Clippers ready for buyout market after deadline-day trade for two players
The Clippers wound up making their biggest move ahead of Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, six days before the buzzer.
After adding starting guard Norman Powell and reserve wing Robert Covington from Portland last week, a trade that set up Powell, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George as the Clippers’ three-wing core for the future, the franchise completed one more deal ahead of Thursday’s deadline by sending backup center Serge Ibaka to Milwaukee as part of a four-team trade.
The NBA has yet to make the deal official, but according to a person with knowledge of the terms, the Clippers received wings Rodney Hood and Semi Ojeyele from Milwaukee while creating a traded-player contract exception worth $9.7 million, which can be used to take in additional salary at a later date. It also trimmed $31 million off their luxury-tax bill, which now stands at $82 million.
The Clippers, who lost to the Dallas Mavericks 112-105 on Thursday, currently have the maximum 15 standard contracts, but roster construction remains fluid as the buyout market opens. There is a chance Hood and Ojeyele will stick with the roster going forward, but the team will also continue to weigh other opportunities that might emerge. No decision is deemed imminent, said the person with knowledge of the situation who is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. With the potential returns of the injured Leonard (knee) and George (elbow) unknown, the Clippers remain motivated to compete for playoff success this season, not simply building a championship contender in 2023.
The 6-foot-6 Ojeleye was a second-round pick by Boston in 2017 and is a 34% three-point shooter for his career, with averages of 2.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 26% shooting from deep this season with the Bucks. The 6-8 Hood, who played for Clippers coach Tyronn Lue in Cleveland, was in his first season with Milwaukee, where he had made 30% of his three-pointers and 35% of his shots from the fieldwhile averaging 14.9 minutes off the bench. The contracts of both players expire after this season.
Another decision awaiting the Clippers is what to do with reserve forward Amir Coffey, a vital part of their rotation since George’s injury in December. Coffey is on a two-way contract and only players on a standard deal are eligible for the postseason. The Clippers would need to clear one roster spot to give Coffey a standard contract.
The NBA trade deadline is noon on Thursday. Get the latest updates for the Lakers, Clippers and the league here with the Los Angeles Times.
Ibaka was a standout free-agency signing in November 2020, his addition allowing the Clippers to dream about using his rim protecting and long-range shooting to great effect. But injuries curbed his impact last season and after he rounded into shape last fall, Isaiah Hartenstein had quickly usurped his role as the consistent backup to starter Ivica Zubac because of his passing skills. By sending Ibaka to Milwaukee, the Clippers gave the veteran a landing spot where he could win a second championship.
At the Clippers’ shootaround Thursday morning in Dallas, Lue said he planned to use smaller lineups more often with a rotation utilizing three traditional 7-footers no longer necessary.
“That’s what I’m looking forward to is playing small a little bit, having [Covington] and Nico [Batum] and Marcus [Morris Sr.] and having some length to be able to throw on the floor,” Lue said. “We haven’t been in that situation having three centers that deserved to play.”
As part of the trade, the Sacramento Kings will receive Donte DiVincenzo, Trey Lyles and Josh Jackson while the Detroit Pistons will acquire Marvin Bagley Jr. The Bucks are getting Ibaka, second-round picks and cash, according to ESPN.
The Clippers (27-29) have a surplus of wings but a dearth of traditional ballhandlers. How the Clippers approach that need could be a tricky balance of gauging whether it makes sense to add a player to start the offense or continue to give backup wings such as Terance Mann and Coffey more opportunities to expand that area of their game. Lue said both Mann and Coffey had done a “good job” with the extra responsibility since the trade with Portland, which sent backup point guard Eric Bledsoe to Portland.
“A traditional point guard right now, we don’t have that so it’s my job to make sure we’re able to play a style of basketball that is productive for us and our second unit,” Lue said. “The guy who probably gets hurt more than anybody is probably Luke [Kennard] because of the sets we could run for him, but we’re going to figure it out with him, too, as well.
“But like I said, what [reserves] did last game especially in that second half, I thought they did a really good job.”
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