The Los Angeles Clippers desperately need to prove to Chris Paul that LA is his best (and most lucrative) realistic shot at a championship. To do so they’ve entertained a bizarre wife-swap situation with the Boston Celtics, which would have sent Coach Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce to LA for some mishmash of DeAndre Jordan, Caron Butler, Eric Bledsoe and picks. The deal has mutated quite a few times, and appears to have been pronounced almost dead, the reason most cited seems to be LA’s reluctance to give up Bledsoe.
What? Eric Bledsoe is a fun player. His PER skyrocketed this year, he rebounds well for his size, his aggressive drives resemble a kind of a poor man’s Russell Westbrook. He’s a great player to bring off the bench, a classic pace changing rabble rouser, and beyond that he’s suddenly a guy that has extreme trade value. Now the Clippers are understandably hesitant to jettison Bledsoe AND DeAndre Jordan (their only young assets) for a rental of the vestiges of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Both of the erstwhile Ubuntu duo make a ton of money, and are what you would call on a “downward trajectory” as far as their skills at playing NBA basketball are concerned. Some might argue that a change of scenery and the best point-guard in the game (sorry Rajon Rondo, you weird wizard looking dude) might be the metaphorical PED they need. Or they might just be old and pretty much done and in that case the loss of Bledsoe is a steep price for something that could go fantastically wrong. So DeAndre Jordan (who hasn’t progressed the way the Clippers had wanted) slides over as the principal piece in this trade and Bledsoe remains available for other deals to put the reigning Pacific Conference champs over the hump.
But if the Celtics did manage to get Bledsoe in a deal for Garnett and Doc then they’d have some options. They could go full-out youth movement and unleash an extremely interesting and extremely small starting line-up of Rajon Rondo, Eric Bledsoe, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, and Jared Sullinger. Assuming old Paul Pierce was still limping about, the Celtics could package him and Bledsoe for some disgruntled max-money player whether in a straight up trade or a sign-and-trade deal. Josh Smith is disgruntled soon to be max-money player. Al Jefferson returning to Boston as the “guy” would be a fitting conclusion to his superstar journeyman saga. Paul Pierce and Eric Bledsoe for David Lee, Harrison Barnes is something the Warriors might entertain. Nobody remembers Eric Gordon, languishing in New Orleans, a former Clipper himself, but at his best he was one of the top shooting guards in the league, and if healthy he would immediately become the Celtics’ best player should they manage to obtain him.
But back to the Clippers. They had a terrific year, broke every record in Clipperland there is to break, made the Lakers look like fools, and were for a period the darlings of the NBA and labeled as true contenders. The highest praise! And then they fell abruptly in the first round. The goal remains a championship and is an attachment to Eric Bledsoe something to stall a big move? I really doubt Chris Paul would agree. And that’s why it seems likely that Eric Bledsoe is not long for Staples Center. Not only do the Clippers want to turn him into someone that can get them over the hump, Bledsoe’s an ideal fit for both rebuilding teams that simply need talent or good teams that need a heady guard to add a new dangerous dimension to their bench.
So what are some of these options?
Danny Granger is an eight year veteran with a penchant for scoring. The scoring tapered off as Indiana went from mediocre to good to elite, and he’s the forgotten man on the Pacers roster. Coming off a year of injury as well as a year that the Pacers exceeded already high expectations without him, Granger can only assume trading him is one of the first orders of business for the Pacers front office. So the Clippers, seeing Granger’s often gaudy scoring numbers and see a natural Third Banana for CP3 and Blake Griffin. What would it take to pry Granger from the Pacers? Why, our old friend Eric Bledsoe of course! You’d have to throw Caron Butler in too. Why would Indiana do this? To strengthen their bench and ensure Danny Granger never cuts into Paul George’s minutes again. Of course, if Danny Granger is the missing piece to a championship puzzle, then I owe you all a Coke.
This deal actually makes a lot of sense for the Clippers. At his best Afflalo is the kind of prototype shooting-guard the league is in love with right now: stout defense, knocks down the corner three, with an occasional twenty-point game here and there. This deal is preliminary as preliminary can be, but hinges on the Clips sending Bledsoe and Butler to the Orlando Magic, who would send Afflalo and some undisclosed assets. The Magic’s Rebuilding Brigade is fortified and they have insurance if they look to move Jameer “Beer-Keg” Nelson and his beer-keg sized contract, which they almost certainly would. This deal seems like it would be mutually beneficial for both parties, so it probably isn’t going to happen.
And of course, it’s not a trade season unless the Lakers are looking to fleece someone. This simple rumor is pretty fun: the Lakers initiate a sign-and-trade of Dwight Howard to the Clippers for Blake Griffin and Eric Bledsoe (this guy!). Apparently this is based on the gossip that Dwight Howard and Chris Paul have been planning some secret unification and the Clippers hoping to stop that with an aggressive move to win now. The Lakers meanwhile are basically out of luck if Dwight leaves them, which he may after a massively disappointing year, and securing an All-Star like Griffin and the young and still malleable Bledsoe gives them some hope for the future. The Lakers are no longer contenders. They need to realize this and plan for their post-Kobe future, which also no doubt coincides with the losses of Pau Gasol and Steve Nash. Dwight Howard was supposed to be the bulwark for this backslide, but if he’s leaving in free agency, the Lakers are left with literally nothing but the hope of their new Big Three: Jordan Hill, Jodie Meeks and Earl Clark. Oi. Safe bet: the Lakers make Dwight an offer he can’t refuse.
There you have it: Eric Bledsoe, back up point-guard for the Los Angeles Clippers…the most important player in the league!