This hypothetical could be completely out the window if the Los Angeles Clippers end up sending the San Antonio Spurs home in the first round and make a deep run in the playoffs. However, if the Clippers fall to the Spurs, that will mark yet another early playoff elimination for point guard Chris Paul, who’s yet to play in a Western Conference Finals – let alone an NBA Finals.
Either way, the NBA’s best point guard for the better part of the last 10 years is going to be 30 years-old on May 6. In this new golden age of the electric point guard, 30 isn’t the end, but it’s the start of the decline – athletically speaking. And while Paul has never been a player that relies on his above-the-rim athleticism, he still has been one of the quickest players the NBA has seen over the length of his career. You can probably expect him to lose a step moving forward.
This means that the future Hall of Fame point guard probably only has another two seasons left where he will still be at the top of his game before Father Time starts to kick in. Will he want to spend these critical years on a team that can’t get any better because of their salary cap situation? Or could he head East and join one of his best friends, Carmelo Anthony, and play for the New York Knicks?
It does seem highly unlikely that coach Doc Rivers could ship his best player and heart of his team in Paul, but if Rivers really looks hard at his roster, he’ll be able to see the writing on the wall. The team is cap strapped and just can’t get any better in a loaded conference with many up and coming teams. This doesn’t have to signal the end, but a quick restart that could have the Clippers better than ever in just two short years.
Here is how:
Clippers & Knicks trade details:
Knicks receive: Chris Paul + J.J.Redick
Clippers receive: New York’s first round pick + Tim Hardaway Jr.
Why this makes sense for the Clippers:
Doc Rivers is going to find it difficult to improve his team through the draft. The Clippers have only their 2016 first and second round picks and their 2018 first round pick moving forward. Rivers cannot trade his 2016/2018 first round picks as NBA rules state you can’t trade picks in consecutive years – however, Doc could draft a player of a different team’s choice and then send him packing as part of a trade.
So unless the Clippers completely bottom out in 2016, the chances of them finding a difference making player in the draft is going to be slim as you generally don’t find gems when you’re picking in the 20s. I’m not saying you can’t find great players in the 20s, but the batting average of finding a star is very low in comparison to the lottery and even picks in the teens. But here is the real reason this trade really benefits the Clippers.
The Clippers would obviously want either Emmanuel Mudiay or possibility D’Angelo Russell. My guess is that they would want a dynamite athletic point guard that has drawn comparisons to John Wall and Russell Westbrook as playing in the Western Conference might benefit a player like Mudiay more so than Russell. That’s not a dig at Russell, he’s just not the same athletic specimen as Mudiay.
Assuming the pick would be Mudiay, the Clippers now have a young backcourt to go along with their young front court of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan (assuming he re-signs). Griffin and Jordan are still a year or two from hitting their prime years and by ridding yourself of Paul and Redick, the Clippers will have effectively let go of two players that are on the wrong side of 30 while most likely declining the team options of Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford – two more players that aren’t exactly young pups.
Now, time for the real hypothetical reason this trade would be a dynamite deal for the Clips:
Assuming the Clippers and DeAndre Jordan don’t part ways (highly unlikely), the shot blocking and rebounding machine center is going to command a max deal. This would be around the $20 million mark. By shipping Paul and Redick, the Clippers would be around the $28 million mark in team salary. Depending on where Mudiay would be picked by the Knicks, his deal could be anywhere from $3-to-$4.5 million along with Hardaway Jr.’s $1.3 million.
For the sake of argument here, lets just called that a total of $5 million which puts L.A. at $33 million. By adding Jordan’s probable max of around $20 million, this would put the Clips around the $53 million mark for team salary with the NBA team salary cap expected to be at $67 million for next season before jumping to $89 million for the 2016-17 season. Assuming the Clippers played out next season with fill in players that wouldn’t eat into their cap the following season, they would have roughly $36 million in cap space to offer a player.
A player like Kevin Durant who is in the last year of his deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
With a boatload of money to hand out and the appeal of Hollywood, this could be a very tempting place for Durant to take his talents while in the prime of his career. If Mudiay were to pan out and Blake Griffin continues to grow into a superstar, why wouldn’t KD want to play in Los Angeles with a team like this? We shouldn’t forget that OKC, Washington and perhaps the Knicks could all be destinations that would appeal to Durant.
