Most of the NBA rumors right now deal with free agency, but that doesn't prevent the Los Angeles Clippers from trading away Eric Bledsoe in an effort to upgrade on the wing.
The talented point guard has been the subject of trade discussions for a while now, and five teams have emerged as favorites to deal for him. Whether any of them actually convince the Clippers to part ways with the young floor general is anyone's guess, but let's take a look at the potential deals that could sway L.A.
All of them center around Bledsoe, and each has the Clippers receiving talent at the 2 in return. That's the primary need, so it makes sense for that to be the baseline of any deal.
Before moving on, it's important to remember that Bledsoe doesn't have to be traded. The Clippers are sure making it seem like he does, but Doc Rivers and Bledsoe get along well, and the new head coach might block any trade from happening.
Let's forget about that and treat Bledsoe with the urgency that the trade rumors seem to be using. If the Clippers have to deal him, these are their best and most realistic options.
Potential sign-and-trade: O.J. Mayo for Eric Bledsoe
ESPN's Marc Stein first reported that the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers were discussing a sign-and-trade that would allow O.J. Mayo and Eric Bledsoe to swap uniforms for the 2013-14 season. His colleague, Chris Broussard, then backed it up with a tweet that claimed Mayo and new Clippers head coach Doc Rivers were meeting for lunch.
This isn't a move that would happen for a while, but it remains an intriguing one.
L.A. first needs to figure out what will happen with its own pursuit of free agents. Is Mayo going to be the best option to join Chris Paul in the backcourt? Will some more elite 2-guard take a discount?
At the same time, the Mavericks can't trade Mayo until they learn what Dwight Howard plans to do. He must be the first domino to fall.
But, if we do indeed progress to a stage in which this deal becomes more timely, it's one that makes sense for both squads.
Dallas has been searching for its franchise point guard for what feels like centuries now. Jason Kidd was nothing more than a stopgap for the post-Steve Nash era. Although he won a title while running the show, he still wasn't in the long-term plans.
After Deron Williams spurned Mark Cuban for the Brooklyn Nets, the Darren Collison experiment was a major failure, and now the Mavs are still looking for a franchise floor general. It's a search that could potentially end with Bledsoe, and Dallas may as well find out rather than lose O.J. Mayo for nothing.
As for the Clippers, Mayo doesn't fit every one of the needs, mostly because he's not a standout defender, but he would certainly help spread out the court for Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Potential trade: Eric Bledsoe for Brandon Knight, a 2014 second-round draft pick and a 2015 lottery-protected first-round draft pick
What happens when you swap one high-upside point guard for another?
I'm not entirely sure, but we could find out if the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Clippers decide to engage in some serious trade discussions. After all, they each currently lay claim to the wrong guy.
After adding Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the draft, the Pistons need more of a true point guard than Knight. Neither KCP nor Knight is a particularly great distributor, but Bledsoe would provide a marginal upgrade as a facilitator.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Bledsoe had a 23.5 assist percentage during the 2012-13 season while Knight came in at 21.3. Those numbers may seem close together, but that's a big difference as the possessions start to add up.
Both Kentucky products can line up at either the 1 or 2, but Knight is more of a scorer, while Bledsoe thrives as a defender. The current Piston also has the lower ceiling, but he'd be more accepting of a long-time role as a sixth man, coming off the bench to spell Chris Paul and whoever fills in the roster at shooting guard.
That role isn't going to appease Knight.
In order to sway the Clippers, I've got the Pistons throwing in a few future draft picks, as the player-only portion of the deal is a bit too lopsided in their favor.
Potential sign-and-trade: J.J. Redick and a top-five-protected 2014 first-round pick for Eric Bledsoe
The Los Angeles Clippers should be able to get more than just J.J. Redick for a talented young point guard like Eric Bledsoe, which is why the Milwaukee Bucks would be forced to part ways with a top-five-protected first-round pick in the stacked 2014 NBA draft.
