Two trades that will push Clippers, Raptors into contention
By Joshua Kelly
With the Feb. 18 trade deadline approaching fast, NBA fans can only pray that this year's deadline is just as impactful and entertaining as last year, where big name players, such as Michael Crater-Williams, Goran Dragic, Enes Kanter, Reggie Jackson, and Brandon Knight were all dealt.
This season, there are multiple teams that are looking to add talent to their existing rosters to make the push into the playoff conversation, or even the conversation of being a conference title contender. But the two teams that have the most to gain from a trade deadline acquisition, due to their current roster construction, are the Los Angeles Clippers andToronto Raptors.
Here are two possible trades that could push the Clippers and Raptors into serious conference contention.
*Note- The Suns will also receive the Clippers 2016 First Round Pick*
Why The Clippers Do It
Right now, the Clippers are in a peculiar spot where they have an exceptionally talented team that would be a contender in most years. But because of the historically excellent play of both Golden State and San Antonio, the Clips look to have almost no shot at winning the Western Conference with their current roster construction.
Just last season, Markieff Morris was averaging 15.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.2 steals a game, while also spacing the floor and providing solid defense. On the shot chart below, notice that Morris was knocking down over 33 percent of this three-point attempts that came above the break.
According to Brian Windhorst, in the total of 21 minutes and 42 seconds Morris has guarded Green in the halfcourt, Green has shot 4-14 from the field and 2-8 from three and has had a drive rate that is below his career average.
In a conference that seems to run through Golden State, having a defender who has had proven success against one of the league's most unguardable players, admittedly in a small sample size, is invaluable.
Receiving a player in Markieff Morris, who was playing excellent last season, in exchange for Lance Stephenson and a first round pick, which will most likely be in the late 20s, seems like a no-brainer for this Los Angeles franchise.
Every NBA team has a championship window, and it seems as if the Clippers are reaching the end of theirs with their current Big 3 of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. If the Clippers don't make a move before the trade deadline, it seems likely that they will see yet another first or second round exit.
Why The Suns Do It
In the span of just a year, the Suns have gone from one of the league's most interesting teams, experimenting with quirky three-point guard lineups and running at the leagues third fastest pace, to a team that is almost 20 games below .500 and has a "franchise player" who can't stay healthy.
Since the start of the season, Markieff Morris has been in the doghouse of Jeff Hornacek, who reportedly has been fired. Regularly collecting DNPs, Morris has been a complete non-factor for this awful Phoenix Suns basketball team. So the thought of this organization moving on from their disgruntled power forward to collect future assets seems logical.
A deal that would send both Stephenson and a first round pick to Phoenix seems like the most the Suns could get for a player who has had a nightmare season to say the least.
The Clippers 2016 first rounder will likely be in the late 20s, but over the last five years, players like Clint Capela, Rodney Hood, Rudy Gobert, Festus Ezeli, and Jimmy Butler have all fell to the end of the first round. Getting as many bites at the apple as possible is the best way for this Phoenix team to rebuild itself back into a playoff team.
Though Stephenson might not seem like the type of player Phoenix would look to acquire, he does have a team option for next season that the Suns would almost certainly decline, freeing up an extra $9 million in cap space.
The Suns have virtually no shot at making the playoffs this season with their best player, Eric Bledsoe, out for the year. Trading away Morris, who has been nothing more than a distraction and a bench warmer this season, for $9 million more in cap space and a first round pick seems like the most logical step for this organization to take before the trade deadline.
How This Affects The NBA Landscape
This trade will give the Clippers that extra piece they need to be considered in the same conversation of the elite Western Conference teams of Golden State, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City.
Having Morris will give the Clips more versatility to play small ball lineups and even sit Jordan in crunch time if needed. In a matchup with Golden State, when they play their "death lineup," having the ability to play Morris at the five and guard Draymond Green could be the difference between the Clippers pushing a series to seven games or getting destroyed 4-1.
*Note- The Pelicans will also receive the Raptors' 2016 first round pick*
Why The Raptors Do It
The Raptors are in the prototypical spot to make a win now move. Toronto is likely getting the best production they will ever see from Kyle Lowry and their other backcourt star, DeMar DeRozan, who is on the last year of his deal and is due for a huge pay raise.
The one glaring hole in this Raptors roster has been the power forward position. Having Patrick Patterson and Luis Scola play the majority of the power forward minutes just isn't going to cut it in a conference that runs through Cleveland.
While acquiring Ryan Anderson isn't going to improve anything on the defensive side of the floor, his elite shooting from the big man position could take this Toronto Raptors offense to new heights. Just check out what Anderson was able to do to the Kings this week:
Called the Brazilian Kevin Durant, Bruno Caboclo is a young player with tons of upside, but he doesn't fit the current time table of this Raptors team. While parting with their 2014 first round pick, Caboclo, with the future 2016 first round pick not being the most ideal, this team has a short window to make a push to the finals. And this is a trade that could push the Raptors into serious competition with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference crown.
Why The Pelicans Do It
New Orleans has been the NBA's biggest disappointment this season. After many believed the Pelicans had a shot at being a top-four seed this season, N.O. has fallen to over ten games under .500 and has the fourth-worst record in the Western Conference.
On the bright side, the Pelicans still have Anthony Davis, who looks to be a future MVP in the making. But New Orleans still needs to find way to surround their franchise player with young talent. This is why trading Anderson, who is on an expiring contract, is the perfect move for this Pelicans front office to make.
Gaining a lottery ticket wing in Caboclo and a future first round pick in exchange for a player who will be a free agent after this season is just the kind of deal this New Orleans Pelicans organization should be looking for in a year where their playoff hopes are practically gone. It is really as simple as that.
How This Affects The NBA Landscape
If the Raptors had a starting five of Lowry-DeRozan-Carrol-Anderson-Valanciunas, Toronto would have a legitimate shot at dethroning the Cleveland Cavaliers from atop the Eastern Conference, and if there happens to be another Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving injury, the Raptors might overcome the odds of winning the conference.
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