Does Eric Bledsoe Trade Make LA Clippers Western Conference Favorites?
Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports
The Los Angeles Clippers fell flat on their faces in the first round of the playoffs, but they have wasted absolutely no time in addressing their perceived needs.
First, the Clippers pulled off a surprising maneuver to acquire Boston Celtics head coach and defensive specialist Doc Rivers. Then they inked their superstar point guard Chris Paul to a five-year maximum deal worth $107 million. And they weren't done there.
In blockbuster trade news reported by none other than Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Clippers pulled off a three-team swap and landed themselves J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler.
Exactly. That trade gets a wow. RT @AminESPN: Clippers getting Dudley and Redick AND dump Butler's deal??? Home run— RealGM (@RealGM) July 2, 2013
And in the span of two days, the Clippers have addressed their player needs and vaulted themselves into pole position in the Western Conference.
Examining the Trade
The whole trade is basically two discrete trades, one sending Bledsoe and Butler to the Phoenix Suns for Dudley, and the other packaging a pair of second-round draft picks (one from Phoenix) to the Milwaukee Bucks for J.J. Redick, a midseason rental they would have lost in free-agency anyway.
Redick's game has been well known since his time at Duke. He's a shooter and he does it pretty well. Those abilities were good enough to net him a four-year, $27-million contract in the sign-and-trade.
In his seventh year, Redick enjoyed his finest season and drained a career-high 165 three-pointers as he handled a career-high in minutes as well. At 6'4", Redick plays like a true 2-guard who can pass and handle the ball well. He also offers solid defense, limiting opposing shooting guards to a player efficiency rating of just 10.6, per 82games.com.
Dudley is another story. Playing down in Phoenix on a lottery team does not afford much national exposure, and Dudley's talents may be more of a mystery to the average NBA fan.
Standing 6'7" and 225 pounds, Dudley can play at the 2 or the 3, but is better suited to the latter. Phoenix's most common five-man unit played P.J. Tucker at SG.
Dudley's strong perimeter shooting stretches the floor and he has the size to play on small forwards. Last season, Dudley posted 10.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, a career-high 2.6 assists and 0.9 steals in 27.5 minutes per game.
Try this mind-blowing stat on for size: Dudley's career three-point percentage (40.5 percent) is actually higher than Redick's (39 percent) despite the latter's greater renown for the trey. That means the Clippers just added a whole lot of lone-range firepower.
Though he's not possessed of remarkable quickness or athleticism, Dudley plays with a high basketball IQ. Somewhat concerning, however, was the 15.3 PER he yielded to opposing SFs, similar to the production of a player like Chandler Parsons. At least Dudley will enjoy better team defense in Lob City than he had in Phoenix.
Still, the Clippers have added a pair of rangy wings that should open up more opportunities for Chris Paul to conduct his symphony. They gave up only Paul's backup and Butler's unwanted $8 million contract.
To be sure, Bledsoe looks like a solid talent after averaging 14.9 points, 5.4 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per 36 minutes this season. But after locking up Chris Paul for the next half-decade, L.A. had nowhere to play their stellar backup PG.
After a flurry of provocative trade talks, the Clippers held onto Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan while still improving the team immediately. Look out, Western Conference.
The New-Look Clippers
With Caron Butler gone, Dudley should slide in as the starting small forward. Retaining Matt Barnes, if at all feasible, would further bolster them at small forward.
Now the Clippers have their high-octane core three returning from last year in Paul, Griffin and Jordan, and they've supplemented that even further. Redick joins Jamal Crawford in an explosive backcourt. Willie Green seems likely to bow out of the starting 2 spot, and Rivers will have one of two super-subs to choose from as the starter.
Crawford took second place to J.R. Smith in the voting for Sixth Man of the Year. There is something to be said about the psyche of a bench player, and Rivers may not want to mess with Crawford's mojo.
But Redick has only 54 starts in 424 career games. Crawford has 399 career starts, but only six of them have come in the past four years. Rivers could always deploy Green like the New York Knicks used James White in some games last season—merely as a starting placeholder to be quickly substituted for an electric sixth man.
Having secured CP3, the Clippers have the most important piece of a potential dynasty in place for the next five seasons. He joins a unique pair of athletic young big men in Griffin and Jordan, and now they've added the shooters necessary to space the floor.
Additionally, Doc Rivers' Celtics finished in the top six for defensive efficiency in each of the last six seasons. Once Rivers instills his signature brand of punishing defense in the team, the will have a rotation built to win in the postseason.
The Rest of the West
As this year's playoffs proved, the West is no joke. There is a generous mix of powerhouse teams (San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies) and dangerous young upstarts (Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets).
But the Clippers now own the West's best and most complete collection of talent. They boast a potent six-man rotation after the Bledsoe trade and now have what they need on the perimeter to excel in the half court. And at the helm is a coach with championship pedigree.
The Spurs' two best players are only getting older, while the Clips have time on their side. The Thunder allowed Kevin Martin to walk out the door, and will have to rely heavily on inexperienced 2-guard Jeremy Lamb. Lamb saw just 6.4 minutes per game across 23 contests.
Are the Clippers now the favorites in the West?
The Grizzlies put a quick end to the Clippers' postseason, and they return with the same ferocious defense. But under Rivers, LAC's D will be much more formidable to be sure. And with Redick and Dudley, the Clippers have wings to neutralize the paint-clogging Grizz.
Some other contenders in the West have youth and shooting across their rotation, but none of them has the versatility and quality at each position on the depth chart.
And since LeBron James continues to prove that by surrounding the league's best player with other stars and role players, it is worth mentioning that Chris Paul is the league's second best player.
The Clippers are not only set up for success, but they have the pieces in place to be favorites in the West for the next five seasons, which is to say, at least as long as Chris Paul is there.
Doc Rivers will be delighted to work with an elite point guard not named Rajon Rondo, and he could very well become the new darling coach of Los Angeles if he breaks the all-time title drought in Lob City.
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