How the LA Clippers came out of the trade deadline the strongest

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The NBA trade deadline closed last Thursday, meaning every player under contract must now remain with his team until the season’s end, so who will feel as though they came out the strongest from the final two days?

This year’s deadline came and went without any major stars changing franchises; something which is likely down to the large salary cap increase expected this summer.

It is difficult to decide who definitively 'won' the window, as most of the trades were only minor adjustments.

Detroit was the obvious choice until they opted to void their three-team deal with the Houston Rockets and the Philadelphia 76ers because team officials would not sign-off on the health of Donatas Motiejunas.

So we go to next in line; the LA Clippers, who have made a key upgrade to their squad which could help the team move closer to their aim of winning their first championship.

LA managed to secure a deal with the Memphis Grizzlies for Jeff Green, in a trade which saw them send Lance Stephenson in the other direction, along with a lottery-protected 2019 first round draft pick.

Easy to cut losses with Stephenson

The deal looks solid for the Clippers as they have offloaded someone who was playing only 15.8 minutes per game, off the bench, for a man who is likely to play an increased role.

It was also easy for them to give up Stephenson, as the guard only joined the team in the summer as a free agent, beginning the season as a starter before falling down the rotation.

Stephenson was just starting to play more minutes in the fortnight leading up to the deadline, but Doc Rivers clearly felt Green would provide an upgrade.

Green is a player who has constantly frustrated; he is blessed with a huge amount of ability, yet has never been able to consistently perform at his highest level.

Rivers will believe he can get the best out of Green having previously coached him for a year when the two were at the Boston Celtics. He will also know teammate Paul Pierce from that side.

Small-ball benefits

One of the key reasons that Rivers may have opted to trade for Green is that, even though he is a small forward, the 29-year-old is tall for the position at 6'9". He may be utilised by the Clippers in a smaller lineup, with Blake Griffin playing at center.

This is a key factor for LA as it will give them a chance to see what Griffin can do playing the five spot in a smaller lineup, although, any plans for that are currently on hold until the five-time All-Star can return from a hand injury.

But the benefits of the option could be huge as it may give the Clippers a chance to fare better against the Golden State Warriors’ small-ball approach; something they - along with most of the league - have struggled with in the past season-and-a-half.

That will be an important option for Rivers to have in his back pocket. Also, with center DeAndre Jordan one of the NBA players most regularly targeted in the opposition’s hack-a-Shaq philosophy, it will give a chance to make changes if necessary.

When Jordan is failing to make his free-throws, Rivers could potentially hope the alteration; removing Jordan and going small, will not adversely affect his their performance.

Not a cheap deal

However, this was not just a like-for-like swap; the 2019 lottery-protected first round pick that was packaged into the deal is a lot to give up for a player who is yet to proven he can perform at his highest level on a nightly basis.

But Green, almost the true definition of a mercurial player, can certainly have a positive impact on this Clippers franchise going forward as an important role player.

So, without any big names on the move, the Clippers made a switch that could be key to improving their chances of winning a ring in the future. On the face of it, the Pacific Division franchise can be declared the 2016 trade deadline winners, in a year that promised much but delivered little.

L.A. Clippers
Pacific Division
Western Conference
Lance Stephenson
Detroit Pistons
Central Division
Eastern Conference
Memphis Grizzlies
Southwest Division
Jeff Green

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