Trail Blazers trading Norman Powell and Robert Covington to Clippers
But the Clippers accepting a lost season and trimming salary with their stars hurt?
Quite the opposite.
L.A. is trading for wing reinforcements – Norman Powell and Robert Covington from the Trail Blazers – sending Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson and second-round pick to Portland.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
The Clippers are trading Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson and future second-round pick to the Trail Blazers for Norman Powell and Robert Covington, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 4, 2022
Clippers are sending Blazers a 2025 second-round pick via the Detroit Pistons, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 4, 2022
The Clippers owe their unprotected first-round pick to the Thunder from the George trade, eliminating the main incentive to tank. Before Leonard and George arrived, L.A. built a gritty and successful starless culture. That has continued amid Leonard’s and George’s absences. The Clippers (27-27) are eighth in the Western Conference.
L.A. should be even better with Powell and Covington.
Powell is a talented scorer with deep shooting range. He can create shots for himself and spot-up off the ball. He’s also a credible defender.
At 31, Covington has shown signs of decline. But he still adds value with his floor spacing and team defense. He unlocks small-ball lineups. It’d be nice if his 3-pointers fell more frequently again.
A catch: This trade increases the Clippers’ already-high payroll. The 28-year-old Powell is in the first season of a five-year, $90 million contract that might not age well. Keeping Covington, who’s on an expiring contract, beyond this season could require another expensive outlay.
But Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has given his team more margin for error with his big spending. L.A. can take advantage with a deal like this then, if all goes well, again by using Covington’s Bird Rights to re-sign him this summer. For now, the Clippers could mitigate their luxury-tax bill by trading Serge Ibaka.
The Trail Blazers escape the luxury tax. They’re clearly allured by Keon Johnson, the highly athletic guard who was the No. 21 pick in last year’s draft. They might even still see upside in the 25-year-old Winslow, who was once highly coveted then moderately intriguing but has been pedestrian with the Clippers. An extra second-rounder never hurts.
But this doesn’t seem like good value for Powell and Covington.
Portland also trims payroll next season – when Bledsoe’s guarantee is just $3.9 million and Winslow is due $4,097,561 – and beyond, as Powell’s contract comes off the books. Anfernee Simons’ emergence creates latitude to unload Powell.
However, it’s not as if the Trail Blazers now project to have cap room to chase outside help this summer. They’re just less over the cap for next season.
Lillard recently restated his loyalty to Portland. But he just spent the offseason flirting with the idea of leaving. At what point will the Trail Blazers build back up his supporting cast, and how will they do it?
There’s logic in taking a step back now, with Lillard injured. This makes it less likely he’ll return this season. Perhaps, a higher lottery pick and Johnson will help Portland re-ascend with Lillard.
The Clippers are taking the opposite approach. They’re trying to win as much as they can now, seeing every postseason game as reward onto itself. As the playoffs look increasingly likely, L.A. can even dream about Leonard – and maybe even George – returning to lead a deeper supporting cast on a postseason run.