Did LA Clippers Help or Hurt Their Bench at NBA Trade Deadline?

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
Did LA Clippers Help or Hurt Their Bench at NBA Trade Deadline?
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Depth in basketball usually refers to more good players at each position. So it's strange that a team looking for depth in the frontcourt would send out two big men in exchange for no immediate help at the deadline.

Such was the difficult-to-comprehend strategy of the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.

They traded backup 4 Antawn Jamison to the Atlanta Hawks for Cenk Akyol. Yes, that Cenk Akyol, the 59th pick in the 2005 draft. The 6'6" guard is currently playing in Turkey and averaging 6.8 points.

They also shipped off reserve center Byron Mullens for a future second-round pick.

Neither move directly addressed the issue we'd been led to believe the Clippers had. For months, we've been hearing about their need for help inside, something that was reiterated by CBS's Ken Berger just before the deadline:

Obviously, nothing materialized with Matt Barnes or Jared Dudley, and the Clippers' bench now has one big man (maybe two). Ryan Hollins will continue to back up DeAndre Jordan, and I suppose Hedo Turkoglu can slide over to power forward.

One conceivable reason for these deals was the financial relief they'd offer. The Clippers are over the luxury-tax line, and by unloading nearly $2 million in salary, they save nearly $3 million in tax payments.

Plus, it's not like L.A. was parting with two high-volume producers here:

 

Player G MP FG% 3P% FT% TRB AST STL BLK PTS
Antawn Jamison 22 11.3 .315 .195 .720 2.5 0.3 0.4 0.1 3.8
Byron Mullens 27 6.2 .406 .333 .333 1.2 0.2 0.2 0.1 2.5
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/21/2014.

 

But they were at least healthy bodies. What does Doc Rivers do if his starting 4 and 5 get into foul trouble? If L.A. doesn't sign anyone else, Rivers is in a tough position.

According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Arash Markazi, the Clippers coach commented on the deals, saying:

That's more cap relief for the summer. Those are tough ones for me from a coaching standpoint to do a move that is not necessarily making your team better are difficult moves, but from a team standpoint it was the right thing to do because it gives us a little more cap relief.

Rivers was being understandably diplomatic. It wouldn't do much good to open up about the front office's gutting of his bench. But he did acknowledge that L.A.'s deadline deals didn't make his team any better. At least that's the case for now.

The reason for trading Jamison and Mullens might not have been financial at all. By moving them for next to nothing, the Clippers now have two open roster spots with which to work.

They can go after a free agent who may help them in the home stretch of this season. Two recently bought-out forwards make sense.

First, there's Glen Davis, whose buyout was reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports and the Orlando Sentinel's Josh Robbins:

The seventh-year forward is still on the right side of 30 and was having a solid year (12.1 points and 6.3 rebounds) for the Orlando Magic. He simply wasn't a part of the team's rebuilding plans.

He may only be 6'9", but he knows how to use his wide body, and has played both power forward and center in his career. He also has championship experience, having won a title under Rivers in Boston in 2008.

The other possibility is Danny Granger. Though he's struggled this season to come back from injuries, and he's a natural small forward, the 6'8" Granger has spent some time at the 4 in his career.

And the rumor is that the Philadelphia 76ers plan to buy him out after acquiring him from the Indiana Pacers in a deadline-day deal for Evan Turner.

Acquiring Granger would be a gamble, as he's only played 34 games over the last two seasons, and has struggled to be productive.

 

Season G MP FG% 3P% FT% TRB AST PTS
2012-13 5 14.8 .286 .200 .625 1.8 0.6 5.4
2013-14 29 22.5 .359 .330 .962 3.6 1.1 8.3
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/21/2014.

 

But oftentimes, a player just needs a fresh start, and the Clippers may think that a former All-Star and 25-point-per-game scorer is worth the risk.

If they don't go after Davis, Granger or some other free agent, and the deadline deals were really about money, more minutes could be available for Reggie Bullock.

That of course doesn't help with the frontcourt depth issue, but at least L.A. would have a better idea of what it has in its lone young asset. So far, he's only played 8.5 minutes a game in 26 appearances.

The other option if the front office stands pat would be to play Barnes more minutes at the 4. His numbers are down a bit from last season, but he's still one of the Clippers' better defenders.

Whatever course the team plans to take, it's tough to argue that they didn't weaken their bench, at least in the short term.

Additional signings and rotation tweaks will be what determines just how much or how little.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of Sports-Reference.com and NBA.com and are current as of Feb. 20, 2014.

Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.

Load More Stories

Follow Los Angeles Clippers from B/R on Facebook

Follow Los Angeles Clippers from B/R on Facebook and get the latest updates straight to your newsfeed!

Los Angeles Clippers

Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.