In today’s NBA, the Western Conference remains as dominant as ever. Seven of the 10 NBA teams to claim more than 50 wins this season all hailed from the West and the minimum number of wins necessary to make the playoffs in the West was 45. Over in the East it was a sub-.500 38 wins. Going further, seven of the highest scoring teams in the league were out West, and so were the three-best defenses.
With the young Golden State Warriors potentially on the cusp of the title, and the Houston Rockets loaded with one of the deeper rosters in the league behind MVP runner-up James Harden, the West won’t decline any time soon.
Thus a team like the Los Angeles Clippers is reportedly in the trade market ahead of next week’s draft in order to keep up with their West brethren. Especially after their second-round exit at the hands of Houston last month.
According to Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times, the Clippers are now in pursuit of first-round picks in a draft that’s considered very deep in terms of forwards and big men. L.A. sent its first-round selection in this year’s draft to the Boston Celtics in order to hire head coach Doc Rivers.
With Rivers at the helm, the Clippers nearly made the West finals for the first time in history with point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin each earning All-Star nods on a team that finished the regular season with a 56-26 record. L.A. later dethroned the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in a classic seven-game first-round series.
But the Clippers do have some issues when it comes to depth. At small forward, veteran Matt Barnes provides defense but not much scoring, and the position’s been a glaring weakness in L.A. for quite some time. And after Glen Davis and Spencer Hawes, there’s very little held behind Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan.
Jordan is also up for a new contract this summer, and while it seems unlikely he would leave the Clippers and an extra year and millions of dollars on the table, L.A. could be seeking some insurance if he decides to bolt.
However, the Clippers might not have to venture out of their own state to lure a new big man to Staples Center.
In an separate report from NBA.com’s David Aldridge, new Sacramento Kings general manager Vlade Divac wouldn’t shy away from a question about All-Star power forward and sometimes off-court headache DeMarcus Cousins.
“Well, I think he just has to be a leader, make sure that he makes everybody better on the floor,” Divac said. “Everything else, I think he's right on target. He's just so powerful, can dominate in the low post. He can play outside. He can play sometimes four, sometimes five. He's a very smart basketball player. He has very great potential.
When asked about “entertaining” trade offers for Cousins Divac added and chuckled: “Well, if it's Michael Jordan there, I'll think about it.”
By “there” Divac was referring to the No. 6 overall pick the Kings possess, and many have projected them to take the point guard that’s long eluded them.
Cousins has been linked to trades before, with the New York Knicks reportedly seeking a player of his caliber for the rights to their No. 4 overall pick.
However, giving up on Cousins seems like a long shot. The 24-year-old wrapped up his first All-Star season with new career-highs in 24.1 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and better than a block and a steal per game.
Cousins is one of the most gifted young players in the league, and trading him away could signal the start of yet another rebuild in Sacramento. It’s been nearly 10 years since the Kings made the postseason, and moving Cousins to a West Coast rival may not be in the squad’s best interests.
The Kings do have some talent on the roster already, in swingman Rudy Gay and rising two-guard Ben McLemore. Both perimeter players are solid pieces to compliment Cousins. By adding an extra player in the draft, the Kings could make a run at a postseason berth.