Now that LeBron James has opted out and will become a free agent on July 1, teams are having internal discussions to figure out which assets they have to offer in a potential trade to create the cap space required to offer LeBron a max deal. The Clippers are a dark horse in this race, but not everyone on their roster is available.
According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, one player the Clippers have deemed untouchable: Blake Griffin:
One player they have no interest in moving, however, is forward Blake Griffin. While the Clippers would need to move significant players and money to make a run at either James or Anthony, sources told ESPN that Clippers president and coach Doc Rivers has told Griffin on numerous occasions that he considers him “untouchable” in any trade.
The Clippers have $76 million committed in salaries for next season. That figure will decrease to $71.7 million after Darren Collison, Glen Davis and Danny Granger opt out of their contracts for next season, meaning the Clippers likely would have to trade some combination of prized young center DeAndre Jordan (one year, $11.4 million), Jared Dudley (three years, $12.1 million), Matt Barnes (three years, $10.1 million), Jamal Crawford (three years, $16.3 million) or J.J. Redick (four years, $27.7 million) to facilitate a deal.
It’s easy to see why the Clippers would take this stance regarding their 25-year-old power forward. Griffin is coming off a career year in which he averaged a career high 24.1 PPG and finished third in MVP voting.
While the Clippers could create cap space by trading a combination of other players as Shelburne notes above, teams may not be interested in a deal if they’re offering role players instead of a superstar.
For LeBron, the Clippers present a very interesting alternative should he choose to leave Miami. He has a very close relationship with Chris Paul off the court, and then there’s the fact he’s the best point guard in the league.
After battling the Celtics for so many years, LeBron is familiar with Doc Rivers and can trust a coach with a championship pedigree. There’s also the whole thing about sharing the spotlight in Los Angeles with Kobe Bryant, which would be a tantalizing storyline for everyone and present the Kobe vs. LeBron debate first-hand evidence.
We’re still in the very early stages of the LeBron sweepstakes, and until actual discussions between LeBron and the interested teams take place after midnight on July 1, we won’t hear too many concrete trade or free agency reports.
For now, the Clippers have made Griffin untouchable, but if they get the sense there’s actual interest from LeBron to play in Los Angeles, you would have to think the Clippers might budge on the stance they’ve taken. Then again, LeBron might not be interested in playing for the Clippers if Blake is traded away to open up room for him.
While it’s not every day you get a chance to acquire the best player in the league, the best player in the league wants to win, and the Clippers will have a much better chance at that if Blake is still on the team.
What do you think?
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