Clippers Shopping Eric Bledsoe Proves LA Confident About Re-Signing Chris Paul
According to Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports, the Los Angeles Clippers have offered guard Eric Bledsoe and center DeAndre Jordan to the Boston Celtics in exchange for forward/center Kevin Garnett.
This is not the first time we've heard Bledsoe's name in trade rumors, and it certainly won't be the last.
It would be a bold move for a Los Angeles team with legitimate title aspirations to upset their chemistry at this point in the season. But the Clippers' willingness to move two of their younger stars—most notably, their backup point guard—is proof that the team is confident that Chris Paul will re-sign with it in the offseason.
Paul will (or at least, should) ultimately be the focal point of any and every move the Clippers make (or don't make) over the next several months. And as the team that holds Paul's Bird rights, the Clippers have a decided advantage over the rest of the league in that only they can offer him a five-year max deal.
But that alone doesn't ensure that the words "Los Angeles" will be stitched across Paul's road jersey next season. So expect the Clippers front office to spend plenty of time prior to the trade deadline strengthening the roster while also trying to make it agreeable to Paul at the same time.
If he were to be presented with the particulars (and he may already have been), Paul would probably be in favor of the rumored Bledsoe deal to Boston. The 27-year-old Paul would likely welcome the chance to play with Garnett, and the Garnett/Blake Griffin pairing would be one of the more formidable front lines in the league.
There's no such thing as having too much veteran leadership on a team, and a Lob City squad that boasts three All-Stars would be well positioned to emerge from a loaded Western Conference.
The move wouldn't make the Clippers the odds-on favorites, but the balance of power would definitely shift a bit more in their direction.
The proposed trade isn't a slight in any way to Bledsoe, a 6'1" guard who could start for a number of teams across the league.
In fact, Boston's insistence that Bledsoe be included in the deal is acknowledgement that the 23-year-old is just beginning to come into his own. Bledsoe's game has evolved to the point this season where his own teammate (Jamal Crawford) has dubbed him "Mini-LeBron."
The exceptionally quick Bledsoe is shooting a career-high 45.3 percent from the field this season, and his per-36-minute averages (15.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.7 steals) are fairly impressive. More importantly, his defensive rating of 99.1 this season is on par with that of Tony Allen of the Memphis Grizzlies—one of the league's best perimeter defenders.
All that said, the return of Chauncey Billups has made Bledsoe somewhat expendable. That wouldn't necessarily be the case if the Clippers felt comfortable playing Bledsoe at the 2-guard spot alongside Paul, but that clearly doesn't seem to be their preferred course of action.
Case in point: Bledsoe and Paul have been on the court together for 138 minutes this year. Billups has played all of seven games in the 2012-13 campaign and has shared the court with Paul for 133 minutes.
So Bledsoe may very well be the odd man out in Los Angeles. And despite Jordan's freakish athleticism, Garnett is a clear upgrade over the Clippers' 24-year-old center. So with the Clippers having two young, valuable assets at their disposal, it makes perfect sense to swing a deal to acquire Garnett (provided that the 36-year-old All-Star waives his no-trade clause).
It's a gutsy, all-in move to be sure. But the Clippers wouldn't even consider making a trade unless they knew (or at least, assumed) that Paul would be on board with it.
The Clippers may be chasing a title this season, but they aren't foolish enough to risk everything that they've built so far in order to do so.
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