Father’s Day in the NBA kicked off with the retirement of three-time sixth man Lou Williams after 17 seasons in the NBA. Williams, who did not play in the 2022-23 NBA season, won two of his awards with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2018 and 2019.
It was a reminder that Williams arrived with the Clippers in June 2017 — as part of a six-player package that also included 2020 Sixth Man of the Year Montrezil Harrell and 3-time All-Defensive Team selection Patrick Beverley — in a deal that sent Loeb City icon Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets. Despite the efforts of Williams, Beverly, and a host of others, the Clippers have spent the last six seasons since Paul’s departure in the outback.
So it’s fitting that Williams announced his retirement the same day Paul was presented as an option to return to the Clippers.
On Sunday, the Washington Wizards agreed to send shooting guard Bradley Bell to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Paul and former Clipper Landry Shamet and several second-round picks and future pick swaps. The new front office in Washington, led by former Clippers general manager Michael Winger, is paying for the no-trade clause in Bell’s contract. But the deal could expand based on Paul’s desire to join the rival.
The Clippers are already interested in going after Paul, according to a league source who was not authorized to speak publicly about another team player. The Clippers assess what it will take to get Paul, who must first decide if he’s open to staying in Washington. Chris Haynes from Bleacher Report He was the first to report Los Angeles interest in trading for Paul.
last week, Athletic Danny Leroux and I discussed the possibility of the Clippers acquiring Paul, either via trade or if he was waived. We also discussed the limited options the Clippers had with Russell Westbrook, the newest Clippers roulette made necessary by season-ending injuries suffered by Paul George and then Kawhi Leonard.
Clippers won’t shut the door on Westbrook even if they can get Paul, league sources not authorized to speak publicly the athlete. The largest contract they could legally offer Westbrook (starting at 120 percent of the veteran’s minimum) would still be on the table. How Westbrook receives this is not clear. While Westbrook was seriously considering returning to the Clippers on this contract for a sum just over the veterans’ minimum, those sources said, that was before Los Angeles’ interest in Paul got that high. Trading Paul while Westbrook is still available would be a way for the front office to get the player they want in their place while forcing Westbrook to make the same deal, but for a decidedly different role. That could prompt Westbrook to pursue other teams, but it’s unclear who the Clippers will bid for Westbrook’s services. (Chicago? Miami? Portland? We know the Lakers and Suns with Frank Vogel aren’t on that list.)
Why would the Clippers care about Paul? Simply put, Paul is the rare crossover of a player who pleases Frank, coach Tyrone Law, and one of the stars (Leonard). Although Frank (and the rest of the Clippers’ front office) warmed to Westbrook from the time he was first available in February through the end of April, he’d always said he preferred a shooter on the floor with Leonard and George.
Frank has often been asked about Paul over the past three seasons, because while the Clippers keep changing point guards, it always comes back to Paul.
Frank said before the 2022 trade deadline after Eric Bledsoe was traded to Portland in a deal that left the Clippers without a turning point guard outside of Reggie Jackson while Leonard and George were out with an extended injury layoff. “CB, he’s called blob god, right? That’s why he’s one of those. However, we’re really relieved that we’re going to build a championship team around Kohei and Paul… I respect and respect the question about skill set, yeah. But are we going to do it on The expense of taking a player one less? We’re not going to do that. I’d rather double, triple and quadruple players who fit those guys and then get creative and try to figure out a few different ways to figure that out.”
Frank’s direct message during exit interviews in late April was that the Clippers need stronger competition, from his level as chief personnel officer to coaching staff to players. Paul is known for his regular season swinging teams: The Hornets (2008), Clippers (2014), Rockets (2018) and Suns (2022) have all had their best regular season seasons in franchise history with Paul at this point. And the Oklahoma City Thunder’s best season since the departure of Kevin Durant in 2016 wasn’t with Westbrook or Paul George; It was Paul’s only season there in 2020, when the Thunder won 61.1 percent of games in a season that fell short of a pandemic.
