The Clippers broke up their “Big Three” of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan by sending Paul to the Rockets this past summer, but in an alternate timeline it may have been Jordan who landed in Houston.
At last season’s trade deadline, a deal between the Clippers and Rockets that centered around Jordan and Houston big man Clint Capela gained “semiserious traction,” according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Los Angeles would have acquired Capela, draft picks and more players, per Lowe, but the two sides ultimately failed to come to an agreement.
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Jordan, a Houston native, has steadily improved over nearly a decade with the Clippers, earning his first All-Star selection after averaging 12.7 points and 13.8 rebounds per game during the 2016-17 regular season. But prior to the Clippers’ early playoff exit against the Jazz in the first round of the 2017 NBA playoffs, the team may have been looking for a spark considering LA had failed to advance to the Western Conference finals with Paul, Griffin and Jordan leading the way.
Capela would have provided a similar skill set as Jordan at a significant discount ($2.3 million vs. $22.6 million this season) and age difference (23 years old vs. 29 years old), plus picked up pieces that the Rockets would have added as part of a package. It’s possible the Clippers wanted to give it one more try with the same core before pulling the trigger, or perhaps the Rockets felt the asking price for Jordan was too high. Regardless of the reason, Jordan and Capela remain in the same uniforms.
In addition to trade talks with the Rockets, the Clippers also expressed interest in Carmelo Anthony, and some reports stated the Knicks were willing to move Anthony without receiving one of Paul, Griffin or Jordan in return. However, Clippers coach Doc Rivers told Lowe any reports of LA being able to snag Anthony for Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford were a “complete joke.”
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When it came time to make a move, the Clippers traded Paul to the Rockets in exchange for a package of Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins, Kyle Wiltjer, a protected first-round pick and cash considerations. The loss of Paul hasn’t hurt them so far, as LA holds a 4-1 record and stands behind only the Grizzlies in the Western Conference. Griffin has looked like an MVP candidate, and Jordan has once again made a significant difference while on the floor. (The Clippers have a 17.8 net rating when Jordan plays vs. a 6.1 net rating when he sits.)
But the Clippers still have to deal with Jordan this offseason. He’s eligible for an extension, but Lowe reports that talks have stalled between Jordan and LA’s front office. Doc Rivers made it clear he wants Jordan on the team, but added, “You also need room in the budget for other people.”
It would be tough to give Jordan a pile of money as he approaches his 30th birthday, especially given the league’s overall emphasis on skill and shooting. The Clippers decided to keep Jordan at last season’s trade deadline. We’ll see whether they make the same choice this time.