Redick, much like O.J. Mayo, wouldn't give the Clippers the defensive capabilities that they'd like, but he's a nice secondary playmaker and a great sharpshooter who was just coming into his own before getting traded from the Orlando Magic to the Bucks.
The former Blue Devil, more than anything else, is a three-point marksman.
L.A. made the ninth-most three-pointers during the 2012-13 season but also finished right in the middle of the pack in terms of shooting percentage from behind the arc. Upgrades are needed there, and Redick would be a perfect fit.
As for Milwaukee, giving up what's likely to be a low-end lottery pick is a lot to part with, but it's worth it to land a player with potential to become a franchise point guard. Bledsoe spent 2012-13 convincing teams that he was overflowing with potential, and it tended to work.
Anyone who saw the dynamic 1-guard sky into the air for a monstrous slam dunk or rejection can attest to that. The little guy earned the "Mini LeBron" nickname for good reason.
A Bledsoe-Larry Sanders foundation would be a nice starting point for a franchise that needs to escape the mediocrity it currently finds itself mired in.
Potential trade: Arron Afflalo for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler
The leading rumor before the 2013 NBA draft got underway involved Arron Afflalo being shipped across the country for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler. Obviously that didn't come to fruition before Anthony Bennett was taken off the board, but that doesn't mean it's too late to happen.
After the draft, it's an even more ideal trade for both teams.
Think back about a year ago and remember how Arron Afflalo was perceived during the end of his tenure with the Denver Nuggets. Now, let's play a little game.
Which of the following applied to Afflalo before he was traded to the Orlando Magic?
- 26-year-old shooting guard with some solid upside.
- Defensive player with tools to be a great perimeter stopper.
- Three-point marksman who averaged 1.4 three-pointers per game on 41.9 percent shooting from downtown over the past three years.
- All of the above.
If you said "4. All of the above," you win! Congratulations!
Now, that was only one season ago. Funny how just 82 games can completely alter the perception of a player.
Afflalo's stint with the Magic was doomed from the very first game. He was never meant to be a leading option, and that allowed his defense and efficiency to decline under the enormous burden of carrying an offense. On a team like the Clippers, we might remember who he was just one calendar year ago.
And as for the Magic, they'd get a chance to swing him for a quality point guard while opening up even more minutes for Victor Oladipo.
If you're looking for a win-win trade, here you go.
Potential trade: Eric Bledsoe for DeMar DeRozan
Of the five potential deals presented in this article, this one is easily the most unlikely.
With Kyle Lowry already on the roster, the Toronto Raptors don't actually need a new point guard. Eric Bledsoe may be a long-term upgrade, but his arrival in Canada would mean that the Raptors would need to sell the incumbent floor general for pennies on the dollar.
Losing DeMar DeRozan, despite his status as a fan favorite, wouldn't actually be too much of a loss. His points often came with a serious cost for Toronto, and he has an upgraded version of himself waiting to take over: Terrence Ross.
The bigger problem is that the Los Angeles Clippers can do better than DeRozan, and the Raptors don't need Bledsoe enough to sweeten the deal with quality players, high-upside prospects or draft picks.
Yes, the man with four capital letters in his name would provide a great deal of athleticism, resulting in a transition from Lob City to LOB CITY. Can you imagine the number of alley-oops that would be completed between Chris Paul, DeRozan, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan?
SportsCenter, YouTube and Twitter would all explode.
However, the Clippers are looking for a 2-guard who can space the court and help out with the long-range shooting. DeRozan can't.
During the 2012-13 season, he took 1.4 three-pointers per game and made only 28.3 percent of them. Want to guess how many players in the NBA met or exceeded those marks last year? Twenty? Fifty? One hundred?
That would be 204, including noted marksmen like Austin Rivers, Earl Clark, Evan Turner, Donatas Motiejunas, Ricky Rubio and Pablo Prigioni.
DeRozan's defensive abilities and the hope that he could morph into a more efficient scorer when not given so many offensive responsibilities are the only things keeping this deal alive.