With the playoffs around the corner, the Los Angeles Clippers have clinched a spot in the play-in tournament despite a year of injuries. All this, just a day after Robert Covington dropped 11 threes en route to 43 points. Covington came to Southern California on a deadline deal, alongside Norman Powell, and has many Clipper faithful wonder if that is the biggest steal the franchise has received in a trade. Here are five trades in which, I believe, the Clippers ended up on the winning side, by a long margin.
Marko Jaric/Sam Cassell Swap with Minnesota
When this trade was announced, social media was still in infancy, with MySpace (Hi Tom!) and Xanga leading the way. As a result, fans had to resort to smashing their F5 button on ESPN.com or InsideSoCal.com/Clippers, hoping to see the update on any move. And this one had a few incorrect updates until the final news came out.
Initial reports had the Clippers attaching a first round pick to make the swap. Well, those reports were incorrect as Los Angeles convinced the Wolves front office that the draft night hype of Jaric being superior to one Manu Ginobili was existent. In hindsight, it’s easy to point out, but reports also leaked out that Los Angeles didn’t have interest in retaining the Serbian point guard, which made extracting a first round selection that much more impressive.
Cassell led the Clippers to a playoff berth during his debut season, helping elevate the game of one Elton Brand, and if it weren’t for a comedy of errors, could have been the floor general to lead Los Angeles to the Western Conference finals. Instead, they lost in seven to the Steve Nash-led Phoenix Suns.
Jaric signed a six year deal with the Wolves valued at $40 million, lasting only three years before being a throw-in the Kevin Love/OJ Mayo trade and ultimately being waived by Memphis after a year.
Then, when you also consider that the first round selection that was received from Minnesota was a key cog in acquiring Chris Paul, and it becomes a no-brainer that the Clippers absolutely won the trade and Jaric belongs in the Clipper Hall of Fame for his impact.
Elton Brand/Tyson Chandler
Despite his despicable exit from the franchise, Elton Brand is among the greatest players to ever don the Clippers jersey and will go down as one of the most underrated players to play the game of basketball. Los Angeles was able to snag the services of the work-horse by giving up the second overall selection in the draft along with Brian Skinner.
Looking back without hindsight, despite the spectacular first two years Brand had put up in Chicago, the Clippers were in peak position to add Tyson Chandler, a local kid to the roster. Instead, they went with the former Blue Devil, and it was an absolute steal. Unfortunately, Elgin Baylor and Donald Sterling didn’t care about winning and Brand appeared in a single playoff run with the team.
Ivica Zubac/Mike Muscala
Muscala wasn’t even a Clipper for a full day before the Clippers re-routed him to the other locker room in Staples Center, by swapping him for the services of Ivica Zubac. At the time, this had many pundits confused, and rightfully so, that the Lakers not only gave Zubac, a promising young big man, away for such a bargain price, but, apparently, were the ones to call their neighbors and present the offer.
Since then, Muscala had a disappointing stint in the purple and gold, while Zu has been a mainstay for a Clippers team that is remaining in the playoff hunt despite injuries and made the franchise’s first conference finals.
Youth for Chris Paul
Any trade involving a disgruntled superstar and a bevy of youth could end up with either side being victors. Had Paul left the Clippers after a season, and Eric Gordon met his potential of being a star, this would have been one of the worst trades in franchise history.
Alas, that didn’t end up being the case, as Gordon wasn’t happy in New Orleans, Chris Kaman was on the way down and Al Farouq-Aminu didn’t reach his potential. Not to mention, that first round pick mentioned above in the Jaric-Cassell deal, ended up later than expected, with the Pelicans taking Austin Rivers (who, in all honesty, was one of the greatest HS players to step on the court).
While, Paul led the Clippers to the playoffs, year in and year out, despite not being able to get past the second round for a variety of reasons. Upon his exit, Paul was also able to help net the Clippers rebuild with Los Angeles ending up with Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and a first round pick.
Los Angeles had a young sharpshooter they were high on, in Landry Shamet. That didn’t hinder Lawrence Frank and Co from scouring the trade market on draft night, and were able to turn Shamet and McGruder into Kennard and four second round picks.
Now, just upgrading to Kennard was a win in itself, but the adding of draft picks, albeit second rounders, to try to fill up a bare empty cupboard was an amazing move by the front office. All this while Kennard has been a great addition and was the three point shoot out runner up.