Getting here has been incredibly complicated, so let’s break this thing down by bullet points to keep it organized.
- Many different sources have reported that the Clippers have offered an unprotected first round draft pick in 2015 in exchange for Boston waiving Doc Rivers’ non-compete clause in his 5-year $35 million contract. This is essentially what the Celtics have been holding out for ever since David Stern made it clear that he would deny any deal that appeared to send players to Boston in exchange for Rivers.
- The deal (still) is not quite official, but it will go to the NBA in the morning for approval according to Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald. According to Marc Stein, the deal will be approved…
- BUT, also according to Stein, any other deal this summer between the Celtics and Clippers will NOT be approved by David Stern, potentially ruling out the possibility of Kevin Garnett joining Rivers in LA.
- The above bullet point is incredibly stupid. More in a minute.
- The Clippers believe that acquiring Doc Rivers will convince Chris Paul to sign a five-year maximum contract with them.
Those are the basics. Now let’s look a little bit deeper into some of these points.
First, and most importantly to Celtics fans, that 2015 unprotected pick is good compensation for a lot of reasons. For rebuilding teams, picks are essential both as avenues to acquire young talent and as potential trade chips. Unprotected picks are even better.
Second, although we certainly wouldn’t wish injuries on any player, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul haven’t shown they can consistently stay on the court, nor that they want to stay with the franchise. Worst case scenario: The Clippers are really good in 2015 (a distinct possibility), and the Celtics get a late first-rounder that they can use or flip. But a lot can happen in the span of two years, and there is no guarantee that a historically unlucky, badly-managed team like the Clippers will be successful during the 2014-’15 season. A good team on paper doesn’t necessarily translate to the court (just ask the Lakers). If the Clippers are bad, for whatever reason, no matter where that pick lands, it’s Boston’s.
As we mentioned above, the deal is probably going to go through, since it doesn’t involve any players being traded in exchange for Doc Rivers. Trading players for coaches is not legal under the current CBA, and the league office can reject a deal that it feels violates the CBA. So Stern will reject anything that appears to be tied to Rivers.
And again, as we mentioned above, this is patently stupid.
Let’s begin here: Doc Rivers for a future unprotected first-round pick is pretty fair, all things considered. Doc didn’t want to be on a rebuilding franchise, and he made that clear to the Celtics, allowing them to try to get some compensation using his non-compete. The Clippers, as we mentioned before, are not offering a player in exchange for Rivers. Instead, they are offering a pick that might be excellent or might be fine. We don’t really know, but either way, the Celtics are compensated for losing Rivers, especially when you consider that good players will ALWAYS be more important than good coaches in the NBA.
So far, so good.
Here’s the next question: Let’s say the Celtics offered the Clippers Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry in exchange for DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers would get a former all-star who is still an extremely heady defender capable of playing 20 all-star minutes per game; someone who would be a great pick-and-pop shooter in Chris Paul’s offense. They also can expect about five or six good games from Jason Terry, since that’s roughly what Boston got last season. In exchange, the Celtics would get cap relief and a young athletic center who they could either trade or try to develop. In fact, there’s a pretty good case to be made that the Clippers are the big winners of that deal, since they also would get out of Jordan’s large contract. But at the very least, both deals are defensible.
So we have two defensible deals between two teams. More importantly, they are defensible separately. Without the hearsay of anonymous sources leaking information to the media, the league offices have no proof that they are connected. I don’t have a hard time imagining that Stern would block such a deal, but I do have a hard time understanding exactly how he would be able to justify it.
Here’s the final point: Chris Paul re-signing with the Clippers is incredibly important to this deal, and it’s widely assumed that he will. But if, for whatever reason, he still decides to head out, Boston just robbed the Clippers, since they will probably be bad in 2015 and the pick will probably be pretty good.
It’s about time we all started rooting for CP3 and Dwight Howard to join forces in Atlanta.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.