Ideal Potential Landing Spots and Trade Packages for Eric Bledsoe
But while the budding point guard holds ample market value, it's still difficult for the Clippers to justify pulling the trigger on any deals. Not only is Bledsoe still on his rookie contract, making it difficult to receive adequate value in return for his services, but as likely as Paul is to re-sign, Los Angeles can't do anything to compromise his stance.
The Clippers currently have the third-best record (39-17) in the Western Conference and are riding a championship-caliber wave. Making a move just for the sake of making one could jeopardize their immediate rank and future plans.
Should Los Angeles negotiate the right deal and receive the right player in return for Bledsoe's services, though, a midseason accord becomes an avenue worth exploring.
Which teams can provide Los Angeles with the best possible return?
Bledsoe doesn't have to be dealt before the league's trade deadline, but if the Clippers are truly confident in their ability to retain Paul, his departure is inevitable.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and 82games.com unless otherwise noted. All trades have also been put through ESPN's Trade Machine to ensure financial propriety.
5. Indiana Pacers
Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Pacers Get: PG Eric Bledsoe, SF Caron Butler and PF Trey Thompkins
Los Angeles Clippers: SF Danny Granger and PG Ben Hansbrough
Make no mistake, this one's a risk for Los Angeles.
Granger has yet to appear in a game this season, and he's owed over $14 million next season, which has rendered him all but expendable for the Indiana Pacers in certain circles.
That said, Granger averaged 18.7 points per game and shot 38.1 percent from beyond the arc last season. While he hardly receives praise for his defense, he's a solid perimeter cover and can even spend time defending the 4.
The Clippers would be snagging a high-octane scorer who has already succeeded in a "spread the wealth" system and would fit perfectly as a prototypical small forward or stretch wing.
For the Pacers, the logic here is simple. They get someone who can inject some extra offense into their lineup in Butler and an altruistic point guard in Bledsoe.
George Hill has performed surprisingly well as the team's primary playmaker this season, but he's more of a shooting guard and is actually posting a higher PER when playing there this year.
This deal allows Hill to play the 2 almost exclusively while leaving Paul George at small forward, where he has excelled thus far.
Again, this one would be predicated upon the Clippers' belief in Granger, but if they're enthralled by his offense and what he could do alongside Chris Paul, there's a potential accord to be struck here.
4. Boston Celtics
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics Get: PG Eric Bledsoe, SG Willie Green and C DeAndre Jordan
Los Angeles Clippers Get: SF Paul Pierce and PF Chris Wilcox
Forget about Kevin Garnett.
Since he is unlikely to waive his no-trade clause, Los Angeles should shift its focus to Pierce.
Trading the at-times offensively inept Jordan would open things up in the post for Blake Griffin and the lanes for the penetrating stylings of Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford and Co. His absence would leave the Clippers undersized, but in the age of stretch 4s, that's not exactly a problem.
It's also worth noting Jordan and head coach Vinny Del Negro have apparently clashed over his role, which could pave the way for his departure.
Speaking of stretch forwards, Pierce would be a significant get. He's 35, but still averaging 18.5 points and shooting 35.9 percent from behind the rainbow this season. Just $4 million of his 2013-14 salary is guaranteed.
A small forward at heart, Pierce would be an optimal stretch 4. He's a consistent shooter who can play both on and off the ball and will have no problem playing alongside guys like Caron Butler or Matt Barnes. He's also physical enough on the defensive end to guard most power forwards.
If you're Boston, there's no way you say no here. The Celtics have shown they are willing to make Pierce available, and they'd be hard-pressed to find a better return.
Jordan allows Garnett to shift back to power forward and solves a majority of Boston's rebounding issues, while Bledsoe gives them someone to fill in for Rajon Rondo.
And if all goes well, Bledsoe could allow the Celtics to deal a healthy Rondo next season in favor of another star.
Oh, the possibilities.
3. Dallas Mavericks
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas Mavericks Get: PG Eric Bledsoe and SF Caron Butler
Los Angeles Clippers Get: C Andrea Bargnani and SG Vince Carter
Toronto Raptors Get: SG Willie Green and C Chris Kaman
Not only is Bledsoe cheaper, but he's not set for a massive payday this summer.
His presence gives Dallas a bona-fide point man who is no stranger to playing out of position, as well as someone whose drive-and-kick could help prolong Dirk Nowitzki's career.
Now, I realize sending Kaman to the Raptors renders the Mavericks smaller than they already are, but if there is indeed a rift between DeAndre Jordan and the Clippers, he could be substituted for Butler, or even Kaman in Toronto.
