, but the Clippers may never be able to take advantage of his potential. If Chris Paul re-signs, when Bledsoe hits the market as a restricted free agent in 2014 the Clippers will be forced to choose between overpaying a bench player or watching another team snatch him up. 

    In that sense, it may be worth it to the Clippers to at least explore a trade involving Bledsoe at this year's deadline. A lot of teams would show interest, and by pairing Bledsoe with a bad contract such as Caron Butler or Lamar Odom, the Clippers could probably net a nice return. 

    On that note, here are five NBA teams that should try to pry Eric Bledsoe away from the Clippers. 

Dallas Mavericks

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    The Dallas Mavericks currently own a 17-23 record, and with no real shot at a playoff spot, they might start to look for young prospects to build around in the future.

    Dallas already has O.J Mayo at shooting guard, but neither Darren Collison or Rodrigue Beaubois are great starting options at point guard, and Dallas may look to make a push for Eric Bledsoe as their new floor general.

    Even with Bledsoe, Dallas would have a long way to go before they can contend again. However, making a deal with the Clippers would give them a great backcourt duo of Bledsoe and Mayo that they could build around for years to come.

    For the Clippers, it's a little unclear as to what they could ask for in return. For starters, Dallas could send Darren Collison, who may not be a great starter but could be one of the best backup point guards in the NBA. Collison is averaging 12.9 points and 5.1 assists in 31 minutes a game, and he could be a great backup behind Chris Paul.

    Additionally, Los Angeles may want to look into acquiring a player like Shawn Marion. Marion is not the star player he once was, and his contract is even slightly worse than Butler's, but he would still be an improvement. Marion is a great defensive player, and he averages 10.4 points and 8.2 rebounds a game while shooting 48 percent from the field and 32 percent from deep. 

    The Mavericks would love to have Bledsoe, but Dallas is not the best trade partner for the Clippers. They could give them a good replacement for Bledsoe and a small upgrade at small forward, but they just don't have the assets to offer the Clippers a trade they really couldn't refuse. 

New Orleans Hornets

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    A developing team like the New Orleans Hornets could definitely use a developing prospect like Bledsoe, but it really depends on how committed they are to their own developing point guard, Greivis Vasquez.

    Also from the 2010 NBA draft, Vasquez is having a breakout season of his own. In his first season as a starter, he's averaging 14.3 points and 9 assists a game. His numbers over the past 10 games are even more impressive, as he has averaged 17.1 points and 9.5 assists over that span while shooting 49 percent from the field and 45 percent from behind the arc.

    If those numbers continue, perhaps New Orleans has no real reason to actually pursue Eric Bledsoe. However, according to Chris Broussard of ESPN.com (Insider required), the Hornets have expressed interest in Bledsoe, so they may not be looking at Vasquez as a long-term option.

    If a trade between these two teams does occur, the main player the Clippers should target is Ryan Anderson. Anderson would be tough to get, as he is the Hornets' leading scorer, but he is also a stretch-four that the Clippers could really use.

    Right now, Lamar Odom is backing up Blake Griffin. Odom is not awful, and he is pretty comfortable on the perimeter, but Anderson is one of the league's best three-point shooters. If Anderson can shoot open threes and create space for Blake Griffin in the post, the Clippers would be even more dangerous offensively. Again, the Hornets may be reluctant to let go of Anderson even with his huge contract for a bench player, but he would be a great fit in L.A. 

Utah Jazz

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    Currently, Mo Williams is the starting point guard of the Jazz, and Utah lacks any real young talent at that position. They have some great young players in Kanter, Favors, Burks and Hayward, but a rebuilding team needs a good point guard if they ever want to contend.

    That's where Bledsoe comes in. Bledsoe would be the perfect fit for Utah, and the Jazz could finally start a full-scale rebuilding process with him running the point in the future. 

    As for the return package, the Clippers have a few options. Gordon Hayward is a great young player, but Utah is almost definitely going to keep him. However, if you want to think a little bigger, both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are going to be available at the deadline, and the Clippers could go after one of those two if they really do want to win and contend this season.

