The Los Angeles Clippers are going through challenging times right now. After losing Kawhi Leonard to a season-ending injury in the 2021 NBA playoffs, they received another big hit when Paul George went down after picking torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
Even though the picture doesn't look that promising for the Californians, they could take advantage of this and trade some players away while getting some draft picks in return. The Clips are still hanging at 8th in the Western Conference standings, but they're not losing sleep over their ranking right now.
According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, the team is willing to trade a host of players, including veterans Serge Ibaka, Marcus Morris and Eric Bledsoe. They're focused on developing their young players while staying ready for the next season.
Rival executives have since gathered that Los Angeles is willing to discuss the majority of its veteran roster in trade scenarios. "They're pretty much open for business for anyone except their main guys and Terance Mann. I think they really are fine falling out of the playoffs and regrouping for next year," said one Western Conference official. "I think they're trying to shed the Marcus Morrises of the world, guys that have some value and maybe can replace them with younger talent, maybe cheaper [contracts], to free them to get someone else this summer."
Perhaps Morris could net back the first-round pick that Los Angeles currently lacks. The veteran forward could plug-and-play into a variety of contenders' wing rotations, just as he did when the Clippers first acquired Morris before the 2020 trade deadline. Utah would appear a perfect landing spot, but the Jazz and Clippers' past and future playoff collision course would make any deal there unlikely, in addition to Utah's dearth of draft assets. Maybe the New Orleans Pelicans, still chasing a play-in spot of their own, would cough up a first-rounder to take on a contributing piece such as Morris.
Fischer adds that a Serge Ibaka trade could benefit the Clippers in financial terms, making it the most likely scenario for the Los Angelenos team.
The Clippers moving Serge Ibaka appears to be the most likely trade deadline maneuver for Los Angeles. Shedding Ibaka's $9.7 million salary alone would save the Clippers over $40 million in tax penalties. As noted by ESPN.com's Bobby Marks, the Clippers still have $3.3 million available to send out in a trade this season, and only $3.1 million of Ibaka's salary would remain on his contract this year before he becomes a free agent. Oklahoma City is a trade partner to monitor, league sources said.
Besides these two, Eric Bledsoe could be on the move, too, as he could work as a piece to add veteran point guard Goran Dragic.
Los Angeles has seven second-round picks at its disposal as well. There's a potential path for the Clippers to move Eric Bledsoe to Toronto for Goran Dragic, for example, which would allow Los Angeles to hold Dragic's bird rights entering this summer. That's the type of transaction that a gap-year mentality can afford a front office.
With such a limited field of teams expected to have cap space, perhaps another front office would take on Bledsoe's salary, with only $3.9 million of his $19.3 million salary for next season guaranteed. There's also value for Los Angeles to hold onto Bledsoe. The Clippers pushed back his June 30 guarantee date to July 10, which is four days after the league's moratorium ends, and can provide Los Angeles with some added flexibility for whatever offseason swing any trade deadline tinkering can help set up.
As things stand right now, the only veterans with a safe spot are Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Injuries have prevented them from making a bigger impact on the Clippers and they hope that changes once they're back from their injuries. They have interesting young players and perhaps with new moves, the Clips could have fresh hopes for the championship next campaign. This trade deadline could be full of moves for them, but time will tell how it plays out.