With the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 18, Masai Ujiri of the Toronto Raptors has the chance to create a successful trade to acquire Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers should be willing to talk trades for Blake Griffin, after breaking his hand from delivering two punches to the face of Clippers assistant equipment manager, Matias Testi. Doc Rivers also started out the season saying that 2015 could be the Clippers last run with their Big 3. It’s obvious at this point of the season, that their current roster is still miles away from being on the same level of the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors, making it time for the Clippers to evaluate their options.
In the Eastern Conference, the current 2nd seed Toronto Raptors, are starting to look like a real contender that can put up a decent fight to make it to the NBA Finals. With the potential to make a serious playoff run, it just seems that the Raptors are a key front court piece away from being able to dethrone LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
- The Toronto Raptors trade Patrick Patterson, DeMarre Carroll, acquire Blake Griffin
The biggest shocker is: trading DeMarre Carroll.
In order for the Toronto Raptors to be able to accept the $41 million Griffin is owed for the next two seasons, they’ll need to shed some of their own team salary. By trading Carroll, the Raptors won’t have to pay him the $44.5 million he’ll be making the next three seasons.
Carroll was a great free agency pickup for the Raptors this summer, but it seems like he’s been injured ever since coming to Toronto. This season he’s already missed 24 games, in which the Raptors have been 18-6, while relying on James Johnson and Terrence Ross at the small forward position.
The Raptors would also need to send away Patrick Patterson to clear cap room, while opening up minutes for Luis Scola, who’ll be coming off the bench if Griffin arrives in Toronto.
Scola has exceeded expectations for the Raptors this season, averaging 9.8 points and 5.5 rebounds as a starter. Unfortunately for the Argentinean, who’ll be 36-years-old in April, his veteran leadership should be coming off the bench, since he won’t be able to put up a solid fight against Kevin Love of the Cavs, Paul Milsap of the Hawks, Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat, and the array of skilled power forwards the Chicago Bulls have on their roster.
Griffin is a superstar in this league, who the Raptors could really use if they have any intentions of beating the team that sits a seed in front of them at the top of the East. Like the Spurs and Warriors, the Raptors could take advantage of Love’s poor defence.
With the Raptors’ present power forward rotation, it would be Love punishing Scola and Patterson. Having Griffin part of the roster, would give the Raptors a serious threat to matchup with Love, and give them a way of containing his superstar abilities.
Griffin and Love are two of nine players since the 2010 season that are taller than 6-foot-9, and have averaged 15 points, 9 rebounds, and have shot over 25 three-pointers in a season. Love’s the only player that’s averaged those clips every year.
With the way coach Tyrone Lue is now coaching Love and the Cavs, having won four straight behind three of his 20-point performances, the Raptors’ window of opportunity is getting smaller by the minute.
Acquiring Griffin would give the Raptors an opportunity of attacking the Cavs while they still adjust to a new coach’s system, and also allow them to take advantage of Love before he gets some Finals experience under his belt.
Of course, Griffin would need time to get used to the Raptors and their system, but that shouldn’t be as big of a problem as changing a head coach halfway through the season.
- The Phoenix Suns trade Markieff Morris, acquire Lance Stephenson
The Phoenix Suns have been looking for a solution for Markieff Morris ever since the season started, and if he doesn’t get moved before the trade deadline, it’s tough to imagine the 2nd worst team in the West getting any better.
At this point of the season, it’s safe to say that the Suns haven’t been able to convince Morris to stay in Phoenix. Instead, he’s been begging to leave.
The trade above would allow the Suns to get rid of Morris and all his problems, while bringing in Lance Stephenson as an experiment. Stephenson hasn’t been great with the Clippers this year, only averaging 4.4 points a game, for a team that doesn’t know what to do with him.
For those that might need their memories freshened, Stephenson led the league in triple-doubles during the 2013-14 season. He’s also a great ball handler and a decent decision maker when given the necessary trust.
With Eric Bledsoe out for the remainder of the year due to meniscus surgery, Stephenson should be able to go to Phoenix for his next opportunity to showcase his true potential. And if it doesn’t work out for him and the Suns, they could always use the 2016-17 team option in his contract.
- The Los Angeles Clippers trade Blake Griffin, acquire Patrick Patterson, Markieff Morris, and DeMarre Carroll.
When you share a conference with the San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors, and even the Oklahoma City Thunder, you know you have to beat at least one of them to make it to the Finals.
The Clippers did beat the Spurs in the first-round of last year’s playoffs, but since then they’ve been spiraling down to the second-tier of NBA teams, now 0-4 this season against the previously mentioned Western Conference juggernauts.
After five years with the same trio, the Clippers are in a tough situation knowing that their team performs better when one of their superstars is sidelined.
In games that Griffin has missed the last two seasons, the Clippers have a been stunning 24-9.
Chris Paul has been healthy for the most part of the last two seasons, but when he’s been sidelined, the Clippers are still efficient with Griffin running the show. The biggest example of their success sans Paul was during the 2013-14 season, when the Clippers went 13-7 to help Griffin come third in MVP voting.
This season, the Clippers second most used lieup is without Griffin, but led by Paul. That lineup outscores the most used lineup consisting of Griffin, Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Luc Mbah a Moute, and JJ Reddick by 4.8 points per 100 possessions.
After Griffin’s team incident, and Paul’s stellar performance as the clear number one option these past two seasons, it might be time to split the Clippers big-three for a higher level of team success. They were never reported to be the best of friends, and Jordan has stepped into a bigger role, now leading the team in win shares, with 6.9.
By trading Griffin in the scenario above, the Clippers would be able to acquire what they truly need, a 3-D player in Carroll, and two power forwards to fill Griffin’s void.
Patterson is a solid player to have come off your bench, having averaged 8 points on 37 per cent three-point shooting, and 5.3 rebounds for the Toronto Raptors last season.
While Morris does have his problems, playing for a “player’s coach” like Doc Rivers would be the best thing for him at this point of his career. The Clippers shouldn’t be shying away, since at times you really need to make the high-risk, for high reward type of move.
Trading for Morris would be just that, since he has the talent to be a great piece on any team. Last year, he averaged 15.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.2 steals while flashing a very versatile and well-rounded game. He would give them the possibility of also improving their small ball, since his agile 6-foot-10 frame could be a nice matchup against Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors.
Another piece the Clippers could use for both small ball, and regular rotations is Carroll, who signed a 4-year, $60 million contract this summer with the Raptors. It’s a contract he deserved, despite his injuries this season, after he averaged 14.6 points and 6.1 rebounds in last year’s playoffs for the Atlanta Hawks. He’s the definition of a true team player, and would certainly be an upgrade over Mbah a Moute, who’s making a bit over $1.2 million this season.
The only problem is that the Clippers won’t know when Carroll will be returning, after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery a couple weeks ago. That might have to be the price the Clippers will have to pay, when they have a player that broke his shooting hand in a fight with another employee. At the same time, the Clippers are as unpredictable as they make them.
Good thing for the Raptors, they also have the Clippers’ 2017 top-14 protected first round pick, which they could use to leverage their way into this potential Griffin trade.
All stats for this article are from BasketballReference.com and NBA.com
You can follow Bryan Meler on Twitter @BryanMelo97