Once the Clippers traded Blake Griffin to the Pistons, unloading his max contract with four years and $141 million remaining, they committed to putting themselves in play to make a run at some marquee free agents this coming July and following the 2018-19 season.
Not that the Clippers have ever been a destination for any big-name talent, but this is the plan, anyway. In two summers, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler will be unrestricted free agents, but don't forget about a guy in the tier just below those stars — Klay Thompson.
According to Klay’s father, Mychal, he doesn’t see his son leaving the Warriors for the Clippers or any other team — not even if the team recruiting Stephen Curry’s backcourt mate comes after him with the promise of turning over their franchise to him, and not even with one of Thompson’s biggest backers, Jerry West, working as an advisor for Clippers owner Steve Ballmer.
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As Mychal Thompson made clear, Klay is more than content in his present role, winning titles with the former MVPs, Curry and Kevin Durant, getting the top billing.
"He doesn’t need to be 'the guy,'" Mychal Thompson told SiriusXM NBA Radio’s "Above the Rim" on Tuesday. "He loves playing there. He loves playing with Steph and KD and the whole crew. He loves living in the Bay Area, it’s a special place, and they’re going to have a beautiful, new arena in a couple of years in San Francisco. So Klay is not looking to leave. That’s up to the Warriors."
The Warriors are going to have shell out some big money before Thompson is eligible for a new deal. This coming summer, Durant can opt out of the second year of his current two-year deal and will be eligible to strike a deal similar to Curry, topping the $200-million mark. The luxury bill is going to climb for owner Joe Lacob.
As long as the Warriors don’t skimp when it comes to Thompson, he will stay a "Splash Brother," according to his father, the former Lakers forward who now is on the team broadcasts.
The Clippers are an obvious destination — if Thompson ever chooses to leave. When West worked as an advisor for the Warriors, he lobbied for the team to draft Thompson with the No. 11 overall pick in 2011. Three summers later, West was pretty much alone among team execs in opposing a trade that would have sent Thompson to Minnesota for Kevin Love. West reportedly threatened to quit if Thompson was moved for Love.
As long as West remains in his post in LA, it’s very easy to see the Clippers recruiting Thompson in two summers. But for now, Klay is a long way from ditching a team that has the look of a dynasty.
"He knows other teams are interested in him," Mychal Thompson said. "(But) he would love to retire a Warrior, so I think he’s planning on staying. But it’s not up to him, as far as he’s concerned. He loves playing with the Warriors. He knows they have something special going on there and he wants to be a part of it, long into the future."
Latest NBA rumors ahead of trade deadline
— The Jazz are trying to find a new home for Rodney Hood, for the same reason that the Celtics are looking to deal Marcus Smart. Both will be restricted free agents this summer, and neither team is interested in shelling out major bucks to retain their services.
Detroit, Oklahoma City, Cleveland, Orlando and Denver have been mentioned as possible landing spots for Hood, who wanted to take over Gordon Hayward’s lead role but didn’t produce at a high enough rate early in the season to merit such a promotion. That role surprisingly went to rookie phenom Donovan Mitchell, who still hasn’t shown some offensive moves he performed in his original workout with the team.
It’s almost hard to believe, but the Jazz believe Mitchell has an even better offensive game than Dwyane Wade. If they can move Hood, they also think that Dante Exum, sidelined since October with a shoulder injury, can fill Hood’s role going forward. Derrick Favors is also available, while Joe Johnson is a candidate for a buyout once the deadline passes.
— The Celtics are taking the same position with Smart as they did with Avery Bradley, who never got his big payday with Boston and will be a free agent this summer. Bradley would be an ideal fit in Oklahoma City, which has suffered greatly at the defensive end since Andre Roberson was lost for the season with a knee injury. The Thunder desperately need a perimeter defender to close out on 3-point shooters and defend the pick-and-roll.
The Celtics would like to trade Smart for a first-round pick, then use that pick to make a deal for Grizzlies guard Tyreke Evans. The Clippers are seen as a potential destination — Doc Rivers calls Smart "a lifeline... his defense and toughness lends out to the entire team."
If the Celtics don’t get Evans, they could wind up with the Clips’ Lou Williams, perhaps in a Smart trade. As much as Williams would be ideal in Toronto, in case Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan falter in a playoff game, it seems to be a case of been there, done that. (UPDATE: Williams has agreed to an extension with the Clippers, according to Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania.)
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— Two days before the trade deadline, Evans continues to be the hot name, with the Nuggets, Sixers and Heat showing strong interest in landing the veteran guard who doesn’t look to pass, but can break defenses down. Memphis is holding out for a first-rounder.
Five months shy of becoming a free agent, he’s almost certain to be dealt, as the Grizzlies sent him home three games ago. Miami wants to include Justise Winslow in a deal, but he’s not drawing much interest.
— The Pelicans are still all-in on DeMarcus Cousins, but there’s no way they can give him a five-year deal worth $175 million, as he’s recovering from a torn Achilles. Several players who recently have suffered the injury — Rudy Gay, Elton Brand and Wes Matthews Jr. — have come back, but have never been able to play at the same level. The Pels won’t be able to get insurance for that type of injury, according to a few GMs, so they’ll probably offer Cousins only two years at around $44 million.
The Cousins’ injury looks as if it’ll cost the Pels a playoff spot. No one, including Anthony Davis, has been able to fill Cousins’ alpha role. Cousins reportedly had interest in going to the Lakers as a free agent this summer, and the feeling was mutual. But after this kind of injury, LA has to move on. The Pels, however, still need Cousins.
Listen to Mitch Lawrence on SiriusXM NBA Radio on The Starting Lineup, Above The Rim, NBA Today and NBA Weekend. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Lawrence.