Clippers fans, here could be your dream lineup in 2016-17
PG – Emmanuel Mudiay
SG – Tim Hardaway Jr. (or free agent)
SF – Kevin Durant
PF – Blake Griffin
C – DeAndre Jordan
Why this makes sense for the Knicks:
A good portion of Knicks fans would argue that this doesn’t make sense for the Knicks. Why give up a promising young player that could be great the next decade for a point guard who’s 30 years-old?
Well, here is why:
If you believe that president Phil Jackson is in this for the long run, you’re probably mistaken. Last season the Zen Master signed a five-year deal for mega bucks, but it’s widely regarded that Jackson isn’t going to be around any longer than the contract he signed in 2014. If you need any further proof, why else would Jackson be entertaining the notion of trading the probable top three pick the Knicks are likely to get in his year’s NBA Draft?
By adding a player of Chris Paul’s talent and clout, the Knicks immediately get a leader that Carmelo Anthony respects and will flourish playing behind. I know a large portion of Knicks fans would argue that Anthony would be the alpha dog, but for anyone that knows hoops, there is no way Chris Paul is playing second banana. Plus Melo’s leadership has been questioned frequently in the past. Anthony has even said he doesn’t mind playing second fiddle to another player. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily if you can get a player of Paul’s talent and leadership.
The key in a deal of this magnitude would be whether the Knicks could rid themselves of Jose Calderon’s $7.4 million salary. With the acquisition of Paul and Redick, and the loss of Hardaway Jr. and the salary of their top five pick, the Knicks would be around $59 million in team cap. That leaves only around $8 million to potentially spend on free agents this summer. By ridding themselves of Calderon’s $7 million, this would enable the Knicks to have roughly $15 million in cap space to grab a potential center like a Omer Asik – whose defensive abilities the team desperately needs.
Calderon’s deal isn’t terrible as teams would value his experience and outside shooting. Jackson did acquire two second round picks so maybe he could package them in order to get rid of the Spanish point guard. If that did happen, the Knicks would have to prioritize bringing in a defensive center that protects the rim. It seems like Asik would fit perfectly, but you never now what Jackson is thinking.
Will the Zen Master at least let Fisher start to move away from the triangle offense? Or is Jackson going to only go after a center that fits his system and we Knicks fans get to see year two of the triangle offense that is, as Bill Simmons describes the Wizards offense, “The clogged toilet.”
Again for the sake of argument, lets pretend Jackson will modify the offense a bit and not only go after guys he thinks fit the triangle offense only.
Could this team content in the Eastern Conference next season?
PG – Chris Paul
SG – J.J. Redick
SF – Carmelo Anthony OR Free Agent (Lance Thomas)
PF – Anthony OR Free Agent (Amundson/Acy/Bargnani)
C – FREE AGENT: Marc Gasol/Omer Asik/Robin Lopez/Brandon Wright/Larry Sanders/Roy Hibbert/Al Jefferson
*They’re more free agent centers available, but even mentioning Marc Gasol seems like a reach. The point is this, there are options available for the Knicks to find a solid defensive center capable of being a significant piece to the puzzle.
I personally would like it if the Knicks retained defensive-minded forward Lance Thomas and played him at the three-spot and put Anthony back at the power forward position where he’s thrived and the Knicks have played their best. While Anthony isn’t a “stretch four” he certainly could play a lot of two-man game with Chris Paul which would put a lot of pressure on the defense. Lance Thomas is also a great defender that would help the Knicks out immensely. The key to this would be whether Thomas could consistently hit the outside shot to keep defenses from playing off him and essentially collapsing into the paint.
Lastly, the Knicks get one of the NBA’s best shooters in J.J. Redick who is also an underrated defender. While he can’t create his own shot, he still managed to drop a career high 16.4 points per game this season while shooting nearly 44 percent from deep. Sure, Redick doesn’t have teams attention like Chris Paul or Blake Griffin do, but the former Duke product could immediately help the Knicks offensively with spacing and isn’t a liability on the defensive end.
And by adding Redick, this doesn’t kill your cap moving forward as he has a very cap friendly $7 million contract for the next two seasons. In addition, the Knicks still could add yet another free agent the for the 2016 season when the cap is projected to jump to $89 million.
Could the Knicks contend with this type of team in the weaker Eastern Conference?
That question is impossible to answer, but you’d be a fool to think the combo of CP3 and Melo wouldn’t put a scare in the Cavaliers, Bulls or Wizards.