Paul has missed nine games as of February 6, but is expected to make his return by the end of the weekend if all goes well. However, this begs a legitimate question. What do the Clippers do if Paul aggravates his injury and misses more time?
One thing is for certain, Eric Bledsoe’s name would be off the table as far as potential trade deadline deals are involved. The young guard has been given free reign with Paul out. In fact, he has broken double digits in all nine games and recorded two 10-assist games to go along with two six-steal games.
While the offense has changed a bit under Bledsoe, especially with Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin missing time due to injuries, Bledsoe has shined.
Furthermore, any rumored trade of Bledsoe for Kevin Garnett (per ESPN) looks out of the question with Paul injured. Along with that, the Clippers dealing Bledsoe this season seems far-fetched. The Clippers defense has been solid, and while KG would give the Clippers a ton of help on offense in the half court, dealing Bledsoe now seems too soon.
Moving on from Bledsoe, one player who has been absent nearly the entire year is Chauncey Billups. Lingering injuries have prevented the veteran guard from playing essentially the entire season. With CP3 out, Billups’ return is even more crucial down the stretch, as he can allow Vinny Del Negro to limit Paul’s minutes late in the season.
Billups’ absence is another reason why the Clippers' management has to be hesitant on dealing Bledsoe this year. Jamal Crawford recently suffered a broken nose, and Bledsoe is the only fully healthy point guard on the roster.
Another viable option would be to scour the trade market for another backup point guard, perhaps even trade for one. The Clippers currently have one open roster spot to use. They could slide by while giving out 10-day contracts to reserve point guards.
Players such as Mike Bibby, Delonte West and Derek Fisher are all available and would give the Clippers an insurance option should Paul miss significant time and Billups not be able to recuperate quickly enough. Obviously, those are not title-worthy reserve point guards, but without Chris Paul, the team might not even make it out of the first round this spring.
One final option would be to explore a trade revolving around a key member of the bench, such as Grant Hill or Matt Barnes. Barnes would likely bring back some value, but he has been one of the team’s best players and also seems unlikely to be dealt.
Caron Butler would be the man most likely to be dealt if it were not for his remaining $16 million on his contract. Perhaps Butler could be moved, but the Clippers would have to take back a contract extending an additional year longer than Butler’s in order for a team to have any interest.
In all honesty, there are not very many options for the Clippers should Paul miss a good chunk of time in the future. Their best options are currently on the roster in Bledsoe and Billups. The key here would be Billups getting healthy before Paul went down with a serious injury again.
As mentioned above, without Paul, the Clippers likely fall out of home-court advantage and probably do not advance past the first round. This is, of course, depending on the severity of the injury. The Clippers need Paul to be healthy come April. In order for that to happen, the Clippers need Bledsoe to remain healthy and Billups to be able to take minutes in the rotation as the season progresses.
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