The Clippers traded Austin Rivers to the Washington Wizards for Marcin Gortat on Tuesday, lessening their logjam in the backcourt and adding a veteran center in case DeAndre Jordan doesn’t return next season.
The deal was done five days after Rivers exercised his $12.6-million option for next season and the Clippers acquired guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson during the NBA draft. And it came three days before the deadline for Jordan to exercise his $24.1-million option for next season.
The feeling among several Clippers is that Jordan is leaning toward exercising his option and then requesting a trade, according to officials not authorized to speak publicly.
In Gortat, 34, the Clippers get a 6-foot-11 center who averaged 8.4 points and 7.6 rebounds last season, his lowest marks since the 2009-10 season. Over his 12-year career, he’s averaged 10.2 points and 8.1 rebounds.
One plus for the Clippers is that he is in the final year of a contract that pays him $13.5 million next season. That gives them more financial flexibility to go after a big-name free agent next summer.
“We are excited to welcome Marcin Gortat to the Clippers, a respected player that brings years of NBA experience and additional toughness to this team,” Lawrence Frank, president of basketball operations, said in a statement. “We’ve been a fan of Marcin’s for some time and this decision will help rebalance the roster by adding another proven big man to the front court.”
Rivers, who will turn 26 on Aug. 1, averaged career highs in points (15.1), assists (4.0), three-point shooting (37.8%) and minutes per game (33.7) last season.
But in addition to the two first-round picks, the Clippers have five guards under contract: Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Jawun Evans, Sindarius Thornwell and Milos Teodosic, who exercised his $6.3-million option two days ago. But only $2.1 million is guaranteed if the Clippers buy him out before July 16.
Rivers dealt with a lot of controversy after being acquired by the Clippers during the 2014-15 season, when his father, Doc Rivers, was the president of basketball operations as well as head coach.
Doc Rivers was criticized for giving his son a three-year, $35-million contract in 2016. The criticism increased when it was reported that Doc Rivers had a chance to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks in 2017, but didn’t want to part with his son. Both Rivers said at the time that the reports were false.
Rivers emerged as starter last season, though the Clippers missed the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons amid injuries and roster turnover.
“Austin’s development as a player is a testament to his work ethic and desire to improve,” Frank said. “We experienced a lot of success with Austin and are grateful for his contributions during his four seasons.”
Clippers backup center Montrezl Harrell, who averaged 11 points in 17 minutes and ranked third in the NBA in field-goal percentage at 63.5%, is a restricted free agent. The Clippers hope to re-sign Harrell if his asking price is not too high.
The Clippers also have reserve center Boban Marjanovic under contract for one more season at $9.4 million. Marjanovic, who was acquired from Detroit in the Blake Griffin trade, played 39 games last season and averaged 6.0 points and 3.7 rebounds in 8.7 minutes a game.
The Clippers announced Tuesday they will play the Sydney Kings in an exhibition game on Sept. 30 at the Stan Sheriff Center at the end of training camp in Hawaii. Former NBA center Andrew Bogut, who played part of last season with the Lakers, is on the Sydney team.