The Los Angeles Clippers have been the best team in the NBA over the last two months. Do the Clippers need to do anything as the trade deadline approaches?
3 Players The Clippers Could Trade Before the Trade Deadline
After a rocky start to the James Harden-Clippers era, Los Angeles has been rolling. The Clippers improved to a league-best 24-5 since Dec. 1 with their 136-125 road victory over the Detroit Pistons last night. Kawhi Leonard led the way with 33 points on 12 of 17 shooting, including 6 of 8 from the 3-point line. It is Leonard’s third straight game of reaching the 30-point plateau.
Russell Westbrook also had a big game with 23 points on 10 of 13 shooting from the field and nine assists. However, his last basket was his biggest as he became the 25th player in NBA history to reach 25,000 points in his career.
“I’m so grateful to be on this team,” said Westbrook, who fouled Cade Cunningham after his basket and celebrated with his teammates at the bench. “I don’t take any of this for granted.”
"To see all the love and support here from the coaches, from my teammates… I'm truly grateful for that." -Russell Westbrook pic.twitter.com/nIPjwYUKWs
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) February 3, 2024
Health Has Been Key
Los Angeles has had NBA title aspirations since Paul George and Kawhi Leonard teamed up five seasons ago. The Clippers thought they had something special when they reached the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history in the duo’s second season together in 2019-20.
However, Leonard and George have failed to stay healthy since then. Until now.
Leonard and George have missed a combined nine games this season, and both players are on pace to play in over 60 games for the first time since joining the Clippers. Not surprising the duo are having arguably their best seasons with the organization.
Add Harden and Westbrook, now sharing the duties of running the offense; it is no surprise that the Clippers own the top-ranked offense over this two-month stretch.
The Clippers are averaging 121.2 points a game as they lead the league in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, and free throw percentage over this period. The Clippers also are second with a +8.3 scoring margin.
Overall, L.A. is one of the top offensive teams in the NBA, with six players averaging 11 or more points. The Clippers are strong defensively, ranking in the top 12 in most significant categories on that end. They also have one of the top starting units in the league.
However, L.A. could use another frontcourt player off the bench who can rebound as Ivica Zubac remains sidelined due to a right calf strain. Zubac has been out since Jan. 12 and won’t be re-evaluated until Feb. 12. Mason Plumlee and Daniel Theis are currently sharing center duties with Zubac out.
The Clippers could also use a veteran who can get after it defensively for the second unit.
Who Could The Clippers Use As a Trade Chip?
According to The Athletic’s Law Murray, the answer is a resounding yes. Murray named P.J. Tucker, Bones Hyland, and Brandon Boston Jr. as players the Clippers could use to facilitate a trade. Starting with Tucker.
Tucker has only played 12 games since coming over in the Harden trade, with his last appearance being on Nov. 12. However, Murray said that the Clippers believe Tucker could still contribute to a team depending on who he is paired with.
The problem with trading Tucker is that his appeal is limited, though Yahoo’s Jake Fischer believes the 38-year-old could be a fit for the Milwaukee Bucks, who are looking to improve their perimeter defense.
Since Harden’s arrival, Hyland has seen his role diminish to an end-of-bench player. But Hyland has been productive when he gets extended minutes. One possible destination recently mentioned for the 23-year-old point guard is Minnesota.
Fischer said that the Timberwolves are looking to upgrade their point guard depth, and Hyland has a connection to Wolves’ president of basketball operations Tim Connelly when both were in Denver.