The New Orleans Pelicans have agreed to trade Alexis Ajinca, a 7’2 center, to the Los Angeles Clippers in return for Wesley Johnson, a 6’7 small forward who averaged 5.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 74 games last season.
New Orleans is acquiring Clippers forward Wesley Johnson in a trade for center Alexis Ajinca, league sources tell ESPN. Clippers will waive Ajinca and guard Juwan Evans to get to 15 for opening night.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 15, 2018
However, before the deal can be finalized, this transaction must be completed with the league office in time for the Clippers to waive Ajinca before the 5 p.m. Eastern deadline — the real reason Los Angeles agreed to deal in the first place.
The Clippers sit close to the luxury tax line and possess more than 15 guaranteed contracts so they have interest in reducing salary and personnel from their roster.
The Clippers will save $849K by swapping out Wesley Johnson for Alexis Ajinca and are now $3.9M below the luxury tax. Both players are in the last year of their contract. Los Angeles will have $5.3M in Ajinca and $1.4M for Juwan Evans counting against... https://t.co/0cTQ4DN65l— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) October 15, 2018
Johnson has spent eight seasons in the league with four different organizations, beginning with the Minnesota Timberwolves who selected him 4th overall in the 2010 Draft. Although his career didn’t pan out as initially envisioned, he has appeared in meaningful minutes under Doc Rivers during the last three seasons.
The 31-year-old veteran is better known for his physical attributes than basketball skills as evidenced by well below average shooting percentages and a career line of 11.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks over his career per 36 minutes.
According to ESPN’s Real Plus Minus, Johnson rated as the 12th most effectively small forward defensively for the 20176-18 season, finishing ahead of names like P.J. Tucker, Trevor Ariza and OG Anunoby. In comparison, Solomon Hill ranked 34th and Darius Miller, 74th, at the same position.
One thing to remember going forward, Johnson may be utilized in another trade before the deadline by the Pelicans front office.
One thing to watch for with NOP acquiring Wesley Johnson today: his ~$6.1M salary can be aggregated with other salary in a trade immediately. This is because the Pels acquired Johnson by himself in today's trade. No immediate plans for that, but something to watch down the line.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) October 15, 2018
This could be important if Dell Demps still has eyes for Kent Bazemore, Otto Porter Jr. or some other more renowned and higher salaried wing player.