How the Los Angeles Clippers Can Still Pull off a Dream Trade This Offseason

Mo DakhilFeatured Columnist INovember 30, 2020

Detroit Pistons guard Derrick Rose, center, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell, left, and forward Maurice Harkless defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 126-112. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

After blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Los Angeles Clippers have begun making some big changes, but they are not done yet.

The Clippers' playoff demise highlighted significant issues with the team: a lack of chemistry, that they were a big man short and that they needed a true point guard.

L.A. has since changed coaches from Doc Rivers to Tyronn Lue with the hope he can create a better and more cohesive environment. The team has addressed its size issue by letting Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell (6'8") walk in free agency and signing Serge Ibaka (7'0") from Toronto.

But the Clippers still need a point guard. And not just any point guard: They need a player who can be the primary ball-handler, get them into their offensive sets and set others up.

The Clippers need a table-setter—someone who can take some of the burden off Kawhi Leonard's shoulders.

The Clippers were 28th in passes made, 22nd in assists and 20th in points off assists this past season. Leonard improved as a playmaker, averaging a career-high 4.9 assists, and was second on the Clippers in that category behind Williams. But ESPN's Stephen A. Smith reported that he would like the front office to bring in a point guard who can run the team.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

There have been whispers the Clippers are not done making moves, and Marc Stein of the New York Times reported that "many rival teams also expect the Clippers to trade Lou Williams." Williams is in the last year of his deal at $8 million for 2020-21 and has value as an off-the-bench scorer, and the team can also move Patrick Beverley, who's coming off an All-Defensive second-team season and has two years and $27.7 million left on his contract. 

Shipping him out could fetch a nice player back while allowing the Clippers to keep a scoring punch off the bench. Even better, the Clippers can combine Beverley's $13.3 million and Williams' $8 million to go big-game hunting.

There are some interesting possible trades they can explore to fill their point guard hole.

        

Spencer Dinwiddie

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Los Angeles Clippers Get: Spencer Dinwiddie

Brooklyn Nets Get: Patrick Beverley

Spencer Dinwiddie's name has become a mainstay in the NBA rumor mill as the Nets get ready to make a run at the title. He had a strong season for the Nets—who were without Kevin Durant and lost Kyrie Irving for most of the year—averaging 20.6 points and 6.8 assists per game.

With Durant and Irving coming back from injury, the expectation is there is not much room for Dinwiddie. For starters, he is not a great floor-spacer, having shot only 30.8 percent from three last season and 31.8 percent for his career. The Nets would be smart to move him before possibly losing him for nothing next offseason, when he has a $12.3 million player option.

The Clippers and Nets could work out a deal centered around Beverley for Dinwiddie. For the Nets, Beverley would help shore up their defense on the perimeter while giving them a better floor-spacer on offense. Beverley was a 38.8 percent three-point shooter this past year and is at 38.1 percent for his career. Plus, having him with one more year left on his deal gives the Nets a little time to evaluate his fit.

Dinwiddie's 6.8 assists per game would have led the Clippers this past season, and he is capable of taking on the role of playmaker for L.A. The Clippers lose a bit of shooting and defense in the trade, but freeing Leonard up from the responsibility of being a primary playmaker could open more doors.

There is a catch to bringing Dinwiddie in, though: He requires the ball in his hands to be a truly effective playmaker. This past season, he had a career-high usage rate of 28.7 percent. That becomes a challenge when playing with Leonard, who has a 32.7 usage rate, and Paul George, who has a 29.2 usage. Adding in Williams' usage rate of 27.1 off the bench will mean it will take time for everyone to adjust to a new role, and time will be in short supply in a shortened season.

Victor Oladipo

Kim Klement/Associated Press

Los Angeles Clippers Get: Victor Oladipo

Indiana Pacers Get: Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley

The Clippers could take a big swing by packaging Beverley and Williams for Pacers guard Victor Oladipo. There have been rumors that Oladipo has been unhappy with the Pacers, and he struggled coming back from a ruptured quadriceps tendon in his right knee. He played only 19 games last season and didn't find synergy on the court with new teammate Malcolm Brogdon.

In the games he played, he averaged 14.5 points and 2.9 assists and shot 31.7 percent from three. Those numbers do not represent the type of player Oladipo is. In the season before he got hurt (2017-18), he averaged 23.1 points and 4.3 assists and shot 37.1 percent from deep.

It seems sooner or later the Pacers and Oladipo will be heading for a divorce, and a move like this would get Indiana something in return. With Oladipo gone, the Pacers would give the keys to Brogdon as the leading man, with Beverley as a defensive stalwart and Williams giving them scoring off the bench.

