After selecting and promptly signing shooting guard Keon Johnson, point guard Jason Preston and small forward Brandon “Don’t Call Me BJ” Boston from last month’s NBA draft — not to mention re-signing veteran combo guard Reggie Jackson — the L.A. Clippers backcourt is, at the moment, bursting at the seams.
This abundance, plus what will undoubtedly be a long road to recovery for Kawhi Leonard’s surgically repaired knee, possibly keeping him sidelined the entire season, has given rise to speculation that a substantial trade involving multiple guards is on the way.
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The Clippers had been linked to San Antonio free agent DeMar DeRozan, hopeful that the 12-year veteran and the Spurs would agree to a sign-and-trade that would return him to his hometown of Los Angeles. But last week, after a quick change of heart, DeRozan agreed instead to sign with the Chicago Bulls. (The deal is a sign-and-trade after all, sending Thaddeus Young and Al-Farouq Aminu to San Antonio.)
Rumors have also circulated around a swap for embattled Sixers star Ben Simmons, who is reportedly interested in playing in California. But that could be a difficult lever for L.A. to pull given Philadelphia is allegedly intent on receiving several first-rounders as part of any deal, something the Clippers lack access to until 2027.
And now, a new report indicates that the Clippers have their eye on Toronto’s Pascal Siakam. But that, too, could be more sizzle than steak.
Siakam Has ‘No Desire’ to Leave Toronto
On Monday, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee, citing a source with knowledge of the Toronto situation, reported that Raptors’ team president Masai Ujiri is fielding “numerous calls” from several teams about a possible Siakam trade.
The source told Anderson that of all the teams with interest, the Clippers, along with the Kings and Warriors, are especially “enamored” with the 6-foot-9 power forward who, in 2019, was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player while playing alongside Leonard and Clippers center Serge Ibaka in Toronto. The Raptors, of course, won the NBA title that season, and the following year, without Leonard, Siakam was selected All-NBA second team.
Anderson, however, was quick to note that any potential suitors should not get their hopes up.
“A trade is possible, but not likely, the source said, adding Siakam has no desire to be moved despite the possibility of a rebuilding situation in Toronto,” Anderson wrote.
But players who don’t want to be traded get moved all the time. And with the recent departure of longtime point guard Kyle Lowery to the Heat and Toronto’s selection of Florida State forward Scottie Barnes — viewed by some as Siakam’s eventual replacement — at 4th overall in this year’s draft, the Raptors could look to capitalize on the interest in Siakam.
This may be especially true given that Siakam, who suffered a slight downturn last season — averaging 21.4 points and shooting just 29.7% from three, versus 22.9 and 35.9% in 2020 — is owed $106 million over the next three years, according to Spotrac. That’s a lot of bread for a team that doesn’t project to be a title contender for at least a couple of years.
Siakam also underwent surgery last May to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. The surgery was reportedly successful and Siakam is expected to return to action shortly after the start of next season, but it might make the Raptors think twice about bringing him back at such a high price tag.
Of course, it might also make the Clippers or any other team think twice about bringing Siakam on, but if Anderson’s source is to be believed, that’s clearly not a roadblock for L.A, who are looking to fill the scoring void Leonard’s absence will create.
Lack of First-Round Picks Could Be Deal-Breaker
As with Philly and Simmons, the biggest impediment to a deal being done could be the Clippers lack of first-round draft picks. In discussing what Toronto might want back from the Kings (he writes for the Sacramento Bee, after all), Anderson floats the idea of two players (Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III) and “one or more future first-round draft picks.”
The Clippers could probably fit the bill when it comes to players, but the first-rounders would be impossible, short of acquiring them first in a different deal, which seems unlikely.
But if the Raptors were open to a player-only deal, the Clippers could offer them a plethora of guards, and perhaps even big man Ivica Zubac, dependent upon L.A.’s confidence in a strong return from Ibaka, who underwent back surgery in June.
A deal that moved Patrick Beverley ($14.3 million), Luke Kennard ($12.7 million) and Zubac ($7.5 million) for Siakam’s $33 million would work in terms of money.
The Raptors would get a solid 3-point shooter in Kennard, whose 44.6% from long distance last season would make him the most accurate amongst Toronto’s current roster, as well as aggressive defense and positional rebounding from Beverley and Zubac. Last season, the Raptors ranked 15th in the league in defensive rating and 28th in total rebounds.
Toronto could ask for Clippers rising star Terance Mann in a deal for Siakam, but it seems unlikely the Clippers would go for that, given Mann’s potential and cheap price tag for the next two seasons ($1.7 million and $1.9 million).
By bringing in Beverley, the Raptors would also create flexibility when it comes to point guard Goran Dragic, who was acquired from Miami as part of the Lowry deal and recently apologized to Toronto fans for comments suggesting his displeasure with joining the Raptors. Dragic has since said his comments were taken out of context, but if the 13-year veteran does indeed want out, Beverley could give the Raptors the flexibility to make a deal.
Additionally, Beverley and Zubac are on expiring contracts, which could be a benefit to Toronto if they want to compete in some of the bigger free agent offerings next offseason.
The Clippers in return, would have to hope that Siakam recovers fully from his surgery and recaptures his touch from three, both of which are very possible and would result in instant firepower. But the most probable scenario is, Ujiri and the Raptors reject all offers, particularly ones not involving first-round draft picks, and Siakam stays a Raptor.