Hawks get: Guard Jamal Crawford, center Diamond Stone, 2018 Houston first-round pick (top-three protected)
Clippers get:?Forward Danilo Gallinari
Nuggets get:?2019 Washington second-round pick
This is complicated by the fact that Hawks free agent Paul Millsap will sign with the Nuggets in an unrelated transaction, but essentially Atlanta’s participation in this trade boils down to renting cap space to the Clippers to pick up a first-round pick and a prospect.
The Hawks take on $14.2 million for Crawford this year and the $3 million he’s guaranteed in 2018-19, which might be reduced somewhat if he agrees to take less in a buyout in order to get back out on the market as an unrestricted free agent. That accounts for about half of Atlanta’s cap room, assuming the team retains holds for free agents Tim Hardaway Jr. and Mike Muscala.
The Hawks weren’t likely to compete this season without Millsap, and even with him, doing so would have been a challenge. Using their cap space to collect additional picks and prospects is a good plan, and the price here is reasonable, though not overwhelmingly positive.
The pick Atlanta gets, sent by the Rockets to the Clippers as part of last week’s Chris Paul trade, will probably fall at the end of the first round. The Hawks can hope for dysfunction among the backcourt of Paul and James Harden that causes Houston to fall short of expectations, but it’s more likely that the Rockets will be among the league’s best teams.
Stone is a worthwhile addition for an Atlanta team short on centers. Drafted with the 40th pick a year ago, Stone saw just 24 minutes of action for a Clippers team more interested in playing veterans than developing rookies. He saw more playing time in the D-League, where his production, translated to its NBA equivalent, was similar to that of? Derrick Favors, J.J. Hickson and Enes Kanter at the same age, according to my SCHOENE projection system. (I guess that says that how good Stone is defensively will determine his value.)
The Hawks should be able to take a longer look at Stone and see whether he’s worth keeping beyond this season because he’ll be a restricted free agent next summer.
We’ll always remember the six days the Clippers actually possessed an extra draft pick. After briefly operating like a team interested in a future beyond the next 11 months, the Clippers pivoted back to what is for them normalcy by giving up a first-rounder for the right to pay an injury-prone forward approaching his 30s more than $20 million a year.
Besides health, the success of the Gallinari contract will be determined by his ability to successfully defend small forwards as he ages and loses quickness, a process that already started following an ACL tear. I think Gallinari’s better position will soon be power forward, if it isn’t already, and that’s blocked in the Clippers starting lineup by the presence of Blake Griffin. (I do expect Gallinari to see time at power forward when Griffin is off the court, though that would require Doc Rivers to stagger his starters and reserves more than he has in the past.)
Between Griffin and Gallinari, the Clippers have committed to nearly $54 million in 2017-18 salary over the past four days. That means that even if DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers both decline player options in order to become free agents next summer, the Clippers will no longer be able to create max cap space without additional moves. (They’d have to trade or stretch Wesley Johnson, who’s likely to pick up his 2017-18 option, and trade or waive Patrick Beverley.)
All this in the name of remaining competitive in a Western Conference in which the Clippers don’t likely rank among the top five teams.
On the plus side, the Clippers were able to move Crawford’s salary. Despite his excellent track record, Crawford’s value has declined dramatically the past couple of seasons. He has no longer been able to score efficiently enough to make up for his weak defense. Lou Williams, acquired as part of the Paul trade, should be a significant upgrade in terms of providing instant offense off the bench.
Because they’re acquiring a player in a sign-and-trade, the Clippers will now be hard-capped at the luxury-tax apron of $125.3 million. They’re currently looking at $111 million and change committed to 12 players, presuming they can sign second-round picks Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell for the rookie minimum. That should be enough room for the Clippers to use the full non-taxpayer midlevel exception and fill out the roster. (On cue: ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports?that they plan to meet with free agent Derrick Rose.)
Barring additional trades, the Nuggets would have had to renounce Gallinari’s cap hold to make room for the reported Millsap signing, so they don’t give up anything in this trade. They don’t get much, either: According to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, their payment for agreeing to play ball with the Clippers and Hawks is a 2019 second-round pick from the Wizards.
More than anything, Denver might have wanted to help Gallinari get to his desired destination after moving on from him to sign Millsap.