Basketball Prospectus is taking a look at the NBA division by division and suggesting ways each team should tackle the forthcoming trade deadline, starting Tuesday with a look at the Pacific Division. Wednesday, we continue with the Southwest Division.
The NBA's trade deadline drops at 3 p.m. EST on March 15 and while all eyes remain on Orlando's Dwight Howard, every team in the league will be trying to improve its position. For some teams, it's the immediate future that is the biggest concern and they will be looking to fill holes for a springtime playoff run. Others are looking more at the big picture and they'll be looking for young talent, salary-cap flexibility and other franchise-building assets.
The primary statistic you'll encounter will be wins above replacement player (WARP). We're presenting WARP for each feature player in two flavors, separated by a slash. The first number measures a player's WARP value based on his productivity for this season to date, prorated to 82 games. The second projects his combined WARP value for the next two seasons. This will give you a quick glimpse of both short- and longer-term value.
The problem: How good is the combination of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin? Well, consider the Clippers currently rank as the league's fourth most efficient offense despite the fact Vinny Del Negro hadn't coached any of his previous three teams to a top-half finish on the offensive end.
That's despite the presence of Derrick Rose on his first two teams and Griffin on last season's Clippers.
Unfortunately, the Clips' 22nd-ranked defense hasn't been able to keep up despite the elite athleticism of starting big men Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Jordan ranks third in the league in block percentage, which is really all L.A.'s defense has to hang its hat on.
According to 82games.com, they are 11.5 points per 100 possessions worse defensively with Jordan out of the game. Opposing centers have an 18.2 PER versus Jordan, so it seems as if he's protecting the rim at all costs, even if it means abandoning the man he's assigned to guard. If the Clippers are going to be able to deal with efficient opponents like Oklahoma City and San Antonio in the postseason, they are going to have to get consistent stops.
The fix: The Clippers' defense has been better in the nine games since Kenyon Martin joined the rotation. However, Del Negro is still a man short in his big-man rotation, with scrappy but undersized Reggie Evans still logging too much court time. A trade isn't necessarily the remedy here. Eventually, some team is going to snap up solid defensive center Kyrylo Fesenko, who is surprisingly still dangling on the free-agent market even though he's reportedly recovered from knee problems. The Clippers would be a good fit for him as they wouldn't expect much out of his limited offensive arsenal but could really use his butt-kicking presence in the lane. Los Angeles can only offer Fesenko the veteran's minimum, so it'd have to sell him on the opportunity to be a part of a contending rotation.
Fesenko WARP: --/minus-1.5 (over two seasons)