mid all the crazy scuttlebutt going around the league, there emerges a rumor that makes sense: Eric Bledsoe to the Utah Jazz; Paul Millsap to the Los Angeles Clippers. In this case, you have two teams motivated by very different things, or at least they should be.
First, the rumored Clippers-Jazz trade can't happen in its most basic form. Millsap makes $6.9 million more than Bledsoe, and both teams are well over the cap. In fact, the Clippers are hard-capped at $74.3 million. If you try to sneak that deal past the Trade Machine, it will actually swear at you. So what might an actual trade look like? The Jazz aren't going to want to take on too much money beyond this season. A package of the Clippers' lesser contracts would gut the roster and really, the only player that makes sense is Caron Butler, who is due to make $8 million this season and next season, and is expendable.
Utah can easily absorb Butler's dollars if it means landing its point guard of the future. And the Clippers are covered at the 3 with Grant Hill, Matt Barnes and even Millsap in stretches. The move keeps the Clippers under the hard cap and even reduces their tax bill a bit, so that's the deal: Bledsoe and Butler for Millsap.
Adding Paul Millsap would likely enhance the Clippers' chances of keeping Chris Paul long-term.
We start with the Jazz, because if this deal is really on the table, it's a no-brainer from Utah's perspective. The move allows the Jazz to balance a frontcourt-heavy roster in the long term, while plugging a big hole at point guard. The Jazz currently roster three veteran point guards -- Jamaal Tinsley, Mo Williams and Earl Watson -- and all those deals expire after the season. They've got recent lottery picks at each of the other four positions on the floor. Bledsoe is already better than any point guard on the Jazz. The fit is almost too good to be true.
Meanwhile, the contracts of Millsap and fellow big man Al Jefferson expire after the season. With the frontcourt of the future in place in center Enes Kanter and power forward Derrick Favors, and energetic reserve Jeremy Evans on hand, someone's got to go. Because of Millsap's superior versatility, you'd think the preference would be to keep him over Jefferson, unless the Jazz plan to move on from both players. However, if the return is a lead guard the caliber of Bledsoe, you do what you have to do to make that work.
The Jazz could be looking at a young lineup of Bledsoe, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Favors and Kanter, with Evans off the bench. All of those players are on rookie contracts or, in the case of Evans, a cheap second-round pact. Other than that, you're obligated only to Butler and Marvin Williams, who has a player option for next season. The Jazz could have more room under the cap than any other team in the league while still featuring a full lineup of promising young players.
On top of all that, the Jazz will likely have two first-round picks in the coming draft, its own and Golden State's. For years, the Jazz have been accused of being willing to settle for a place in the league's upper middle class with winning records and playoff berths ensured but championships out of the realm of possibility. This is Utah's chance to escape that cycle.
There have been and will be other trade whispers about Utah, involving Millsap, Jefferson or both. However, no team can offer the Jazz an asset more exciting and more fitting than Bledsoe. With or without a Bledsoe trade, the Jazz can complete the makeover former general manager Kevin O'Conner started by dealing Deron Williams to the Nets two years ago. There is virtually no way they can make a bad trade, especially since no trade at all is a viable option. There is no downside to acquiring Bledsoe.
Los Angeles Clippers: What exactly are they trying to fix?
Besides this deal, there have been Kevin Garnett-to-Los Angeles rumors that won't die no matter how many times K.G. swears he won't waive his no-trade clause. Also, apparently the Clippers' front office doesn't like the idea either, so we can probably ignore that scenario.
It's a mystery why the Clippers would want to change anything at all. They're within hailing distance of the best record in the league and have 15 of their final 26 games at home. L.A. is 33-11 with Chris Paul in the lineup and if they improve that percentage just a tad, 60 wins is a possibility. Remember, this is a franchise that has never won 50 games in a season. The roster goes 11 deep, leaving Hill without a regular role when everyone is healthy. That's the Clippers' biggest "problem."
Why would you want to mess with that? In the long term, there is concern over the large contract that Bledsoe will eventually earn. That's not going to come until the summer of 2014, when he hits restricted free agency. While Bledsoe's trade value may be at an apex right now, there is also a possibility that it's going to go even higher after a high-profile playoff run.
Then there is Paul's impending free agency. There is no reason to believe Paul wants out, and the Clippers can offer more money and more years than any suitor on the market. There is also no guarantee that Paul will re-sign. With Bledsoe bound to the Clippers for one more season under his rookie deal, it makes little sense on the surface to move him now. Millsap, as mentioned, will be a free agent and may not be too keen to sign on for several years as Blake Griffin's backup.
The Clippers may be poking around the trade market just to send this message to Paul: They are doing everything possible to win now. Veteran players love other veteran players, and maybe L.A. sees a high profile acquisition like Millsap as a way to enhance their chances to keep their best player.
That theory aside, the most likely reason the Clippers make such a deal is that they believe it gives them a better postseason team. For that, they must reason that Millsap helps them match up better with San Antonio and Oklahoma City. That's a supposition we can at least test.
Right now, I've got the Clippers' power rating at 58.1, which leaves them about 1.5 games behind the Thunder and five games behind the red-hot Spurs. Using the teams as constructed, I ran 300 simulations with playoff-type rotations, playing each game on a neutral floor.
The Clippers won 49 percent of their games against the Thunder, and 45 percent against the Spurs. On paper, there is a definite gap but clearly L.A. would have more than a fighting chance to win either, or both, series. So far this season, the Clippers have lost both games against the Thunder and won both against the Spurs. There is a case to be made for standing pat.
Now let's make believe that Bledsoe and Butler for Millsap swap goes down. What happens? It helps. The Clippers now beat the Thunder 53 percent of the time and almost exactly break even with the Spurs. In terms of bottom-line value, Millsap (.608 winning percentage) is almost a dead ringer for Bledsoe (.602) and would be able to find more minutes in a playoff rotation. The Clippers would also get a nice statistical boost from shifting Butler's minutes to Barnes.
It's not an easy call. The Clippers are in a very tenuous position when it comes to balancing win-now mode with the long-term prospects of the franchise. Even the potential short-term gain I just illustrated is merely theoretical, and the Clippers only need to look at their Staples Center co-tenant to see how the theoretical doesn't always translate to the court.
However, if there really is an on-court gain to be made, then you can argue it strengthens the bid to keep Paul, and there is no more important piece to the Clippers long-term puzzle than that. Los Angeles may be able to best position itself in the long run by maximizing their chances in the short run.
Trade makes sense to most all pundits,,but not to most Clipper fans.
http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/ ... dsoe-trade