Clippers should feel relieved Brogdon trade fell through

The Clippers dodged a bullet with the failed Malcolm Brogdon trade, but where do they go from here?

LOS ANGELES — A week before the frenetic free-agency period began, the Clippers already tried to make big moves to their roster. A day before the NBA Draft took place, the Clippers then made decisions that will now require them to go back to the drawing board.

In a three-team trade with the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards, the Clippers initially planned to acquire a proven veteran point guard (Malcolm Brogdon). In exchange, the Clippers would have sent a promising young player (Amir Coffey), a formerly dependable veteran that fell out of the rotation (Marcus Morris) and their No. 30 pick to Washington. After Kristaps Porzingis would have opted into the final year of his $36 million contract, Washington would have traded him to Boston for Danilo Gallinari. Before all teams finalized those trades, ESPN first reported that talks fell apart.

So what happened? Well, the Clippers had misgivings that made this trade a red flag in the first place. Substack’s Marc Stein reported the Clippers raised concerns about Brogdon’s injury status, a legitimate issue considering that Brogdon reportedly played through a partially torn tendon in his right arm during the playoffs. Brogdon also had a checkered injury history through his seven-year NBA career. Nonetheless, Clippers were not included in subsequent trade talks after those inquiries. ESPN reported that Washington completed the deal to include Memphis sending guard Tyus Jones to the Wizards.

The Clippers should feel fortunate the deal fell apart. They could have inherited a new point guard that could have bolstererd the team on and off-the-court. The 31-year-old Brogdon has become dependable with his shooting, playmaking and positional versatility. Brogdon has earned respect for thriving both as a starter and a reserve, including winning last season’s NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award.

Yet, the Clippers could have hardly afforded to add another key player that could have just made the trainer’s room more crowded. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and their supporting cast have all failed to stay healthy for the past four seasons. So why should the Clippers have added a player that has also struggled with staying durable? Additionally, the Clippers had wanted to maintain flexibility with retaining Russell Westbrook in free agency and possibly adding Chris Paul in a trade. So why would they add another point guard that could disrupt their cap space and their depth chart?

It seemed understandable the Clippers would want to part ways with Morris, bringing a disappointing albeit necessary end to a 3 ½ year stint. It started with promise as Morris showcased his value with his athleticism and ability to defend players both bigger and smaller than him. It ended with Morris failing to produce as consistently as he could.

Yet, parting ways with Morris would have also come at the cost of sacrificing other assets. The Clippers would have lost a No. 30 pick that could been used on an intriguing young prospect in Thursday’s Draft. The Clippers would have dealt Coffey, who morphed from a two-way player to a key part of the rotation that likely would have earned more playing time. And the Clippers wouldn’t have had dependable options at power forward with Robert Covington and Nicolas Batum past their prime.

Clearly, the Clippers have plenty of work ahead on their roster. In addition toward pivoting to plan B, they also have to deal with the potential fallout with current players that they nearly dealt. Regardless of how professional an established veteran (Morris) or a young player (Coffey) might react to a trade, that could still affect the team dynamic should they stay on board. It could also affect those players’ trade value in potential future deals.

This won’t mirror the difficult aftermath the Lakers experienced in 2011 after the NBA nixed the Paul trade. This simply involved trade talks falling apart among teams, a typical development that happens to the players’ knowledge without it becoming widely reported. The Clippers can recover quickly, whether it entails actually using the No. 30 pick on a young player or pursuing future deals. Considering the Clippers have made at least one trade on draft night from 2015 to 2021, expect the Clippers to remain aggressive leading into Thursday’s draft. They have plenty of needs to address with adding another point guard spot and backup center.

That illustrates why it’s understandable the Clippers pursued Brogdon in the first place.

Though the Clippers have always valued wings and positional versatility, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue and his players often conceded they needed a traditional point guard. Brogdon fit that criteria, which would have reduced Leonard and George from playmaking duties and ensure themselves more efficient looks. It would be nieve to think Leonard and George won’t labor with injuries moving forward. Hence, it won’t be surprising if the Clippers delay on granting either player an extension since both have two years left on their contract. Yet, it’s reasonable to think those injuries won’t be as pervasive as they were in recent seasons. Leonard will be two years removed from having surgery on a torn ACL in his right knee, an injury that usually requires 18 months before feeling as effective as before the injury. George’s right knee ailment stemmed in an advertent collision with Oklahoma City forward Lu Dort in late March. Just like when they considered adding Brogdon, the Clippers should prioritize finding a player that best suits how Leonard and George play.

In the meantime, the Clippers have some other decent options. Should the Wizards waive the 38-year-old Paul, perhaps Paul accepts a reduced role in hopes to win his first NBA title. Perhaps Westbrook accepts a veteran’s minimum deal because of how well the Clippers helped revitalize his career following the tumultuous 1 ½ seasons with the Lakers. Maybe both scenarios happen. If not, the Clippers have enough depth to scour the landscape.

It’s never ideal to part ways with a trusted veteran, a promising young player or a draft pick. But here’s the underlying reality. Morris’ best days are behind him. Even if Coffey deserved more playing time, the Clippers acquired so much depth that they had several roster redundancies. The 30th pick could yield an intriguing young prospect, but likely none that could substantially upgrade the team or log significant minutes. Therefore, the Clippers should still gauge the market on what those assets can attract.

The Clippers need to make moves while their championship window stays open. Therefore, it seemed necessary and understandable for the Clippers to make their first step the way they did even amid the uncertainty. Thankfully for the Clippers, though, they pivoted once they realized the move was not worth the cost of doing business.

Mark Medina covers the NBA for The Sporting Tribune. Follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.