The 2013 NBA draft is on the horizon, but it's the trade market that is buzzing with deals just a few days before franchises will be changed forever on Thursday night.
One such deal floating around concerns the Los Angeles Clippers, who have already made waves over the past few days by completing a deal to bring former Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers to town for a future first-round pick, as first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
According to Marc Heisler of SportsCity.com, the Clippers are now "expected" to make a trade with the Orlando Magic that would send point guard Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler to the Sunshine State in exchange for Aaron Afflalo.
The kicker? The expectation from the report is that the deal will happen on draft day.
Bledsoe has been a hot name on the trade market for most of the offseason, partly because the Clippers will be shelling out top-dollar for Chris Paul in any free-agent deal and partly because Bledsoe's performance during the 2012-13 season had "future starter" written all over it.
Averaging career highs in nearly every major statistical category this season, Bledsoe established himself as a capable backup on a good team and as the kind of player who deserves a chance to captain a franchise of his own very soon.
His trade value is very high right now.
A trade between the Clips and Magic has been talked about since ESPN's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne first reported that the Clippers were trying to pry Rivers away from Boston, but those talks were mostly exploratory.
Another possibility in that report included packaging Bledsoe with Blake Griffin in a sign-and-trade for Dwight Howard.
But it appears that the Magic are more than a likely landing spot for CP3's backup, especially since the arrival of Rivers in L.A. appears to signal Paul's return to the Clips more than ever.
Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld noted on Monday that then reported deal with the Magic has legs, maybe longer legs than we even know about at this point:
Magic's pursuit of Eric Bledsoe continues, reports of a draft day deal sending Bledsoe & Caron Butler to Magic for Aaron Afflao has legs.— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) June 24, 2013
Magic have been agressive in looking at trades in addition to draft prospects. Bledsoe package could be part of bigger deal.— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) June 24, 2013
Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, on the other hand, thinks that a trade after the draft is more likely:
Notion that the Magic will acquire Eric Bledsoe via trade as early as Thurs seems far-fetched to me. After that? Perhaps.— Josh Robbins (@JoshuaBRobbins) June 25, 2013
However, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer brings up a good point about why making the deal on the night of the draft likely carries a heavy weight in terms of draft strategy for the NBA's worst regular season team during the 2012-13 season:
If Magic can get Eric Bledsoe back in trade for Arron Afflalo, Orlando gets its point guard and is free to draft Ben McLemore.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) June 25, 2013
If the Magic can find a long-term solution at point guard, their options with the No. 2 pick get a little bit clearer. The team can either take Kansas' Ben McLemore as their shooting guard of the future, or they can choose between Kentucky's Nerlens Noel or Maryland's Alex Len—both of whom are centers that have a chance to be selected with the No. 1 pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
If Butler is part of the package, the Magic also have flexibility with respect to the different lineups head coach Jacque Vaughn could employ next season.
Although the Clippers aren't out of the mix to keep Bledsoe (as this tweet from ESPN's Jovan Buha would suggest), the best chance to create some cap space and stay firmly committed to CP3 lies with a trade:
@sndjabbari Doc reportedly told Clips to keep him. But it won't surprise me if they turn Bledsoe into Afflalo or Granger.— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) June 19, 2013
Afflalo coming to L.A. would bolster the team's need for a starting shooting guard who plays defense and can shoot the three-pointer well. He averaged 16.5 points per game in his first season in Orlando, but his shooting percentages (30.0 percent from three-point territory and 43.9 percent from the field overall) left something to be desired.
But by playing for a contender again, Afflalo could help change the notion that he's lost a step as one of the league's most underrated shooting guards. After all, he's only 27 years old and will be entering his seventh season when the 2013-14 season begins.
What is Eric Bledsoe's NBA ceiling?
Nothing is certain when it comes to trades of this nature, especially with the unpredictability of the free-agent market.
L.A. can't afford to lose CP3 on the market and not have a backup plan in Bledsoe, but the moves they've made this offseason (firing Vinny Del Negro/chasing Rivers and Kevin Garnett) have CP3 written all over them.
The Clippers can take a small leap of faith on Paul's future and make a public acclimation of his eminent return by trading Bledsoe, and they would pick up cap space and a starter in the process.
It looks like a win-win for both parties involved.
Follow Bleacher Report FC Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.