Eric Bledsoe is on the move again.
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the LA Clippers are acquiring Bledsoe from the Memphis Grizzlies for Patrick Beverley, Rajon Rondo and Daniel Oturu.
The Los Angeles Clippers are trading Patrick Beverley, Rajon Rondo and Daniel Oturu to the Memphis Grizzlies for guard Eric Bledsoe, sources tell ESPN.- Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 16, 2021
Bledsoe spent the 2020-21 season with the New Orleans Pelicans, posting averages of 12.2 points, 3.8 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game on .421/.341/.687 shooting splits. The Pelicans traded him to the Grizzlies earlier in the offseason for a package built around Jonas Valanciunas. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported at the time that Bledsoe was "not expected to stay in Memphis."
This is a fascinating trade for the Clippers that will impact them in two particular ways next season.
The financial impact
This trade will save the Clippers a lot of money.
Whereas Beverley, Rondo and Oturu are on the books for a combined $23.3 million next season, Bledsoe will make $19.4 million.
That might not sound like much in the grand scheme of things, but according to ESPN's Bobby Marks, going from Beverley, Rondo and Oturu to Bledsoe will shave $30 million off of LA's tax bill, from $125 million down to $95 million. Not only that, but the Clippers can gain an $8.3 million trade exception for the value of Rondo's salary.
Cap ramifications for LAC/MEM:- Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) August 16, 2021
🏀Eric Bledsoe: $18.1M and $19.4M ($3.9M GTY)
💰LAC will see their tax bill drop from $125M to $95M (savings of $30M)
💰$8.3M TE for LAC
🏀Patrick Beverley: $14.3M
🏀Rajon Rondo: $7.5M ($750K likely bonus)
🏀Daniel Oturu: $1.5M
That trade exception could come in handy next offseason depending on what happens with Bledsoe over the next 12 months. While he has one more year remaining on his current contract, it's a partial guarantee of $3.9 million.
If the Clippers choose to move on from Bledsoe, they might be able to find his replacement with that exception.
The on-court impact
Bledsoe saw his numbers decline across the board in his one season with the Pelicans, but he has the potential to be an upgrade offensively over Beverley and Rondo.
Put it this way: Bledsoe averaged 9.3 drives per game last season. That was almost as many as Beverley and Rondo averaged combined (10.2).
Bledsoe wasn't an efficient scorer on those drives (44.7 percent), but he should have much more space to work with in Los Angeles. He often shared the court with at least one non-shooter on the Pelicans, logging heavy minutes next to Steven Adams, Zion Williamson and Willy Hernangomez, three players who made a total of 11 3-pointers last season. He could see a decent amount of minutes next to Ivica Zubac, who isn't a threat to score outside of the paint, but the Clippers can pair him with one of the best shooting big men in the league in Serge Ibaka, as well as shooting at every other position.
Put it this way: Bledsoe, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Williamson and Adams ranked in the 38th percentile in spacing in The BBall Index's lineup creator tool. Bledsoe, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Nicolas Batum and Zubac, on the other hand, ranks in the 78th percentile. Swap Zubac for Ibaka, and it bumps their spacing up to the 96th percentile.
It helps that the Clippers played a lot of small ball in the playoffs. Five-out lineups involving some combination of Leonard, George, Batum, Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris, Terance Mann should play to Bledsoe's strengths as a driver.
The concern with Bledsoe, of course, is his shooting.
A career 33.7 percent 3-point shooter, Bledsoe has never been someone teams respect much from the perimeter. It's a much bigger problem in the playoffs than the regular season, but the Clippers have the personnel to cover for it better than some other teams because of how much shooting they already have on their roster. They also have other options at the guard position - Jackson, namely - should it become a significant issue. As noted by ESPN's Kevin Pelton, the Clippers won't be nearly as reliant on Bledsoe as the Milwaukee Bucks were in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
On the other end of the court, the Clippers will miss Beverley's peskiness and versatility, but Bledsoe has long been an excellent team defender. He earned an All-Defensive First Team selection in 2019, followed by an All-Defensive Second Team selection in 2020. Assuming he buys in, the Clippers should continue to be a stout defensive team with Bledsoe on the court.
Also worth noting: Bledsoe is quite a bit more durable than Beverley. Bledsoe has played in 284 games over the last four regular seasons compared to only 177 for Beverley.
It still doesn't make Bledsoe's fit the cleanest, but considering Leonard is expected to miss a large portion of next season as he recovers from undergoing surgery to repair a partially torn right ACL that he sustained in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, his playmaking could give them a much-needed boost.
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