Even before the events of this offseason, the Los Angeles Clippers had a pretty bright future ahead of them.
A new arena in the works, a 48-34 record, and a competitive playoff appearance while having multiple good players on team friendly contracts in to the next season all made it pretty easy for Clippers fans to see the bright side. They were even able to acquire multiple future draft picks in the process of all that winning, somehow maintaining their success after trading arguably their best player - Tobias Harris - to the Philadelphia 76ers.
While we were playing checkers, apparently the Clippers were playing chess.
They found themselves with enough assets, after meeting with the wanted-to-be-in-LA-but-not-with-LeBron-James superstar Kawhi Leonard, to reach out and get him a running buddy via trade in Paul George for the “low” price of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and five (!!!) future first-round picks. They mortgaged their future, but their present is quite bright.
Beyond the stars
Usually you’re excited when you have one player in the running for an end of season award like Sixth Man of the Year.
The L.A. Clippers had TWO.
Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell had huge roles in the high level of play that the Clippers enjoyed post-Tobias Harris. Harrell’s high-energy finishing at and around the rim and rebounding prowess were extremely valuable, and Williams remains a walking, talking bucket with an offensive game that seemingly never stops expanding.
They both make roughly $14 million combined - less than current Memphis Grizzly Andre Iguodala, among many others around the league that are a bit overcompensated (the summer of 2016 was NUTS) - and neither was involved in the Paul George trade, so they will theoretically continue to thrive now that there are two true leading men on the Clippers.
It goes even beyond them, however - Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet, our old friend JaMychal Green, Ivica Zubac...there is real and true depth to the Clippers that could really make them a threat to everyone out west.
Speaking of Iggy...
How could you trade Moe Harkless? (Kanye voice)
The Clippers remain an interesting possibility in a theoretical Andre Iguodala trade with Memphis. While the Clippers do not have much going for them in terms of future 1st rounders (although they do have their 2020 selection available for trade, which figures to not be very high), a Harkless/Jerome Robinson (a 2018 1st round pick with potential but probably too raw for the “win now” Clippers) and 1st round pick (or two second rounders) offer should be enough to get Iguodala out of his current stage of Grizzly purgatory.
But is L.A. willing to pay that price? Harkless is a solid “positionless” player who can play on both the perimeter and against bigger forwards and is cheaper than Iguodala. There’s no denying the championship pedigree of Andre, however, and surely Clippers head coach Doc Rivers has dreams of Beverley/Iguodala/George/Leonard/Green or Harrell closing out games defensively. It would not be easy to score on that lineup, to say the least.
Memphis is clearly holding on to Iguodala hoping a contender like the Clippers bites on that title winning DNA that Iggy possesses. The Grizzlies already won the trade with the Warriors, but it remains asset season - but it will take more than a pick, for money reasons. A contract will have to come back.
Now could it be Moe Harkless? (Extreme Kanye voice)
Sorry, couldn’t resist.