Oladipo's days as a leading man may be over, but with a team like the Clippers, he could be their missing piece. He can bring the ball up and get the team into its offensive sets, and he would make it easier for Lue to always have two of his three top scorers on the court without losing much playmaking.

This trade is not without its issues. The biggest risk is sending out two rotation players for a guy who has played in just 55 games over the last two seasons. They already have to work in load management for Leonard, and Oladipo may never return to his star form even if he's healthy.

Derrick Rose

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Los Angeles Clippers Get: Derrick Rose

Detroit Pistons Get: Lou Williams, Terance Mann

Over the past few seasons, no one has rejuvenated his career quite like Derrick Rose. Two seasons ago with the Timberwolves, he was their punch off the bench, averaging 18.0 points and 4.3 assists. As he moved to Detroit this past season, he put up 18.1 and 5.6.

The Pistons and Clippers could swap sixth men. Rose and Williams are both scoring guards, but Williams has the ability to make tough shots and shoot from distance, while Rose is an attack-the-basket threat.

With Rose, Lue could give him Williams' role off the bench. With him, the Clippers add more explosiveness, but there is one drawback: He is a 30.4 percent career three-point shooter, hampering any ability to play off the ball. Similar to Dinwiddie, Rose would need the ball in his hands, which might not happen much if he's on the court with Leonard and George.

The other challenge—with so much of the Clippers' draft equity spent to bring in George last offseason—is there is no real motivation for the Pistons to agree to this deal straight up. It may end up costing the Clippers a young player like Terance Mann. With so little draft equity, sending out another young player might be too steep a price, especially for a guy with a similar skill set to one they already have.

George Hill

Kim Klement/Associated Press

Los Angeles Clippers Get: George Hill

Oklahoma City Thunder Get: Lou Williams, 2022 second-round pick, 2023 second-round pick

The Thunder are in asset-collection mode after their playoff run, and they recently acquired George Hill in a four-team trade that landed the Bucks Jrue Holiday.

In baseball terms, Hill is the perfect middle reliever as someone who can eat up innings and get a club from its starter to its closer. He might also be the perfect fit for the Clippers.

Hill has already played a similar role on a smaller scale with the Bucks, where he was one of many secondary ball-handlers to Giannis Antetokounmpo. He shot 46 percent from three, and according to Synergy Sports, he was in the 99th percentile for spot-up shooting.

Hill is also a capable ball-handler, as he had a points-per-possession average of 1.02 in pick-and-rolls including passes this past season. He averaged 3.1 assists in 21.5 minutes per game and found ways to be effective despite a low usage of 15.2 percent. Defensively, his length (6'9" wingspan) and basketball IQ are assets, as the Bucks had a defensive rating 102.1 when he was on the court this past season.

The challenge for the Clippers is dealing with the Thunder, who control most of their future first-round picks. A deal for Hill will eat into their second-round equity, but Oklahoma City might be willing to deal him for Williams and two second-round picks. The Clippers could send out a 2022 second-round pick coming from Atlanta and a 2023 second-rounder from Portland.

Hill would be a great fit for the Clippers because his shooting allows him to play with Leonard and George. He can also organize the offense and help in the second unit without giving up too much defensively.


Dream Scenario

Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Los Angeles Clippers Get: George Hill, Spencer Dinwiddie

Brooklyn Nets Get: Patrick Beverley

Oklahoma City Thunder Get: Lou Williams, 2021 second-round pick (BKN), 2022 second-round pick (LAC), 2023 second-round pick (LAC) 

File this in the "unlikely" category, but by combining the Beverley for Dinwiddie trade and the Williams for Hill trade with an extra second-round pick going to the Thunder from Brooklyn, it would give the Clippers a low-maintenance table-setter (Hill) and a scoring guard off the bench (Dinwiddie).

A starting five of Hill, Leonard, George, Marcus Morris and Ibaka with Dinwiddie, Luke Kennard and Ivica Zubac off the bench would make for a deep and versatile eight-man rotation.

Change was needed after the Clippers bowed out of the playoffs in embarrassing fashion. They made a bold decision in firing Rivers and then made a big play in free agency by not only signing Ibaka but also letting Harrell walk down the hall. Now, with trade assets such as Williams and Beverley, they can make one more big move to push them over the top.

          

Trade scenarios courtesy of TradeNBA.com. Advanced stats via NBA.com.

Mo Dakhil spent six years with the Los Angeles Clippers and two years with the San Antonio Spurs as a video coordinator, as well as three years with the Australian men's national team. Follow him on Twitter, @MoDakhil_NBA.