Well, it didn’t involve LeBron, but we received somewhat exciting NBA news on Tuesday that has ramifications for one of the biggest free agents on the market.
The Los Angeles Clippers have agreed to trade guard Austin Rivers to the Washington Wizards in exchange for center Marcin Gortat, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, which immediately raises questions about the future of Clippers center DeAndre Jordan in Los Angeles.
The son of Clippers coach Doc Rivers, Austin Rivers averaged a career-high 15.1 points and 4.0 assists per game last season, while shooting 38 percent from the 3-point line. He saw an uptick in minutes due to significant Clipper injuries, and his efficiency suffered with his newfound offensive responsibility (42 percent on a career-high 13.2 field goal attempts per game).
Gortat, meanwhile, seemed to have worn out his welcome in Washington. The writing seemed to be on the proverbial wall, when franchise point guard John Wall said after their first-round playoff exit that they needed to upgrade to an “athletic big.” The 6-11, 34-year-old Gortat is entering his 12th NBA season, and averaged 8.4 points and 7.6 rebounds last year, his lowest marks since joining the Wizards for the 2013-14 season.
Rivers will address another concern that Wall brought up — scoring off the bench. Despite his flaws, Rivers is able to put the ball in the bucket and plays hard defensively, which will be an upgrade over Tim Frazier and Tomas Satoransky, who got the bulk of the backup point guard minutes last season.
Trading a wing for a traditional big man is rare in today’s NBA, and the Clippers aren’t saving any money in the deal, so you have to assume that Gortat is being used as a potential replacement for Jordan — who has the ability to opt out of his $24.1 million contract for next season.
Jordan, 30, has value as a rim-protecting, lob-catching 7-footer capable of switching onto perimeter players, but if he believes he won’t command more than $24 million on the open market, he can always opt into his deal. That would be ideal for the Clippers, since they would have the option of trading Jordan for assets instead of losing him for nothing via free agency.
If Jordan leaves, this trade puts the final fork in the old guard of the “Lob City” Clippers, with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin already traded away. Dealing Rivers will open up playing time for Clippers rookie guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson, who were selected 11th and 13th, respectively, in last week’s NBA draft. Gortat, who has one year and $13.6 million left on his contract, will be a place-holder while Los Angeles looks for a long-term solution at center.
With Tuesday’s trade, it certainly appears that Jordan’s Clippers days are numbered.