On the eve of the 2011 NBA Trade Deadline and after a long day that began with a completely surprising Deron Williams trade in the morning, the Cavaliers and Clippers exchanged two former All-Star point guards in Baron Davis and Mo Williams an hour before midnight Pacific.
Davis has been an inconsistent star with a burdensome contract and Williams was an All-Star creation from playing with LeBron James, so this is really an exchange of point guards on inflated contracts and team needs.
Davis has unquestionably been energized by the rookie excellence of Blake Griffin. He has looked a little bit more explosive, but he's almost 32 and on his last big contract culminating a career where he has turned off and on the switch when it has suited his whims. Davis could be one of the most electric players in the game when he was on, but he isn't that guy anymore even when he wants to be.
But Davis had some playmaking left in the tank depending on the night and the Clippers lose that in exchange for Williams, who will spread the floor with his perimeter shooting and won't freeze out Eric Gordon, which is something Davis did with too much frequency. In terms of the present, Williams and Davis are fairly even in terms of total contribution but the former is inherently more trustworthy to stick to the script.
We all know Blake Griffin is the earth, the moon and the stars for the Clippers, but Gordon fits in somewhere in that equation as well and he will be the single biggest beneficiary.
The jump Gordon has made this season has been one of the most frequently overlooked story-lines of the entire NBA season. He is hurt now, but Griffin went from a 16.9 points per 36 minute scorer to 22.9 points per 36 minutes while actually increasing his overall efficiency. Leaps like that in the third-year are extremely encouraging and it can't be overstated how difficult it is to score at that rate in the NBA night after night.
The savings for the Clippers, particularly in regards to their cap space for 2012, is absolutely significant. Gordon will begin his extension that season so his cap number will at least double and DeAndre Jordan will presumably be re-signed, but there will be ample cap space available for a max contract if they continue on this current strategy. Between Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams, someone should take the max contract, the opportunity to play with Griffin and Gordon, living in Los Angeles and the allure of finally making the Clippers a perennial title contender.
Davis had a contract that was extremely difficult to move, but this trade succeeds in that aim while adding a player who helps in the present in Williams. The cost of giving up a first round pick in this draft that will be in the top half of the draft is offset by the fact that they still own Minnesota's for 2012.
Looking ahead into the future, Chris Kaman's expiring contract, a re-signed DeAndre Jordan, the unprotected Minnesota pick and filler for Dwight or Paul is a very realistic proposition for the Clippers.
The Clippers are becoming ambitious and also becoming savvy with those ambitions, with perfect timing considering the core they possess. The trajectory of this franchise finally matches the aspirations of their arena co-tenant.
The only thing standing in the way of that direction is their glaring need at small forward, which could jump ahead in the prioritization if the right one becomes available before those big 'maybes' have a chance to decide upon the Clippers.
Grade for Clippers: A
For the Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert has spent a lot of money to purchase an unprotected lottery pick in a draft that is widely expected to be one of the weakest in recent memory. Considering teams routinely pay $3 million for picks in the 20s, paying low eight-figures for a lottery pick isn't a bad financial proposition if your owner has the intestinal fortitude for it.
There will be an All-Star here and a 10-year starter there, but the 2011 NBA Draft could be historically weak, especially due to labor uncertainty potentially keeping many underclassmen in school.
But having two lottery picks in a single year is a good recipe to expedite a rebuild. We saw Sam Presti build something special around Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, but this is a draft of Jeff Greens and no Durants. The Bulls used the same strategy to pair Tyson Chandler with Eddy Curry and that didn't work out very well.
All of a sudden importing Kyrie Irving and Perry Jones or Terrence Jones, or some other sort of combination can change the direction quickly and this is a certainly an opportunistic trade from Cleveland's perspective.
Grade for Cavaliers: A-