Can the Clippers trade their way past the Lakers?

Do the Clippers need another closer?

Though the Clippers are notably deep in terms of rotation-caliber players — nine players have been worth at least 0.7 wins above replacement this season by my metric, tying LA with Milwaukee, Philadelphia and San Antonio for most in the NBA — they still might be a little short on reliable options at the end of a close playoff game.

At times this season, Doc Rivers has finished games with one of JaMychal Green, Maurice Harkless and Landry Shamet on the court. For the most part, however, his closing five has featured Beverley, George, Harrell, Leonard and Williams.

Despite Williams’ history of clutch heroics, he largely has been a third option in those groups. According to Second Spectrum data, he has taken only six shots in what the NBA defines as clutch situations (last five minutes of regulation and any OT, score within five points) with both George (who has taken a team-high 12) and Leonard (9) on the court. Overall, Williams’ usage rate drops from 33% of the team’s plays when both George and Leonard sit to 21% when he plays with both of them — without a corresponding bump in his efficiency. (His true shooting percentage actually drops slightly, from .585 to .574.)

The question then becomes whether the more limited value Williams brings on offense as a third option will compensate for opponents targeting him defensively in the playoffs. Late in games, getting Williams switched on a star player is an attractive option for opponents — although not one the Lakers employed in their two losses to the Clippers, when Williams was allowed to hide on nonthreatening spot-up shooters down the stretch.

With George and Leonard handling the bulk of the shot creation, the Clippers might prefer another 3-and-D option — one whose game is more complete than Harkless’ and Shamet’s. Ideally, that player would also supply secondary playmaking, a weakness for the Clippers. (They’ve assisted on just 56% of their field goals this season, putting them 24th in the NBA.)

That combination sounds a lot like Andre Iguodala, whom the Clippers might be able to acquire by packaging their first-round draft pick, Harkless and another player, most plausibly Jerome Robinson. The Clippers can trade their 2020 first-round pick but after this draft won’t be able to trade a first-round pick until the 2021 draft concludes, at which point they’d be able to trade their 2028 first-rounder. So the Clippers would be using some of their precious remaining draft capital on a likely rental.

As strictly a rental, Iguodala probably isn’t worth the cost to the Clippers, even with the side benefit of keeping him away from the Lakers.

Instead, Marcus Morris Sr. seems to be a more likely Clippers target after they pursued him in free agency last summer. At $15 million, he could be swapped for Harkless and a player making the minimum (either Patrick Patterson or Derrick Walton Jr.). Though Morris doesn’t provide the playmaking of Iguodala, he’d offer the Clippers defensive versatility and floor spacing, having hit 47% of his 3s so far this season and 37% for his career. Using non-Bird rights, the Clippers could pay Morris a starting salary up to $18 million to return in free agency.

Other interesting possibilities open up if the Clippers decide Williams’ defensive limitations make him more valuable to another team. Given his reasonable contract ($8 million this season and next), Williams probably has more trade value than the first-round pick the Clippers have to offer. But finding a workable trade probably requires involving a third team since those who need Williams’ skills probably don’t have the kind of quality two-way contributors the Clippers would want in return.

If the Clippers could get a better first-round pick and another expiring contract for Williams, perhaps then they could make a run at Toronto’s Kyle Lowry with an eye toward reuniting him with his former teammate Leonard in pursuit of another title.

The heaviest lifting for the Clippers’ front office came last summer, when a series of deals culminating with their trade for George put them in position to sign Leonard as a free agent. Still, with the Lakers looming as a formidable West foe, the Clippers might have some work left to do before the deadline to complete their finishing lineups.