On the day he was officially hired as the Clippers’ new head coach, Doc Rivers insisted he was content with the team he inherited. But he also knew it was subject to change.
The Clippers had needs, and Tuesday they appeared to solve two of them.
They had to deal away their most valuable trade chip in dynamic point guard Eric Bledsoe, but that’s the cost of doing business in the NBA. The Clippers lost a rising star, but they added the offensive help they wanted.
The three-way trade that will bring shooting guard J.J. Redick from the Milwakee Bucks in a sign-and-trade and small forward Jared Dudley from the Phoenix Suns for Bledsoe and veteran forward Caron Butler was precisely what they were seeking.
In exchange for Redick, the Bucks will get second-round picks each from the Clippers and Suns.
That’s not a bad trade-off.
The Clippers wanted size and scoring punch in their backcourt to go with point guard Chris Paul, whose five-year max free-agent contract should be official next week. Redick, who reportedly has agreed to a four-year, $27-million deal with the Clippers, is a 6-foot-4 guard who averaged 15.1 points last season and is a career 39-percent shooter from 3-point distance.
The deal has been widely reported, but cannot be made official until the NBA moratorium ends July 10.
Last season, Paul was teamed primarily with 36-year-old Chauncey Billups, a transformed point guard who missed 60 games because of injuries but still gave the Clippers a veteran presence in the locker room and on the bench. The Clippers have shown interest in re-signing Billups, who is a free agent, but he might prefer to join a team with whom he can start rather than come off the bench.
They were expected to trade Bledsoe at some point because he’ll begin the final season of his rookie deal next season. He wants to start, so with Paul on board, there was little question that Bledsoe would depart through free agency in 2014. The Clippers got a good deal for him now, although they’re currently without a backup to Paul.
Dudley, a 6-foot-7 swingman, will probably take over Butler’s starting spot at small forward. Dudley, 27, is six years younger than Butler and averaged 10.9 points last season for the Suns on 47-percent shooting. Alvin Gentry, who was added to Rivers’ coaching staff, coached Dudley at Phoenix.
Right now, the Clippers’ starting five looks to be Paul and Redick at guard, DeAndre Jordan at center and Blake Griffin and Dudley at forward. Jamal Crawford, who was arguably the best sixth man in the league last season, remains the team’s primary reserve.
The Clippers are hoping to bring back forward Matt Barnes, who is a free agent, but Barnes is looking for a sizable increase from the $1.2 million he made last season. The Lakers are also said to be interested in Barnes, who played for them the previous two seasons before signing with the Clippers in 2012.
Rivers is barely a week into his first term as coach and senior vice president of basketball operations, he has already made this much clear: He likes his team, but if he believes it can get better, he’s ready to deal.