With the third-best record in the Western Conference (39-17), one would assume that the trade deadline would come to pass for Los Angeles without so much as a second-glance at the calendar. But one would be apparently be wrong.
Not only have the Clippers been immersed in various trade rumors throughout the season, but the latest has them open to moving big man DeAndre Jordan.
According to Sean Deveney of the Sporting News, a rift has developed between head coach Vinny Del Negro and the center, which could find Jordan being shipped out of Hollywood:
More than two weeks ago, the Clippers’ proposal centered around Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler for Garnett, but, as reported by Yahoo! Sports on Friday, the Clippers have upped the deal to include Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan. A source told SN that the original offer was a “starting point,” and the Clippers have always been willing to increase their bid.
For the Clippers, this is a continuing sign that coach Vinny Del Negro believes he has on his hands a team that can compete for a championship, but that he has little faith in Jordan’s ability to be a championship-caliber big man.
Del Negro and Jordan have frequently clashed over playing time, the source said, and there is a chance he could be moved before Thursday’s deadline for a veteran big man, even if it is not in a deal for Garnett.
That “even if it is not in a deal for Garnett” is important. Why? Because it most likely won’t be for Garnett. He is one of four NBA players with a no-trade clause in his contract and he has publicly stated he has no intention of waiving it.
Even if it was Garnett, though, is trading the 6’11” tower something Los Angeles consider? His minutes are down (24.6) from last year (27.2), but he’s actually scoring more points (9.3). Not only that, but the Clippers’ offense is also scoring 8.8 more points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and allowing 6.9 less.
Despite putting up some of the best offensive numbers of his career, there’s clearly a lack of trust between he and Del Negro. There’s no way his minutes should be down from last year, even when the Clippers as a whole are deeper. That is, unless Los Angeles is preparing to embrace the small-ball concept.
For most teams, I embrace playing smaller. If you utilize just one big man and have a small forward who can defend the power forward position, it’s great for your offense. It spreads the floor and allows the lone tower to operate freely underneath the basket. In an uptempo offense like the one the Clippers run, most would consider a small-ball approach the way to go.
Yet is it?
Los Angeles hasn’t exactly embraced it. Of the 20 most used five-man lineups, the Clippers have a legit center and power forward in 11 of them. More often than not, they’re opting to go big.
And if that’s the way Del Negro wants to play, then retaining Jordan is a borderline necessity. He has improved his post game quite a bit, can run the floor well for someone his size and remains one of the best alley-oop options in the game. As long as he’s playing alongside Chris Paul, he shouldn’t be hurting Los Angeles’ offense.
Obviously, a guy like Garnett would be a better fit. Someone who can defend centers yet hit shots from the outside and allows Griffin to go to work down low. But that might not be an option. And if isn’t, you can’t bank on Griffin excelling at center full-time. He’s spent 15 percent of the team’s minutes at the 5 already and while he is posting a 23.3 PER as a center, that’s far too small a sample size to determine anything.
Barring an unforeseen Garnett or Dwight Howard trade (kidding), holding onto Jordan makes far more sense than trading him to toil with an offensive schematic the Clippers have not yet committed to.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.