    Both Jefferson and Millsap are expiring contracts, and if the Jazz are serious about rebuilding they will probably shop both of them at the deadline. Both of those two are above average starters at their respective positions, and either one could make the Clippers a lot better. 

    Paul Millsap is the easier target, as he has a smaller contract and is having a down year, averaging just 14.9 points and 7.7 rebounds a game. Al Jefferson's $15 million contract would be more difficult to take on, and he is the better player of the two, but he wouldn't be impossible to acquire. The Clippers have options, and should they decide to trade Bledsoe, both of Utah's bigs are great, realistic targets. 

Memphis Grizzlies

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    With all this recent Rudy Gay trade talk spreading around, why not throw the Clippers into the mix of potential suitors? The Clippers could use a star wing player, and although Gay is no LeBron or Durant, a starting lineup where Gay is the third scoring option would be extremely difficult to stop.

    The Grizzlies mainly want to trade Gay in order to dump his huge salary, and the Clippers could offer a package consisting of Bledsoe, a couple of bad contracts and future draft picks to acquire him. 

    Rudy Gay is not an All-Star, but he is still one of the top small forwards in the game. Gay is averaging 17.7 points and 5.7 rebounds a game this year, and although he isn't the most efficient scorer, Chris Paul could definitely set him up with a lot of open looks on offense.

    If opposing defenses had to worry about Rudy Gay dropping 20+ points on any night in addition to already worrying about Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford, the Clippers would have one of the most dominant offenses in the NBA.

    Because of Gay's huge $16.5 million salary, a trade might be a little difficult to orchestrate. However, the Clippers could center the trade around Bledsoe and draft picks, and they could also throw in both Lamar Odom and Caron Butler to make the salaries balance out. If they lost all three of those players, the Grizzlies would probably send another bench player to Los Angeles. 

    Bledsoe is a potential future All-Star, but the Clippers could really take advantage of his talent on the trade market. Rudy Gay is a big name, and making a trade like this could potentially bring the Clippers a lot closer to a championship. 

Sacramento Kings

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    The Sacramento Kings have been one of the league's worst teams for several years now, and they're still searching for a new point guard to build around. Isaiah Thomas, Aaron Brooks and Jimmer Fredette are all decent guards, but they aren't players a team can build around. The Kings need to find a franchise cornerstone, and Bledsoe could be the answer to their problems.

    For the Clippers, a good trade target would be Tyreke Evans. Evans is quite a strange case, as he seems to have regressed since being named Rookie of the Year in 2010 after a season in which he averaged 20.1 points a game.

    But although Evans is now averaging just 15.0 points and 4.9 rebounds a game and his ceiling and potential are limited, this risky move could just work out for Los Angeles. Sometimes, a player just needs a change of scenery to live up to his potential, as Dallas is finding out this season after signing O.J Mayo.

    One of the problems with Evans is that he has never had a defined role. He has spent time at point guard, shooting guard and even small forward over the years, and nobody really knows what he is. Standing 6'6" with long arms, he may have the body of a wing player, but Evans also needs the ball in his hands to truly thrive, which could get in the way of Chris Paul's playmaking. 

    Another problem with Evans is that he is also a restricted free agent this summer. He's not a star player who will receive any maximum contract offers, but the Clippers could face the same problem that they would with Bledsoe, where they don't have the cap space to match an offer from another team. 

    The Clippers could make this move, but it's definitely risky. Evans does not have as high a ceiling as Bledsoe, and so the Clippers could also aim to acquire a good rebounder such as Jason Thompson to add down low. In return, Caron Butler can be sent to the Kings to balance the salaries. That shouldn't be such a problem, as Butler appears to be a better starting option than John Salmons, James Johnson, Travis Outlaw of Francisco Garcia anyway. 

    Overall, there should be several different teams interested in acquiring Eric Bledsoe. But even though the Clippers might lose Bledsoe in the future, now isn't the time for them to trade him unless he really becomes upset about his playing time. There are definitely several teams who should still pursue the 23-year-old guard, but if they don't offer an amazing package, Bledsoe is going to remain a Clipper for at least the remainder of this season.