Jamal Crawford apparently wishes he were a free agent, as he said on Twitter earlier this summer, but he still has one more season left on his contract. However, if he wants to leave the Clippers, he seems to stand a decent chance of having that happen for him before next July. The Clippers aren’t eager to trade the two-time Sixth Man of the Year award winner, but they reportedly explored the idea around draft time, and they’ve spent the summer upgrading on the wing, with newcomers Lance Stephenson, Paul Pierce and Wesley Johnson. The Knicks have expressed interest, as Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported Tuesday, and the Heat and Cavs were apparently interested as of earlier this summer. Crawford is 35 years old and coming off his fewest minutes per game since the 2002/03 season, but it appears there’s still a market for him.
The Heat called the Clippers about Crawford in early July, as Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com reported then, but as Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel points out, that was before Miami signed Gerald Green. Bringing in Crawford and his $5.675MM salary would likely commit the team to paying repeat-offender tax penalties this season, Winderman also asserts, though that would probably depend on the nature of the trade they’d make. The Clippers, like the Heat and the Cavs, are above the tax threshold for now, and that would complicate any move, since the salary-matching constraints are stricter for tax teams.
The Knicks are well outside of tax territory, for a change, but they face other challenges. The Knicks don’t have any trade exceptions, so they’d have to send players to the Clippers to make a trade work. Only four Knicks players — Carmelo Anthony, Jose Calderon, Langston Galloway and Cleanthony Early — are currently eligible for inclusion in trades. First-round picks Kristaps Porzingis and Jerian Grant join them later this month, but that’s still not much to choose from. Calderon seems like the most logical candidate, given that the Clippers would be somewhat short on backup point guard options if Crawford weren’t there anymore, but the Clips would have to send additional salary to New York to make that a match. Porzingis would be an intriguing option for a Clippers team that doesn’t have much young talent coming up the pipeline, but the Knicks would be ill-advised to trade this year’s No. 4 overall pick for a 35-year-old who’s a year away from free agency. As Isola suggested, the involvement of a third team might be necessary if the Knicks are to somehow end up with Crawford.
The Cavaliers also only have four players eligible to be traded — Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao, Timofey Mozgov and Joe Harris — but they have a trade exception worth $10,522,500 that they can use to take in Crawford without giving up a player in return. That trade exception is a vestige of the Brendan Haywood contract that the Cavs were thinking about sending to the Clips when Cleveland looked into trading for Crawford in early July, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported then. The exception makes it easier for the teams to facilitate a deal, since the Clippers would have had to include additional salary along with Crawford to take in Haywood’s contract. Still, it would be difficult for the Clippers to give up Crawford without receiving a player who can help them in their quest for a championship this year. Teams only get so many legitimate cracks at a title, and the Clips would surely be loath to downgrade their talent just as they seem as close as they’ve ever been to the Larry O’Brien trophy.
That’s ostensibly why the Clippers aren’t anxious to trade Crawford in the first place. They’re probably not going to do a deal unless it benefits them on the court, and while Crawford could always pout or become a disruptive force in the locker room, he has yet to air his grievances beyond relatively innocuous social media interaction. The Clippers could nonetheless use some size behind DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. They added Cole Aldrich through free agency, but Aldrich hasn’t proven to be the sort of player who could fill in as the starter for a championship-level team if Jordan or Griffin is injured for any significant stretch of time. That would make Varejao, despite injury concerns of his own, intriguing for the Clippers. It’s unclear just what sort of role a healthy Varejao would play for the Cavs this season, especially with Tristan Thompson‘s free agency still unresolved, but if Thompson comes back, Varejao would be relatively expendable. Of course, the Brazilian is also tight with LeBron James, and the Cavs would have to question the wisdom of sending one of LeBron’s friends to a contending team in a major market with warm weather. The Clips would also have to send additional salary to Cleveland to make a Varejao deal work.
Josh McRoberts and Chris Andersen offer no such salary-matching concerns, and they, like Varejao, would help deepen the Clippers up front. The Heat have no shortage of big men, with McRoberts, Andersen, Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside, Amar’e Stoudemire and Udonis Haslem all on the roster, so it would seem fertile ground for a trade is there. I’d contend that if the Heat were to trade McRoberts or Andersen for Crawford, they’d be no more committed to paying the tax than they otherwise would be, since it would entail an almost even exchange of salaries, and Crawford would appear to be a more intriguing trade chip to offer around the league if the Heat can’t find another way to slip under the tax line before the trade deadline. Crawford would give the Heat a strong alternative at shooting guard on the nights that Dwyane Wade can’t go. The addition of Crawford would make it easier for the team to play more small-ball lineups and for Miami to trade Mario Chalmers, currently Miami’s only proven option at the point behind Goran Dragic.
Regardless, it’s a seller’s market for Crawford. The Clippers wield the power, and if they want to mend fences with him, they can always pursue extension talks, as I pointed out earlier. Teams like the Heat, Cavs and Knicks will have to come to Clips coach/executive Doc Rivers, and not the other way around.
What do you think a good trade idea for Crawford might be? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.