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Winners and Losers from Clippers' and Grizzlies' Eric Bledsoe Trade

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2021

New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Bledsoe (5) drives with the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)
Derick Hingle/Associated Press

Just when it started to feel like the 2021 NBA offseason was cooling down, news broke on a four-player trade involving the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the details.

"The LA Clippers are trading Patrick Beverley, Rajon Rondo and Daniel Oturu to the Memphis Grizzlies for guard Eric Bledsoe," Wojnarowski wrote. "The deal saves the Clippers $30 million in luxury tax and creates an $8.3 million traded-player exception that they will have a year to use."

While this is far from a blockbuster, and neither team figures to contend for a title this season, the move could have an effect on the Western Conference in 2022-23, when Kawhi Leonard will hope to be back and Bledsoe is still under contract.

In the short term, though, there are plenty of winners and losers here. So, let's break down who falls on either side of that line.

       

Winner: Eric Bledsoe

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Brian Westerholt/Associated Press

The 2020-21 season couldn't have gone much worse for Bledsoe.

After a move to the New Orleans Pelicans, his former team won the championship while he posted the worst box plus/minus (BPM is "...a basketball box score-based metric that estimates a basketball player’s contribution to the team when that player is on the court," according to Basketball Reference) of his career and his first below-average mark since 2011-12.

His fit with New Orleans, a team in desperate need of shooting with which to surround Zion Williamson, was terrible. And the point-of-attack defense that made him so effective for the Milwaukee Bucks mostly disappeared.

In L.A., where his career started over a decade ago, he'll have a chance at a career reboot. The Clippers shot a league-best 41.1 percent from three this season. The amount of attention that kind of shooting demands outside should open up driving lanes for Bledsoe.

And if that restores his Milwaukee-era shot distribution (his number of attempts at the rim fell off a cliff in New Orleans), Bledsoe's efficiency should tick up.

Assuming that's enough for L.A. to fully guarantee the last year of Bledsoe's deal in 2022-23, he'd then get a chance to compete for a title alongside Kawhi and Paul George.

The path to contention would've been far more difficult for him with the Pelicans or Grizzlies.

        

Loser: Rajon Rondo

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Rondo has been in the hired-gun portion of his career for over half a decade. This trade to the Grizzlies might move him into journeyman territory.

He's now had a below-average BPM in each of his last five seasons, and he hasn't had an above-average effective field-goal percentage since 2012-13.

He helped the Los Angeles Lakers win a title in 2019-20, but the more he ages and such statistics pile up, the more difficult it may become to escape situations like the one he's in now.

At this point in his career, the 35-year-old two-time champion may not be keen on a spot with a playoff contender (although he signed with the Atlanta Hawks last season), but there may not be many suitors knocking down his door should he broker a buyout.

       

Winner: Los Angeles Clippers

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

As cliched as it sounds, Beverley was sort of the beating heart of the Clippers. He was never going to have many star moments, but his competitiveness and the energy he brought on defense seemed contagious.

Rondo was solid in his 18 regular-season appearances for L.A. too. He averaged 13.7 points and 10.5 assists per 75 possessions, and the Clippers' point differential was better when he was on the floor.

Those two are 33 and 35, respectively, while Bledsoe is 31. And on top of turning the clock back a few years on the point guard position, Bledsoe's ceiling is higher than Beverley's. He's averaged at least 20 points twice in his career and over 17 five times. And he can bring similar defensive intensity.

On this year's team, the extra scoring will be necessary. In 2022-23, when Kawhi returns, he can step back into a role closer to the one he had alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton with the Bucks.

He also has experience playing with a combo guard like L.A.'s recently re-signed Reggie Jackson. In 2019-20, Milwaukee was plus-22.6 points per 100 possessions when Bledsoe played with George Hill, per Cleaning the Glass.

Finally, the CBA ramifications to this trade are huge. Shaving $30 million off the luxury tax in a year when the Clippers aren't likely to sniff contention is shrewd. And since they have a year to use that trade exception, they'll have the opportunity to reinforce the roster with a deal during the 2022 offseason.

        

Wash: Patrick Beverley 

Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

The Beverley inclusion feels especially noteworthy, as his four years with the team made him the longest-tenured Clipper on the roster before Sunday's move. His departure almost feels like the end of an era for the organization (albeit a relatively brief one).

And while Beverley's deal expires after the 2021-22 campaign, he may well have expected to be a part of the Clippers' next title contender. Even with Kawhi's torn ACL, the Finals feel further away for the Grizzlies.

He seems like the kind of player who can make the most of any situation, though. Shortly after the trade was reported, he was already tweeting out a famous Memphis mantra.

Patrick Beverley @patbev21

Grit and Grind. Let’s GO🏀🏀

Beverley can pride himself on restoring the grit-and-grind energy made famous by Tony Allen. And the effort with which he plays could inspire a young Grizzlies roster to fight its way to a higher tier.

      

Winner: Memphis Grizzlies

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

It feels like Rondo will either be waived or rerouted to another team (even if that's tougher than it might've been a few years ago). And Oturu will probably have a hard time finding minutes on a roster that includes Steven Adams, Jaren Jackson Jr., Xavier Tillman and Brandon Clarke.

Beverley can leave a positive imprint, though. And his acquisition opens up a little more flexibility in 2022. The contracts for all three players acquired from L.A. expire after this season. Bledsoe's deal wasn't fully guaranteed, but it ran through 2022-23.

In the short term, Memphis gets a hard-nosed 1 who can impart some wisdom on Ja Morant and De'Anthony Melton.

Altogether, it's not difficult to see the angles through which both teams viewed this deal.

       

All statistics via Basketball Reference, unless otherwise stated.

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