Trading for Coaches isn’t the most common thing you see or hear about in professional sports but it does exist. In the NBA, the most recent transaction was arranged between Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets.
The Clippers were all in on contention but Boston was starting a massive rebuild and having Doc Rivers at the helm wasn’t the right fit hence the trade via draft picks.
With Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan all in their prime years, Clippers needed a Coach with extensive playoff history and Championship clout to guide them into the upper tier of the league. That worked out fine but not great with Paul, Jordan and Griffin and the underachievement prompted a change in direction.
While the Clippers haven’t plunged into a rebuild, they have retooled enough to get them ample salary space to sign not one but two elite players in free agency this offseason. With a stellar class of players including Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Kemba Walker in line to be free to sign for any team they want, Clippers have a shot at pairing such stars with solid players like Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Patrick Beverley and Danilo Gallinari.
However, Clippers city rival LA Lakers is not too confident heading to free agency this offseason despite having a lot of positives. For starters, there is the big glamour of playing for the biggest name in world basketball. There is also Hollywood, nice weather and a collection of talented young players.
There is also the biggest name in the sport LeBron James on the roster though his presence couldn’t get Lakers to end what is now a six year playoff drought. Strangely, none of this matter since the team’s biggest asset has turned out to be its biggest drawback in its attempt to build a contender. Golden State Warriors Forward Durant opined in an interview players don’t want to play with LeBron and went further to call the environment around James “toxic”.
Despite failing to get Anthony Davis from New Orleans Pelicans via trade earlier this season, he remains the top target but is still not available until his free agency in 2020 and the Pelicans are still not interested in doing business with Lakers. LeBron on the other hand, has three more seasons to play out his contract beyond this season and should Durant’s word stand true, the Lakers are sure to miss out on the best players in the league. This puts the team in a tough spot with few options to boot.
One option that popped up in recent weeks is trading LeBron James but Magic Johnson’s tenure needs LeBron in Purple and Gold to thrive. As such, making a trade for San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich is the best option to take. Popovich is overlooking a typical-in recent seasons- late run to make the playoffs and Spurs are in eighth place knowing a couple of wins could take them to fifth place. Portland Trailblazers aren’t expected to win a lot of games after the horrific leg injury to Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum’s late return from a knee ailment.
However, Spurs lack a player of James’ ilk to win a Championship while James and the Lakers lack a Coach of Popovich’s ilk to lead them to one. Something has to give and since both men like each other, pairing them isn’t a bad idea. Spurs are aware its roster is one of the oldest in the league needing fresh limbs and the Lakers have a quartet of young players with at least two years experience in the league to offer in return for Popovich.
San Antonio isn’t getting a big star player anytime soon mainly due to its location and market but it has a big reputation for developing talented players into stars and in Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball , Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma there is a lot to develop into bigger things. Trading all those pieces in return for draft picks to make the Popovich trade happen guts Lakers roster since half of the team members are on deals that expire once this season ends.
Conversely, making such a move gives Lakers its best chance at winning a 17th NBA title to equal Boston Celtics mark. With Pop and LeBron together coupled with Hollywood and market in Los Angeles, the Lakers will have cap space and the lure to draw top stars to its roster. With Pop on the sideline, LeBron James will get the chance to play out the final phase of his career with one of the best Coaches ever in the sport.
The fact LeBron has won three titles with good but definitely not great Coaches is testament to his greatness and getting an elite Coach is sure to give him a shot at winning at least two more titles. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were not title winners before Phil Jackson coached them and Pop is likely to do same with LeBron.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter