A recent report suggests that the Los Angeles Clippers might make a move before the February trade deadline to shake up its frontcourt, one that could involve the acquisition of Aron Baynes from the Phoenix Suns for their own starting center, Ivica Zubac.
Citing a comment made in “passing conversation” on a recent story from The Athletic, Bleacher Report wrote about the possibility of Baynes heading to Los Angeles in exchange for Zubac, given how the Australian big man is purportedly considered to be one of the Clippers’ top targets ahead of the trade deadline. As pointed out by the latter publication, the trade could work when considering both players’ salaries, but since Zubac is in the first year of a four-year, $28 million deal, it was noted that Phoenix might not be willing to acquire a center on a long-term contract to serve as Deandre Ayton’s backup at center.
Although one Eastern Conference executive reportedly speculated that the deal would require a third team in order to work, Bleacher Report explained that the Suns’ main priority at the moment is to bolster their lineup in hopes of making the playoffs. Currently, Phoenix is at 10th place in the Western Conference with a 13-21 record — a game and a half behind the eighth-place Spurs (14-19) — and still very much in contention for postseason play this year.
“Moving Baynes at the deadline would be more of a possibility if they fell out of the race before February,” the outlet added.
With the Suns’ current objective in mind, it appears that the team might prioritize a deal that could actually increase its chances of making the playoffs. Bleacher Report wrote that Phoenix is targeting Oklahoma City Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari, with Cleveland Cavaliers big man Kevin Love another possibility at this point in the season.
The above concern — the Suns’ focus on short-term objectives — was echoed in a separate report from NBC Sports, which noted that the Suns might be more inclined to hang on to Baynes, who is currently averaging 12.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists, per Basketball-Reference. As the 33-year-old is also shooting 52.1 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from three-point range, the outlet added that his ability to space the floor with his outside shooting does make him an enticing target — and a better fit than Zubac in the Clippers’ starting lineup.
In any case, NBC Sports stressed that the Clippers will likely be in the market for frontcourt help in the lead-up to next month’s trade deadline, as Montrezl Harrell — the team’s top producer at center — is more suited for his erstwhile off-the-bench role as an “energy big.”