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Breaking Down Corey Maggette With Clips Nation

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A lot of people inside the sphere of blogs have advocated the packaging of our 27th pick in a trade. Personally, I like the idea of getting some fresh, young blood into the system (via the draft). But there are some big names out there that would be too good to pass on. My favorite among these: Corey Maggette.

Corey starting at the 2 with Mo-Pete and JuJu coming off the bench would make us instant favorites in the West, right up there with L.A. Add even a semi-competent backup big (ie, not Hilton), we roll to the CF's vs. the Lakeshow. Corey's lowest PER since 2002 is 18.6, and he hit 38% of his triples last year. He has the physicality of Bonzi, at least offensively, with Mo's ability to space the floor. He addresses one of our biggest problems of last year- the inability to get to the foul line. (He actually led the league in FTM/40). And he has experience guarding Kobe. The dude fits. Maggette would literally be the one piece that puts us over the top. /Wipes drool off face.

CM's contract complicates the situation, though. He has an ETO, or an "Early Termination Option". This means that until July 1st, he is a free agent. He's free to sign with any team. Remember, we are over the salary cap next season; the most money we could offer him is $5.5 Million, our full midlevel exception. That probably won't be enough, and the only legit thing we can promise him is the opportunity to play for a contender.

If nobody signs him before July 1st, he magically becomes a Clipper again. At that point, the only way to get CM is to pull off a sign and trade (where the LAC sign him and then immediately trade him).

Now, more enterprising readers must have picked up on a crucial fact. We can trade for Corey beginning July 1st. The draft, though, is a few days before that. So wouldn't that mean that we can't package this year's 27th pick in a trade? Thankfully no. We can draft whoever the Clips want with the 27th pick and then deal the rights to that pick on July 1st. In essence, the trade would be agreed to days before it actually takes place. The Rudy Gay for Shane Battier deal of 2006 was based on this "loophole."

Question marks aplenty. Thankfully, we've got some answers too. ClipperSteve of fellow SBNation blog Clips Nation was kind enough to do a little Q&A:

@tH: Based on what you've heard so far, are there any teams (with the necessary cap space) seeking to acquire Corey before July 1st and would CM actually consider these teams?

CN: As I'm sure you're aware, there are astoundingly few teams with significant cap space this summer (much to the relief of Clippers' fans, with both Brand and Maggette holding early termination options).  "The necessary cap space" for Corey would seem to be around $10M - maybe he won't get that, but he made $7M last season, he turned down a three year extension starting at around $8.5M last summer, so it's safe to assume he's looking for $10M - especially considering that he just came off a career year from a statistical standpoint. 

By my math, that leaves as few as two teams with enough cap space to make him the offer he wants:  Memphis and Philadelphia.  I have heard nothing about either of those teams having interest in Maggette, and certainly on the surface they look like bad fits, since each team has a young small forward leading them in scoring.  Would Corey consider either of these destinations?  I think so - right now, his plan is to get paid.  But I don't see anything in the offing from those teams.  I could be wrong - it's a remarkably bad market for free agents (at least for those of the unrestricted persuasion), and Corey could easily be the second best out there by quite a margin, after Antawn Jamison.  So if Memphis plans to spend any of that Kwame Brown money, they have to offer it to SOMEONE.  But I just don't see it.

There's a bunch of other possibilities when you consider all the ETOs this summer - the Kings, Heat, Warriors, Wizards and maybe others could have some cap space if their free agents opt out, but as of now, none of that looks likely. 

Will Corey consider playing for a contender for the mid level exception?  Take the most extreme case - San Antonio offers him the starting small forward position and a real chance at a ring.  I just don't see him opting out of his current contract to sign for less.  He can play another season in LA and then look at less money from contenders in 2009 if it comes to that.

@tH:  A precursor to question 3: are the Clips looking at a rebuilding phase in the near future or trying to transition into contenders? I guess another way of putting it would be are the Clips more likely to seek expiring contracts or actually viable pieces in potential trades?

CN: It may turn out to be foolhardy, but it's pretty clear that the Clippers think of themselves as a playoff team, and are no where near the point where they want to start over.  Bear in mind that for teams interested in acquiring Maggette, this is good news.  They don't need to trade him for an expiring contract - he HAS an expiring contract.  At any rate, the Clippers truly believe that a healthy Elton Brand and an All Star level Chris Kaman, is a pairing that deserves a chance.  Throw a rehabbed Shawn Livingston into the mix, and it's certainly a team with a lot of potential.  Can they compete in the Marianas Trench deep Western Conference?  That's where the foolhardy thing may come in, but I tend to agree that they should give this group a chance to be on the floor together.