Lue has been a key defender for Westbrook, who started him right away even though the Lakers sat him out after the first week of the 2022-23 season. While Frank talks about wingers a lot, Lue said he would prefer having a traditional goalkeeper in his rotation, if not in the starting line-up. Lue also always wanted a guard who could push the pace and produce easier baskets, either via a quick break or by squeezing the rim. Westbrook consistently offered he was in Los Angeles after the truncated stint for John Wall to start the season in that role for Lue from the bench never paid off.
Lue also appreciated that Westbrook was constantly available, especially in light of Los Angeles’ challenges on that front last season. While Lue has had to constantly adjust to injuries to Leonard and George, including being eliminated each of the past three years with Leonard injured and the last two years with George out, Westbrook never missed a game after signing with the Clippers.
But Lue has a great relationship with Paul, and was with Paul in the 2013-14 season while serving as one of Doc Rivers’ assistant coaches. Lue and Paul were on Uninterrupt’s show the shop together, and Paul notes how much he appreciates having Lue as a coach.
“T. Lue and I got really close, really fast,” said Paul. the shop From Lue’s time with the 2013-14 Clippers. “T. Lue, man, our team changed drastically when he left. Because he fired it right at us. Regardless of whether you wanted to hear it or not, T. Lue was like that. And I appreciated that, I respected that. I didn’t play with him as head coach, But I’m sure it’s still the same.”
George led the way in support of Westbrook, both during and before Westbrook’s Clippers tenure. The dynamic between George and Chris Paul is much cooler, at leastafter the last three years of the Clippers-Suns match-up.
But while also supporting Leonard Westbrook, Sometimes to hilarious degreesHe has a better relationship with Paul than most other clippers. When it comes to playing style, Leonard and Paul share the same desire to maximize every possession. Leonard, unlike George, takes care of basketball at a high level and constantly raises the floor for the offense. Paul takes a similar approach, combining a historic assist-to-turnover ratio with high shooting percentages from the field. Neither Leonard nor Paul are known for running much at this point in their careers either.
So where does all this leave the Clippers in terms of actually acquiring Paul? Leroux mentioned last week that the Clippers would have needed to include at least $24.6 million in salary prior to the acquisition of Paul in the trade. For Leroux, Clippers can take up to 25 percent more than they send in a trade. Now that the deal with the Wizards is agreed, the Suns need to guarantee Paul the same amount for salary matching purposes.
The pool of players who can help facilitate this trade is wide. Eric Gordon’s contract guarantee date is June 28 for $20.9 million; His deal would have to be at least partially secured before he could be included. There are four Clippers making $10-20 million that I would keep out of this trade: Norman Powell (the only pressure guard the Clippers have had off the bench), Nicholas Batum (the team’s glue man), Terrence Mann (the most efficient conductor on the team), and a player the Clippers should consider starting with George, Leonard, point guard) and Ivica Zubak (starting center). Trading Mann, something the Clippers considered doing in February in a potential deal for Kyrie Irving, would be pretty bad. But Mann’s difficult salary situation (his contract extension for next season) reduces his chances of being included in a deal for Paul, given that salary matching considerations have to factor in 2023 and 2024 figures.
This potential trade, more likely, could provide an opportunity for the Clippers to consolidate into the power forward, with current rookie Marcus Morris Sr. ($17.1 million) and third baseman Robert Covington ($11.7 million) entering the final years of their deals. . These two, along with Batum, are all small power forwards over the age of 30. Point guards are a dime a dozen; As Clippers have shown, you can find players in this position. What they do in Power Forward is at least as crucial to their off-season success.
Paul’s potential deal would just be the first domino to fall for the Clippers this offseason. The draft is on Thursday, with a wide selection of players that the team can consider in both the first and second rounds. After that, free agency begins the following week. The Clippers’ chances of acquiring Paul are reduced if Paul is waived and hits the open market. After that, his next team will be his entire pick, and the Lakers loom as a real possibility there.
So just as the Clippers can come full circle with Chris Paul and Lou Williams, the Clippers can also go back to where we were in December 2011, when they acquired Paul in the first place despite having a veto on the deal with the Lakers. Shout out reasons for basketball.
(Photo: Kate Frese/NBAE via Getty Images)
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