Report: Clippers want LeBron James; Blake Griffin's 'untouchable'

By Matt Moore | NBA writer

Could LeBron James trade in Dwyane Wade for Chris Paul?   (USATSI)
Could LeBron James trade in Dwyane Wade for Chris Paul? (USATSI)

ESPN reports that you can add the Clippers to the list of teams that plan to make a run at LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in free agency, despite a lack of cap space, but that Blake Griffin is "untouchable" in any circumstances.

The Los Angeles Clippers have strong interest in pursuing LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony if they can clear the requisite salary cap space to make a maximum-level offer to the superstars, who have both elected to become free agents starting July 1.

One player they have no interest in moving, however, is forward Blake Griffin. While the Clippers would need to move significant players and money to make a run at either James or Anthony, sources told ESPN that Clippers president and coach Doc Rivers has told Griffin on numerous occasions that he considers him "untouchable" in any trade.

via Los Angeles Clippers consider Blake Griffin untouchable in free-agent pursuit, according to sources - ESPN Los Angeles.

This has been floating out there for a while, and Tuesday it was reported that while Miami is James' main choice, he is intrigued by the idea of the Clippers. And it makes sense. James has known Clippers point guard Chris Paul since they were kids. They were groomsmen for each other's weddings, and Paul is godfather to one of LeBron's sons. That relationship is stronger than that of James and Anthony, and even that of James and fellow Heat star Dwyane Wade.

Los Angeles offers him proximity to the entertainment complex in Hollywood, which James is becoming further and further invested in. (He has two films reportedly in production.) It enables him to play in LA without teaming with Kobe Bryant and dealing with the complicated egos there. He gets to play with Doc Rivers whom he has long respected from their playoff battles. Don't get confused, this isn't fantasy. If the Clippers can seriously figure out a deal, this could happen.

But the Griffin part complicates it. There are ways to clear the cap space necessary to sign LeBron. They can move DeAndre Jordan's $11.4 million deal which is expiring and J.J. Redick's $6.7 million deal for next season, that gets them most of the way there. But here's the hitch: trading Griffin makes the most sense.

Yes, Griffin is the best player on the Clippers, and yes, he's young enough to build around. But his game fits rather awkwardly next to James'. He's a true post-up player now, which demands the ball. The spacing with Griffin and James would be awkward. You can make it work, but much much like with Chris Bosh, it means de-emphasizing Griffin's role.

The Clippers have wanted to win now for years. This is an opportunityto acquire the best player on the planet. You don't hesitate on that move, no matter what the necessary return is. It's fine to hold out, but if James says "I want to go to your team, but I want to help out Miami for everything they've given me, trade them Griffin," you do it. And you don't think twice about it. Meanwhile, your team might be better off with James next to the shooter in Redick like he had in Miami and DeAndre Jordan's rim protection which would allow James to freelance defensively more often. You'd still have Chris Paul and LeBron James.

That gets you most of the way to the title.

We'll see what happens, but if James is dissuaded from returning to Miami (which is his preferrd option), this scenario could pick up steam in a hurry.

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