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Jared Dudley Trade Invites Major Risk for Los Angeles Clippers

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Jared Dudley Trade Invites Major Risk for Los Angeles Clippers
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With first-round picks at a premium around the league, the Los Angeles Clippers made a curious decision to include one in their latest trade with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Here are the preliminary details, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

The Los Angeles Clippers have traded swingman Jared Dudley and a 2017 protected first-round pick to the Milwaukee Bucks for swingman Carlos Delfino, center Miroslav Raduljica and a second-round pick, a league source told Yahoo Sports.

Dudley, who averaged 6.9 points in 23.4 minutes per game last season, had fallen out of the Clippers’ plans and is owed $4.25 million each of the next two seasons, but has a player option for 2015-16. Dudley, 31, was a double-digit scorer from 2010-13 with the Phoenix Suns.

Delfino, 31, is owed $6.5 million for the next two seasons — with a team option for 2015-16 — but missed the 2013-14 season because of a right foot injury. He is expected to miss part of the 2014-15 season as he recovers from the injury, a league source told Yahoo Sports.

Why would the Clippers trade Dudley and a first-round pick for a 32-year-old wing who didn't play last year and may not be ready to start the season? Cap flexibility.

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By dealing Dudley, the Clippers will get out from the two years and $8.5 million owed to him. Dudley had a player option for the 2015-16 season, which would have absorbed valuable cap space in an offseason where DeAndre Jordan is slated to be an unrestricted free agent.

With the Clippers facing the possibility of having three max or near-max deals, clearing space to stay under the luxury cap may have been viewed as a priority.

Both Delfino and Raduljica have non-guaranteed deals for 2014-15, and according to Sam Amick at USA Today, neither player might end up with the Clippers long-term.

Yet according to a person with knowledge of the Clippers' situation, it's likely that Delfino - who is owed $3.25 million next season and has a team option for the 2015-16 campaign - will be waived using what's deemed the "stretch provision." The provision allows the payment of a player's contract (and the related salary cap hit) to be stretched out over several years, and would allow the Clippers to make another addition via free agency (or perhaps even two). Because the Clippers used their non-taxpayer midlevel exception on center Spencer Hawes in July, they are operating with a hard salary cap and have less than a million dollars remaining to work with because of it. 

One strong free agent possibility is 27-year-old shooting guard Chris Douglas Roberts, though he can't sign until the aforementioned moves are made. Roberts averaged 6.9 points and 20.7 minutes for the Charlotte Hornets last season in 49 games. Another possibility is big man Ekpe Udoh, the 27-year-old who visited with the Clippers on Tuesday. Udoh, who was taken sixth overall by the Golden State Warriors in the 2010 draft, spent the last three seasons coming off the bench for the Milwaukee Bucks. Raduljica is also likely to be waived by the Clippers, and his possible buyout (he's owed $1.5 million) could also create more salary cap space.

If you're keeping track at home, the Clippers essentially traded Dudley and a protected future first-round pick to clear all salary commitments for next year while gaining a bit of flexibility under the hard cap.

While it's hard to judge the trade before all the moves are finalized, it's worth wondering if the sacrifice and risk are worth it for the Clippers.

 

It's interesting that the Clippers were so quick to give up on Dudley, particularly after the team traded Eric Bledsoe for him last offseason. Dudley suffered through an injury-riddled campaign, and you would think there was hope that his numbers would return to the mean with better health.

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Here's what Doc Rivers said in a statement, via Arash Markazi at ESPNLosAngeles.com:

'Jared is a great teammate, I thank him for all his hard work on and off the floor on our behalf,' Clippers president of basketball operations and head coach Doc Rivers said in a statement. 'Jared is a true professional and we wish him all the best in Milwaukee.'

The timing of the trade may be the most interesting aspect of it all.

While it's understandable that the Clippers want to fill holes now, particularly if there are free agents available that they covet, increasing Dudley's trade value might have been as simple as giving him playing time early on this season. With the Clippers all but guaranteed a playoff spot, that might have been worthwhile in order not to sacrifice a future asset like a draft pick.

It's also important to remember that the Clippers don't exactly have great depth at small forward. While Matt Barnes and Reggie Bullock should be able to handle the duties, the rest of the Clippers' options at the 3 are awfully small and don't provide the defense or rebounding that should be desired at that spot.

Ultimately, the Clippers may feel that the roster and cap flexibility this season is worth what's likely to be one of the last picks in the first round in 2017, and it's easy to see the logic behind that.

With Steve Ballmer taking over as owner, the Clippers should be able to buy early second-round choices rather easily going forward. We've seen something similar happen with the Brooklyn Nets this season, another team that had no issue sacrificing future first-round picks in trades only to purchase second-round choices on draft day.

Of course, there's still plenty of risk involved. If Blake Griffin or Chris Paul suffer major injuries in 2017, and the Clippers just sneak into the playoffs or miss out, then the pick becomes incredibly valuable. The protection alleviates some concerns, but they're still present.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Clippers not being an elite team in 2017 isn't a likely outcome, but as the Indiana Pacers and Paul George found out this offseason, perfect health shouldn't always be counted on.

You just have to think of it this way: Is the risk here worth the reward?

Was this a smart trade for the Clippers?

Submit Vote vote to see results

Chris Douglas-Roberts and Ekpe Udoh are decent role players who would fill some needs in terms of youth on the wing and defensive potential up front, and maybe Raduljica will prove to be a valuable contributor if he's not waived. Still, as it stands, the Clippers now don't have a first-round pick to trade until 2019 because their 2015 pick will be headed to the Boston Celtics as part of the Rivers acquisition.

When you think about future trades the Clippers could now make, the options are more limited than they once were. Movable assets were already scarce, and with a roster that will likely be over the cap for the next few years at least, that draft pick could have been useful for a few different reasons.

Even if the Clippers don't view a late first-round pick as a major asset, rebuilding teams tend to treat them like gold. Any way you slice it, the Clippers have less buying power in trades now than they did before.

Dudley was the best player in this deal, and the draft pick was by far the best asset. The Clippers can create some roster and financial flexibility now, but they failed to maximize full value for their assets and invited some unnecessary risk in order to do so. 

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