The Lakers dominated the early part of the NBA’s trade season, with agent Rich Paul banging a drum to get one star client, Anthony Davis, to play in Los Angeles with another star client, LeBron James, and the Lakers.
The trade request was public. The trade offers were public. The rebuttals, public. The counter-proposals, public.
The behemoth Lakers flexed their substantial asset muscles in their pursuit of Davis.
And across town, the Clippers’ front office stormed into trade season like a ninja.
Late Tuesday night, the Clippers put themselves into the Davis chase, if they want to be, by sending Tobias Harris and two other players to Philadelphia in a deal that netted them the 76ers’ 2020 first-round pick, Miami’s 2021 unprotected first-round pick and the 76ers’ first-round pick from 2018, Landry Shamet, in addition to a package of players.
It’s a bold move. The Clippers were No. 8 in the Western Conference standings and just 2½ games out of the No. 5 spot when they made the deal. If they don’t add talent before Thursday’s noon PST trade deadline, they’ll almost surely fall out of the playoff race.
What this deal shows is that making the playoffs isn’t a goal for the Clippers. No, this regime with owner Steve Ballmer, with consultant Jerry West, with Lawrence Frank as president of basketball operations, is a front office that is in it for championships.
By trading a good player in Harris — someone who very well could earn close to a max salary after the best season of his career — the Clippers have the assets to trade for a superstar in addition to the salary cap room to sign another this summer.
Does this mean they’ll get involved in talks for Davis? Not necessarily. But they could. They’ve got the trade chips.
Rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has impressed scouts around the league even if he struggled in January. The Heat’s 2021 pick the Clippers acquired has a chance to possibly be a No. 1 selection. And Shamet is shooting better than 40% from three-point range this season as a rookie.
Add in Philadelphia’s first-round pick, add in young players like Montrezl Harrell, add in vets with value around the league like Lou Williams, and the Clippers should be able to get the attention of the Pelicans or any other team with a superstar who wants to try to force his way to Los Angeles.
If it’s not Davis, it could be the next superstar.
The Lakers are on the verge of disarray — from a heated scene in the team’s locker room after a loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday to an absolute thumping in Indiana on Tuesday against a Pacers team that didn’t have its best player and had played the night before. LaVar Ball weighed in by doing radio appearances trying to sabotage the deal with New Orleans.
The Clippers? They pulled this off quietly, without rumor, without drama.