The 2022 NBA trade deadline is still nearly a week away, but the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers aren't waiting until then. On Friday, the two teams agreed to a big five-player deal that will send Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson and a 2025 second-round pick via the Pistons to Portland, and Norman Powell and Robert Covington to Los Angeles, the team announced.
Following the Clippers' win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, head coach Ty Lue told reporters that Kawhi Leonard is "probably not" returning from his torn ACL this season. And with Paul George still sidelined indefinitely due to an elbow injury, the Clippers are in need of some reinforcements.
They'll get a major offensive boost from Powell, who is averaging 18.7 points per game this season while shooting 40.6 percent from 3-point land. He can handle some of the offensive creation responsibilities while Leonard and George remain out, and when, or if, they get back he can slot into more of a floor spacer role. This season he's making 43.8 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s.
Covington, meanwhile, is having one of the least productive seasons of his career, averaging 7.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. But as an extra defensive wing, he's a nice addition. He's averaging 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game, can guard multiple positions and provides insurance against another Nic Batum injury.
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As for the Blazers, they are clearly looking towards the future with this move. With Damian Lillard potentially out for the season due to an abdominal injury, and the team sitting in 10th place in the Western Conference at 21-31, this is a chance for them to reset.
In the short term, the move allows them to get under the luxury tax this season, per ESPN's Bobby Marks. And with Bledsoe's deal only partially guaranteed for next season, they'll be able to further clean up their cap sheet. As of this trade, Lillard, CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., Greg Brown III, Winslow and Johnson are the only guaranteed deals on the books for next season.
Meanwhile, they'll get a look at Johnson, who was the No. 21 overall pick in last year's draft. He played sparingly for the Clippers this season, but is an incredible athlete and put up some decent numbers in the G League. Portland has had success developing players recently (Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little stand out), and perhaps they could do the same with Johnson. An extra second-round pick also doesn't hurt.
Now, to the trade grades:
Trail Blazers receive:
- 2025 second-round pick (via Detroit)
Clippers trade grade: A
The Clippers' luxury tax bill is going to be even bigger after this trade, but owner Steve Ballmer clearly doesn't care about that, and good for him. He wants to win, and this trade is going to help the Clippers do that. Even with all of the injuries, they're still 27-27 and only three games out of fifth place in the Western Conference. Powell will help keep them afloat until George and Leonard get back this season -- if Kawhi returns at all. And next season with everyone healthy he'll make them an even bigger threat. They also added a solid reserve wing in Covington, and really didn't have to give up much value at all. Great trade for the Clippers.
Trail Blazers trade grade: B-
The Trail Blazers are looking towards the future, so it's not surprising that they moved on from Powell and Covington. It does feel like they could have gotten more in return given the season Powell is having, however. In any case, this deal will give them some much-needed flexibility moving forward. Bledsoe's money will (mostly) come off the books, and right now they only have six fully guaranteed contracts next season. If they go full tank mode they could add a top-10 or potentially even a top-five pick to the mix and have a chance to really reset and figure out the future.