Report: Clippers interested in Raptors’ VanVleet, Heat’s Lowry

Blake Murphy joins The Raptors Show with Will Lou to discuss the Toronto Raptors receiving a trade offer for forward O.G. Anunoby for three first-round picks as the two discuss just how valuable first-round picks are in today's NBA.

The Los Angeles Clippers are reportedly in the market for a new point guard according to The Ringer‘s Kevin O’Connor, and two of the names they are supposedly interested in were prominent figures on the Toronto Raptors’ 2019 championship squad.

Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet — the past and present stalwarts at the point guard position for Toronto — are two of the players that O’Connor reports the Clippers are interested in, with a possible reunion in store.

According to his piece, the Clippers are looking for an upgrade to their current backcourt, as they have been unable to find starting calibre point guard play between the likes of John Wall and Reggie Jackson.

Neither veteran guard has been especially productive for the Los Angeles outfit this season. Jackson was demoted to a bench role on Jan. 8, then was out of the rotation entirely for two games prior to Wall getting sidelined with an abdominal injury.

Meanwhile, Wall is set to miss at least one more week, though when he does play, he’s only averaging 11.4 points per game this season in his bench role.

In targeting either Lowry or VanVleet, the Clippers would acquire a guard capable of handling a legitimate ball-handling and playmaking role for a team that hasn’t had a true point guard since acquiring their star wing duo of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.

Currently, the Clippers rank seventh in isolation possessions in the NBA. However, they are struggling with efficiency when using isolation, ranking in the bottom 10 teams in EFG% and points-per-possession on those plays. Bringing in an additional piece capable of moving the ball around might unlock another element to what has been a bottom-six ranked team in overall offensive rating this season.

Lowry, despite his age, has played a steady role in Miami this season, averaging 12.8 points and 5.4 assists while continually being a plus-defender on the third-ranked defence in the NBA.

His contract, however, would be the point of contention here in getting a deal done. He’s signed through next season, with a cap hit next year of $29 million at which point the guard will be 37 years old.

To make the deal work, it’s likely that the Clippers would have to send back a combination of Luke Kennard ($14m), Robert Covington ($12m), Reggie Jackson ($11m), Nicolas Batum ($11m) or John Wall ($6m) to match salaries. Whether the Heat would want any of those pieces, considering they probably see themselves as contenders as well, is certainly questionable, however, getting Lowry off their books for next season might be enough of a prize to make it work.

A package for Lowry could look something like this:

Clippers receive: Kyle Lowry ($28.3)

Heat receive: Reggie Jackson ($11m), Robert Covington ($12m)

VanVleet meanwhile, despite early season struggles, has bounced back in the last four games especially, averaging 31.3 points, 7.0 assists and is shooting 48.7 per cent (!!!) from long range on nearly 10 attempts per game. On the season he’s putting up 19.1 points and 6.3 assists per game while shooting a more reasonable 34.4 per cent from three-point range.

He would also be a better fit for the Clippers’ timeline as a one-year rental, with the guard likely to decline his $22 million player option for next season.

VanVleet made headlines of his own on Tuesday, announcing that he had parted ways with his agent shortly ahead of the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline. A curious move as his future with the Raptors remains in limbo.

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In return for VanVleet, the Raptors would likely want a fair share of future first-round draft selections. This, however, is a conundrum for Steve Ballmer’s team, as they off-loaded a good chunk of those future picks when they made the deal to bring in Paul George.

As it currently stands, the Clippers don’t have control of any of their picks from now until 2026, but could still stand to give up their picks (or pick swaps) from 2027-2030 if they want to contend now.

A package for VanVleet could look something like this:

Clippers receive: Fred VanVleet ($21m)

Raptors receive: John Wall ($6m), Nicolas Batum ($11m), 2027 pick swap, 2028 first-round pick

VanVleet would also be a solid fit for the Clippers in terms of play style, allowing the diminutive point guard to return to an off-ball role that saw him excel during the 2019 championship run alongside Kawhi Leonard. His high minutes-per-game numbers have become a point of concern over the last two seasons, however getting him onto a team with more depth like the Clippers would allow him more rest, and hopefully, get him back to his “steady Freddy” moniker.

The Clippers are also reportedly interested in Utah Jazz point guard Mike Conley.

As stated prior, bringing either VanVleet or Lowry into the fold would bring up memories of days past for Raptors fans, reuniting the guards with Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and wing Norman Powell.

Though perhaps less likely, the Clippers have also been named as a potential suitor for former Raptors stretch-big, and championship bench piece Serge Ibaka by Hoopswire’s Sam Amico. His current team, the Milwaukee Bucks, agreed to find a trade partner for the veteran big man.

Their search for depth at the five though is likely legitimate. They lost centre Isaiah Hartenstein to the New York Knicks in free agency last season, and behind starting big man Ivica Zubac, they sorely lack depth.

O’Connor adds in his piece that rumours about adding Naz Reid from the Minnesota Timberwolves or Mo Bamba from the Orlando Magic could be in the cards for upgrades there.

The Clippers currently carry the highest payroll in the NBA at a chart-topping $202 million with most of that coming in the form of their superstar wing duo Leonard and George. Whether team owner Steve Ballmer wants to keep paying that massive tab is still unknown, however, what is more clear, is that since acquiring those two, the goal has been to win.

Could reuniting a semblance of the 2019 Toronto Raptors championship squad be the way to go about it? The NBA is a copycat league after all.

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