One of the names that continues to pop up in trade rumors is budding Los Angeles Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe.
Bledsoe was first linked to the Boston Celtics for center Kevin Garnett during All-Star Weekend, and now the Utah Jazz are reportedly showing interest, and are willing to give up power forward Paul Millsap, according to a report from ESPN Los Angeles Sunday.
Currently third in the Western Conference, the Clippers have put together one of the best seasons in franchise history, and are seen as legitimate title contenders. Depth at point guard, with Bledsoe backing up All-Star Chris Paul, has been one of the reasons for the club's success.
Bledsoe is considered insurance for L.A. should Paul decide to leave in free agency this summer. He is averaging 15.9 points and 5.5 assists per 36 minutes, and could start on several teams. With one year and $2.6 million remaining on his rookie contract, Bledsoe is one of the best bargains in the NBA. Assuming he keeps up his production, the Clippers may be outbid in 2014 when Bledsoe becomes a restricted free agent.
The rumored deal that would have shipped Garnett to the Clippers for Bledsoe and center DeAndre Jordan was essentially squashed by Garnett Saturday. The future Hall Of Famer told reporters during a press conference that he would not waive his no-trade clause -- one of the major sticking points to any deal.
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Another problem for a Celtics and Clippers swap is apparently discord among L.A.’s management. Head coach Vinny Del Negro was pushing to snag Garnett, while the higher ups were hesitant to part with such a promising talent in Bledsoe, according to ESPN.
Millsap represents a highly skilled big man with a $7.2 million expiring contract, something the Clippers may covet if they hope to make a run at Lakers center Dwight Howard and re-sign Paul this summer.
Millsap, along with Blake Griffin and Jordan, could also give L.A. one of the most formidable and athletic frontlines in the league. Utah is currently stockpiled with young big men like center Enes Kanter and forward Derrick Favors, and Millsap has seen his minutes take a slight dip this season. The 28-year-old was also linked to the Brooklyn Nets earlier this week.
The Jazz were reportedly shopping Millsap and center Al Jefferson because of all their young talent, and with both players having expiring contracts. Jefferson is making $15 million this season.
Utah could also use some youth at point guard. Bledsoe would be a huge step in that direction for the club, which currently starts 34-year-old Jamaal Tinsley, with Earl Watson and Mo Williams behind him.