That means the Clippers will be wanting to get pieces that can contribute right away if they choose to move Maggette.  (You didn't ask, but it's worth mentioning at this point, it's entirely possible the Clippers will keep last season's leading scorer.  Given the situation with the free agent market, he could end up being something of a bargain, and if they can sign him around the $8.5M they offered last summer, they'll happily keep him in LA.)

@tH: Again based on what you've heard so far, could you give us a sense of what some of the better (obviously potential) trades could be?

CN: I've got a running Fan Post on Clips Nation tracking this.  The names that have been mentioned are Jose Calderon, T.J. Ford, Kirk Hinrich, Jason Terry and Hedo Turkoglu.  Then there are the 'Corey as a piece in a blockbuster trade' rumors that might bring a less than fully gruntled superstar to the Clippers - Baron Davis, Gilbert Arenas, Michael Redd, those kinds of guys.  The first list has some basis in reality, in that I've at least seen those rumors in print.  The second list is pretty much pure speculation, based simply on the situation with those All Star names, and the fact that the Clippers might be interested in making a move for a highly paid star.

@tH: Mike James, Rasual Butler, an '08 27th pick, and an '09 lottery protected first rounder. Could you perhaps put a number on the chance such a deal could happen? 0%? 5%?

CN: When this trade proposal gets posted on Clips Nation, many of the Citizens will howl that the possibility is less than zero.  But I'm going to go a little contrarian here (at the risk of getting your hopes up and my readers really angry) and say this could happen - call it a 12% chance.  On the surface, New Orleans dealing two guys who never got off the bench until garbage time in the playoffs for a 22 point a game scorer seems too good to be true.  And generally speaking, it's true that you can't succeed trading good players for mediocre players - you still can only put five on the court at a time, so two (or three or four or five) mediocre players really isn't a match for one good one.  But there are some extenuating circumstances here that make this trade a little less laughable than it seems at first glance.

The Clippers are incredibly top heavy in the front court right now, with their four best players playing forward or center, and a couple solid reserves beyond that as well.  Meanwhile, their point guards (with the exception of the question mark that is Livingston) are arguably not good enough to be full time backups in the NBA, and their shooting guard (that's singular, since Quinton Ross is a free agent and they literally don't have anyone else playing the position) is 32 and coming off the worst season of his career.  And beyond the positional math, James and Butler are both above average range shooters, which addresses a need the Clippers have had for years.  The idea of posting Brand and Kaman trip after trip is enticing, but it would work a lot better with three shooters on the floor around them.  So as sad as it is to say, I could see James and Butler at least competing to be the top backups in the backcourt for the Clippers.

And here's the kicker.  I said the Clippers want to win now and therefore weren't really looking for expiring contracts, but there's a big difference between a two year commitment and a five year commitment.  With James and Butler both signed for two more seasons, it's a compromise that might actually end up working.  If they end up playing well in 08-09, then great.  (And let's face it, Mike James was, like Corey Maggette, a 20-point-per-game scorer a few seasons ago.)  If not, then they join Cat Mobley and Tim Thomas as expiring contracts in 2010.  They become very attractive to other teams in trades next summer, or in the event the Clippers do decide to start over, they can just let all of that money disappear and make a run at one of the mega-super-duper-stars likely to be available in the summer of 2010.  Think Dwyane Wade might like to live in LA and play ball with Elton Brand and Chris Kaman?

So if I'm Elgin Baylor, I look at this offer VERY closely.  New Orleans is motivated, so they're willing to throw in two first rounders since they're not giving up anything else.  I have no choice but to sign a veteran point guard (some veteran point guard, ANY veteran point guard) this off-season, and seriously, is Mike James really that much worse than Beno Udrih?  Maybe it works out well, and if not, my 2010 strategy is still in order.  If I can hit a home run this summer (say for Calderon), then that's my first choice.  The odds are those 'too-good-to-be-true' scenarios are just that - too good to be true.  But I'd take this New Orleans offer before I took on Jason Terry for 4 years, that's for sure

A lot of really good stuff there from ClipperSteve. In talking with him earlier, he also told me he feels it's very unlikely Corey signs for just a midlevel exception (confirming my initial thoughts too). But it's certainly refreshing that the odds of CM signing before July 1st are lower than most other off-seasons.  If you didn't already follow the link, make sure you check out the running FanPost on CN. As ClipperSteve mentioned, the compromise between (sort of) expiring deals and talent (Butler and James) is probably the one thing that gives a Butler-James-Maggette swap any semblance of legs.

In the end, the odds are definitely stacked against us. Obviously, we have no idea if New Orleans would actually put such a deal on the table, though I don't see why not. Before looking into this and talking to ClipperSteve, I was fairly convinced that Maggette was impossible to acquire. Now? Even the pessimists have to agree: there's a glimmer of hope.