Kawhi Leonard made it abundantly clear in the offseason that the Los Angeles Clippers needed to upgrade one specific area on their roster. Despite the fact that he and Paul George have the ball in their hands for the majority of the Clippers’ possessions, Leonard expressed his displeasure of having to bring the ball up the court to set the offense. To not only rectify that situation, but truly contend for a championship, Los Angeles must upgrade the point guard position.
Patrick Beverley has been a bulldog that this team has often needed. But his defensive tenacity, while extremely valuable to this team, doesn’t make up for his deficiencies on offense. Aside from that, the 32-year old Arkansas product has missed nine games this season and has struggled to fit into the offense when on the floor.
Lou Williams, meanwhile, just hasn’t resembled the same player that has won multiple Sixth Man of the Year awards. And, while he’s looked back on track in recent games, the team has made it known that both he and Beverley are on the trade block.
Unfortunately, the Clippers are somewhat limited when it comes to putting together an enticing trade package. Unable to trade a first-round pick for the foreseeable future, they will have to get creative in any potential deal. And, with the March 25 trade deadline looming, Los Angeles will have to come up with something relatively soon, as nearly every organization is fielding multiple phone calls per day, while some have already made moves; the longer they wait, the smaller the potential player pool might shrink.
Derrick Rose was one name heavily associated with the Clippers as a landing spot, but the Detroit Pistons recently moved him was to the New York Knicks. That said, there is still time for Lawrence Frank to make something happen and elevate the current roster, with multiple enticing point guards on the block that could each be an ideal fit in Los Angeles.
Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans
Expectations were high for Lonzo Ball when the Los Angeles Lakers drafted him second overall back in 2017. Fair or not, however, he just hasn’t become the star player some expected him to be.
To that end, Ball, who is only 23-years-old, is extremely undervalued at this juncture of his career. He has incredible court vision that has made him one of the best facilitators in the game, especially in transition. His larger frame also allows him to rebound well and defend multiple positions on the perimeter. The Clippers do a lot of switching on defense and having Ball out there would be a natural fit.
Ball has also shown the ability to play off the ball very well and has improved his outside jump shot. His effective field goal percentage has gone up every year and sits at 54 percent this season. As a secondary facilitator, he would be a tremendous boost to their half-court offense. And you won’t find a more unselfish player at the point guard position, making him quite the pairing with Los Angeles’ two star players.
This deal might hinge on how the Pelicans feel about their potential return. Would Beverley, Luke Kennard and a second-round pick be enough? They do have a logjam at the guard position, but giving away a young, talented player just so they don’t have to pay him in free agency would be rather surprising.
Plenty of suitors are expected to inquire on Ball, but if the Clippers can bring him back to Los Angeles, he should thrive alongside the other starters.
George Hill, Oklahoma City Thunder
Since George Hill landed in Oklahoma City, the only question has been just how long he would be there. A prime candidate to be traded to a contender, it’s simply a matter of time before Hill is on the move.
He should be a hot commodity for almost every contending team, so the asking price may be higher than Los Angeles can afford. Hill is on the books for $9.5 million this season, $10 million next year, then his contract for the 2021-22 season is partially guaranteed at $1.3 million.
Hill would be a terrific fit with the Clippers, given his consistent perimeter shooting and length on defense. Last season, Hill led the league in three-point percentage and shot 52 percent overall from the floor. The 12-year veteran is a reliable shooter that is comfortable in that role. He has even played with George before as a member of the Indiana Pacers, who actually traded Leonard for the hometown product during the 2008 NBA Draft.
A natural fit for Hill, his addition would allow Tyronn Lue to play Williams alongside him; not only would he mask some of Williams’ defensive deficiencies, but the two would complement each other extremely well. Of the options listed here, Hill might be the one with the smallest asking price. But there will be plenty of teams after him before the March 25 deadline passes.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
If the Toronto Raptors are serious about moving on from their longtime point guard, a reunion with Leonard and Serge Ibaka might just make too much sense. The Raptors just announced that they will be playing all of their home games in Tampa Bay this season and, while moving on from Lowry might seem far-fetched, history has shown (Leonard, DeMar DeRozan) that Masai Ujiri is not afraid to be bold.
Lowry turns 35-years-old next month and is no longer the fixture of the Raptors’ core. The six-time All-Star is making $30 million this season, so matching the salary may be difficult. Toronto, meanwhile, has turned things around after an abysmal start to the season, so they may be reluctant to move him.
But, if Ujiri has the chance to address one of the team’s biggest weaknesses, their depth at the center spot behind Chris Boucher, he’d almost jump on it; a deal involving Williams, Beverley and Ivica Zubac along with a second-round pick might be enough to bring Lowry to Los Angeles.
If the Raptors continue to falter, going to Los Angeles to play with the Clippers might be too hard for Lowry to pass up, as he may have only one-to-two seasons of high-level play left in him. And, while it may be a high-risk move for the Clippers, it would have the potential for high-reward and is one they should seriously consider and explore if they want to win a title this season.
Coincidentally, Lowry’s birthday is set for deadline day; perhaps the best present Toronto could give him would be the opportunity to truly compete for another championship.
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