Yet the Raptors aren't likely to want Jordan's albatross of a deal since they're already toeing the luxury tax line, and Dallas is set to have a wealth of cap space that Jordan's $10-plus million a year compromises. There's also no guarantee the Clippers would be willing to trade Jordan and Bledsoe when the primary return is Bargnani.
On the subject of Bargs, Toronto has been shopping him for a while, and he could succeed in Los Angeles. He would be an extremely valuable offensive weapon off the bench (or even the starting lineup), provided he can remain healthy.
Don't overlook Carter's acquisition either. He's not just a throw-in because he's a cheaper version of Caron Butler. He's having a sensational season and would provide the Clippers with some reliable offense come playoff time.
There's no doubt in my mind the Raptors agree to this, either. They're in need of some size in the post, and Kaman would be a nice two-way weapon to have come off the bench. His contract also comes off the books at the end of the year, so Toronto has no obligation to keep him.
The parameters of this deal could change, depending on where every party stands on Jordan and the salary cap in general.
If the Clippers feel pressured (they shouldn't) to move Bledsoe now, though, this is a blockbuster definitely worth considering.
2. Utah Jazz
USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Clippers Get: SG Raja Bell and PF Paul Millsap
Utah Jazz Get: PG Eric Bledsoe and SF Caron Butler
According to Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com, the Clippers and Jazz have shown a mutual interest in a deal headlined by Bledsoe and Millsap.
With Bledsoe making just over $1.7 million this year, other contracts have to grease the wheels. Per Stein and Shelburne, the most likely candidates are DeAndre Jordan and Butler.
Personally, it seems more likely to be Butler over Jordan. The former's contract runs out after next season, and Jordan is a redundancy next to Al Jefferson.
It's also doubtful the Jazz would be willing to pay him $10-plus million annually. If they were open to such obligations, they wouldn't be dealing Millsap.
Butler, as always, provides some instant offense and could serve as a mentor for the budding Gordon Hayward. Bledsoe fills an immediate need at point guard and gives Utah a much more balanced and potent offensive attack.
Moving onto the Clippers, Bell is a throw-in who can both defend and shoot the three, but a guy like Millsap makes plenty of sense for because of his ability to stretch the floor. He's shooting 35.3 percent from deep and has a nice touch around the rim as well.
What I worry about, though, is Millsap's value as a small forward. Unless Los Angeles moves Jordan to the bench (doubtful) and starts Millsap at the 4, he'd likely be starting at the 3. Although he's proved to have some range, he doesn't shoot the three-ball nearly enough (0.6 attempts per game) to necessarily play small forward.
I doubt the Clippers would elect to bring him off the bench either, since he's set to become a free agent and could spurn Los Angeles if he isn't happy. So his acquisition would present a potential conflict.
Should the Clippers be confident in his versatile offensive stylings, however, he's a star-caliber talent who can make a difference on both ends of the floor.
And someone they should jump on if given the opportunity to.
1. Atlanta Hawks
USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks Get: PG Eric Bledsoe and C DeAndre Jordan
Los Angeles Clippers Get: F Josh Smith
Let's get to it.
Smith appears destined to leave Atlanta upon season's end, and the Hawks are looking to receive a talented big man in return.
Though DeAndre isn't what you would call an offensive threat, he has improved his post game, and his massive length makes him the perfect alley-oop target. His addition also allows the Hawks to slide Al Horford back to power forward, which is where he belongs.
As for Bledsoe, could you imagine a backcourt tandem of him and Jeff Teague?
Both can run the point, but Bledsoe is no stranger to playing off the ball. In fact, he's posting a 25.7 PER when playing the 2, mitigating any potential problems there.
With Lou Williams (upon his return) best suited coming off the bench and Devin Harris all but a lock to leave during free agency, Bledsoe would be a valuable backcourt commodity for Atlanta to build around.
Smith makes equally as much sense in Los Angeles.
He's an optimal candidate to play the power forward spot in an up-tempo system like the Clippers run, and he would replace a lot of the shot-blocking and rebounding voids left by Jordan.
Adding the high-flying Smith to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin's "Lob City" is absolutely scintillating.
Once again, we have a case of Los Angeles sacrificing size, but Smith can defend power forwards well and is already out-rebounding plenty of other big men.
Would the Clippers consider offering Smith the max contract he is seeking this summer?
Debatable, but he is a borderline superstar, so I doubt they'd scoff at such a notion immediately, just as I sincerely doubt they'd pass up on acquiring him if given the chance.