Two days after signing Caron Butler to a 3 year, 24 million dollar deal, the Los Angeles Clippers made a historic move which would change the course of sports history. On December 12th, 2011, a distraught and downtrodden franchise submitted a trade to the league office for approval. In this trade, the Clippers would be receiving a top five player in the league in his prime. The player also happened to be the best Point Guard in the league. On December 12th, the New Orleans Hornets agreed to send Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers after trade talks with the Los Angeles Lakers fell through because of divine intervention (David Stern thinks he’s close right?).
The Clippers agreed to send Eric Gordon, a promising Shooting Guard, Al-Farouq Aminu, the 8th overall pick in the 2010 draft, Chris Kaman, an above average Center who had been with the Clippers for over 7 years, and Minnesota’s unprotected first round pick in the upcoming draft to the Hornets in exchange for the superstar Point Guard. This was a hefty price to pay but it is what superstars cost. This trade changed the future of the Los Angeles Clippers and turned them into the contender they are today. Looking back, though, there was another trade that was even more franchise-altering that occurred ten months earlier…
On February 24th, 2011, the Los Angeles Clippers made a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Baron Davis, the Clippers’ Point Guard at the time, had largely underperformed on his enormous contract. The trade deadline was approaching and the Clippers wanted to unload that contract off of their books to clear some salary cap space. The Cleveland Cavaliers were in the midst of their worst season in years after Lebron James departed to South Beach. The Los Angeles Clippers offered to send Baron Davis to the Cavaliers in exchange for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon.
The catch was that the Clippers also had to send their unprotected first round pick in the upcoming draft to the Cavaliers to make the deal worth accepting. At the time, the Clippers had no idea that their first round pick would turn out to be the first pick in the upcoming draft. At the time, the Clippers had no idea that in the approaching lockout an amnesty provision would be included. At the time, the Clippers had no idea that Kyrie Irving would be Kyrie Irving. The only thing the Clippers knew at the time was that Baron Davis had an enormous contract, the approaching draft was supposedly incredibly weak, and the pick was in line to be the 8th pick at the time of the trade.
Thanks to a lucky lottery bounce for the Cavaliers, the Clippers pick ended up being the 1st pick in the 2011 draft. Thanks to this luck, the Cavaliers secured the right to draft Kyrie Irving, a highly touted Point Guard who had just undergone an injury-prone freshman season at Duke University. But what if this trade had never occurred? What if the Clippers had hung onto Baron Davis and the pick? Where would the Clippers be today?
For argument’s sake, let’s say the Los Angeles Clippers never make the Chris Paul trade since they drafted Kyrie Irving to be the Point Guard of the future with the first pick in the previous draft. Once the lockout ended, they amnestied Baron Davis to get his contract erased. At this point, the Clippers have Kyrie Irving, the first overall pick, at Point Guard with Eric Bledsoe, a promising player as well, backing him up. At Shooting Guard, the Clippers still have Eric Gordon to man the position. At Small Forward, the Clippers have a combination of Al-Farouq Aminu and Caron Butler. At the Power Forward position, the Clippers have Blake Griffin, the first overall pick in the 2009 draft. Finally, at the Center position, the Clippers have longtime Center Chris Kaman with DeAndre Jordon backing him up. In addition, the Clippers have the 10th pick in the strong 2012 draft class to fill another need. Players available at the time included Austin Rivers, Jeremy Lamb, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Kendall Marshall, and Jared Sullinger among others. The new Clippers rotation could look something like this:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Eric Gordon
SF: Caron Butler
PF: Blake Griffin
C: Chris Kaman
6th: Eric Bledsoe
7th: DeAndre Jordon
8th: Al-Farouq Aminu
9th: Jeremy Lamb (hypothetically)
This is a team with so much youth, potential, and a good bit of cap space due to having 7 of their 9 main players on rookie deals. So, which team is better and which one would you rather have: the Chris Paul Clippers or the Kyrie Irving Clippers?