The Clippers won this year's NBA Draft Lottery, and as such, will have the number one overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Besides this meaning that there (probably) is no God, it also means something else, according to Mike Dunleavy: The consensus best player in the country, Blake Griffin, will be in a Clippers uniform next season.
But before we get to the day of the draft (which takes place in late June), the Clippers will be fielding calls from several teams regarding the availability of that top pick. And the first team that has leaked at least some interest to somebody is the Oklahoma City Thunder, which comes via the Star-Telegram in the middle of a discussion about some possible scenarios for the Dallas Mavericks:
There will be no shortage of competition [for the Mavericks], however, particularly from Oklahoma City, which has the third pick in the draft. The Thunder is expected to make a play for Griffin, using the third pick and one of their young core players (Jeff Green or Russell Westbrook) as bait for the top overall pick, which would allow them to keep Griffin in his hometown.
That would be a huge move in terms of local interest and, by extension, ticket sales.
Let's look at this deal in particular, before discussing whether the Clips should even consider moving the top pick at all.
The third pick plus Russell Westbrook is a good place to start, as Westbrook had an excellent rookie campaign and may prove to be a real star one day. There's a huge problem with that, though, and it has to do with need for the Clippers.
Assuming Baron Davis is brought back, Westbrook would be forced to come off the bench if he's to stick to his point guard spot. Many think Westbrook can play the two just as well, but there's a problem there, too: and his name is Eric Gordon. Barring a deal that sends Davis out of town (unlikely given his contract situation and poor performance last season), dealing for Westbrook doesn't help the Clippers.
That third pick in the draft wouldn't help much either, if you look at some of the more reputable mocks that are out there right now.
Once you get past Griffin at one and if Memphis goes with Hasheem Thabeet at two, the logical pick at three is Ricky Rubio: the young, drool-worthy -- wait for it --- point guard that's playing in Spain. Look past him and there's even more guard talent projected to go that high, so dealing for the three pick doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Now, about the bigger question: Should the Clippers look to trade the top pick for multiple parts that could help get them back to the playoffs as soon as next season?
The answer is, "maybe."
In case you hadn't noticed, the Clippers are loaded with front court talent, even more so than they are at the guard spot. Zach Randolph, Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, and Al Thornton are all solid and capable of playing starter's minutes. Blake Griffin would be fifth at best on that list. So there appears to be a log jam there, even if Griffin is a "can't miss" prospect.
It all comes down to what the Clippers are trying to do. By the (questionable) moves that Dunleavy made last season, it appears that he is trying to win right now. If the team ultimately feels that health wasn't the determining factor in keeping them near the bottom of the standings, however -- and they want to move either Baron Davis' or Zach Randolph's hefty contracts -- then dangling the number one pick might be a way to do that.
Even if the Clippers decide to "play it safe" and draft Blake Griffin, let's say for some reason he doesn't pan out. By turning down various trade offers that may come and go, the franchise might still ultimately find a way to screw things up.