It’s been a chaotic week in the NBA with Cleveland firing David Blatt and the Los Angeles Clippers looking like they’re imploding, what with Blake Griffin breaking his hand while clocking the equipment manager and everything.
In the midst of all that craziness, the Toronto Raptors have continued winning, extending their unbeaten run to nine and closing to within two games of the Cavaliers for first place in the Eastern Conference, a run that included a thorough drubbing of the pre-punch, Griffin-less Clippers.
Tuesday’s win over the Washington Wizards tied the franchise record for consecutive victories and the team is getting contributions from everyone these days, so it might be the wrong time to mess with the chemistry and change the complexion of this team, but…
What if the Clippers are looking to break up their version of The Big 3?
This is the fifth season that the Doc Rivers-led Clippers have been built around Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan, and they seemed to double-down on the group this summer when they lured Jordan back to town after he had made a verbal commitment to sign with the Dallas Mavericks.
But the Clippers are stuck in fourth place in the Western Conference and up until the last 10 days, had been playing fairly well with Griffin out of the lineup. If they were to determine that this year isn’t their year (and it’s not) and opted to make their now sidelined All-Star power forward available, should the Raptors roll the dice on bringing the Oklahoma product north of the border?
Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst of ESPN discussed the potential of a Blake deal – and specifically a move to Toronto – on the latest edition of Lowe’s terrific podcast, The Lowe Post, and I tend to agree with the host’s thoughts: if he’s available, you try to get him and the offer starts with Patrick Patterson, Terrence Ross and one of the two first-round picks the Raptors have this season.
Putting the pieces into the NBA Trade Machine – which is a tremendous tool, but also more dangerous than a YouTube or Wikipedia wormhole – a two-for-one deal for Toronto’s top two subs isn’t enough to make the deal go through, as the salaries don’t match up. In order to make it happen, the Raptors would need to include another player with a salary at $7M or above, which basically means Cory Joseph has to be a part of the deal.
Adding Joseph is one of those “it sucks, but if you have to do it” situations where you don’t really want to lose that player, but the returns are too great to pass up. Additionally, the Clippers have been in dire need of a competent back-up point guard since they let Darren Collison skate two years ago and Joseph, with his San Antonio Spurs pedigree, could be the ideal style of player to station behind the aging, but still exceptional Paul for the next couple years.
So should Masai Ujiri pick up the phone and see if anything is doing with the Clippers?
Um, absolutely – Griffin is an All-Star and the kind of guy that could fit in just about anywhere because he’s a solid passer, strong rebounder and capable of running the floor. There are some concerns about how he tends to shrink in late game situations, but there are enough “intense moment players” on this team that he can take a backseat to them in the fourth without the team suffering, so if you can add him into the starting lineup, you have to investigate it.
Plus, Toronto can afford to deal for a player that is unavailable to them for 4-6 weeks because they’re in a comfortable position in the Eastern Conference standings. Losing Patterson, Ross and Joseph from the rotation would certainly hurt, but in the interim, it means more minutes for James Johnson and some of the younger players that aren’t getting much burn right now, which is beneficial to their long-term development anyway.
It also could just mean swinging another deal or waiting until some players get bought out at the deadline to replenish the bench. If there is a deal out there to be made for Griffin, the Raptors should be blowing up the phones at Staples Center trying to get something done.