The trade deadline isn’t for another six days, but the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers didn’t want to wait. The Clippers acquired veterans Norman Powell and Robert Covington in exchange for Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, and a future second-round pick.
With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the shelf for the foreseeable future, Powell and Covington aren’t going to transform LA into a title contender overnight. But the Clippers just set themselves up as a real threat next season and beyond.
Norman Powell and Robert Covington are headed to the Clippers
After George suffered a torn UCL in his shooting elbow, it looked as if the Clippers would go into full-on sell mode. But Friday’s deal proved LA isn’t punting on the season anytime soon.
The Clippers acquired two steady veterans in Powell and Covington. Powell, 28, is averaging a career-high 18.7 points in his first full season with Portland. He’s on track to average 16.0 or more points for the third straight year after starting his career with four consecutive years of fewer than 9.0. The Southern California native had previously spent five-and-a-half seasons with the Toronto Raptors, winning a title in 2019.
As for Covington, the 31-year-old is now on his sixth team in nine seasons. The former Tennessee State star is scoring just 7.6 points on a career-low 38.1% shooting. But his defense remains sharp, registering 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks a night. Before joining Portland in 2020, Covington averaged between 11.6 and 13.5 points for six consecutive campaigns.
LA managed to acquire Powell and Covington for a reasonable cost. The biggest name heading to Portland is the 32-year-old Bledsoe, who in his second stint with the Clippers averaged just 9.9 points in over 25 minutes a game. Winslow, 25, has been in and out of the rotation all season. Same with the rookie guard Johnson, who hasn’t seen any action since Jan. 9.
Additionally, the draft pick isn’t a game-changer by any means. According to ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, who originally broke the news, the Blazers are receiving a 2025 second-round pick via the Detroit Pistons.
The Clippers are looking toward the future by acquiring Powell
Trading three players — one of whom is a rookie — is usually a sign that a team is going all-in immediately. But adding Powell shows LA’s commitment toward being a contender in 2023 and beyond.
A few months after acquiring Powell from the Raptors, the Trail Blazers gave the high-scoring wing a five-year deal worth $90 million. Yet just over halfway through the first year of the contract, Portland moved him to LA. That means the Clippers are receiving a 28-year-old in the midst of his prime and under four more years of team control. Affordable years, too, considering the guard won’t make above $20 million a year until 2025-26.
When everyone is fully healthy, Powell has the case to be LA’s third-best player behind Leonard and George. Not to mention, he already has familiarity with Kawhi from their season together in Toronto. So playing alongside him down the road shouldn’t be a problem.
Powell also offers a younger option for LA should they move on from the 32-year-old Marcus Morris. The former Kansas Jayhawk has struggled with health all season. Now, he becomes expendable either at the deadline or in the offseason.
By parting with an overpaid veteran, a journeyman role player, and an unproven rookie, the Clippers secured the services of a well-regarded role player who will play alongside LA’s two superstars for several seasons.
The Clippers could still be gearing up for a playoff run
Powell’s acquisition certainly benefits the Clippers for years to come. But adding a player of his caliber now, along with Covington, might be a sign LA wants to compete for the rest of this season.
Unlike his former Blazers teammate, Covington is on an expiring contract. Perhaps it was as simple as him being a throw-in in order for Portland to clear some more cap space. But there was legitimate interest in Covington across the league as more than just a throw-in player. So it stands to reason LA has firm plans for the three-and-D specialist.
Furthermore, adding quality talent should only increase Leonard’s desire to come back. Although head coach Tyronn Lue isn’t expecting the forward to play this season after tearing his ACL in the playoffs, Powell and Covington suddenly make the Clippers a lot more competitive in the immediate future. Should they find a way to make the playoffs, perhaps that will lure Kawhi back onto the court as the ultimate x-factor.
There are still six days to go until the trade deadline, leaving the Clippers a bit more time to make some bold moves. But Friday’s trade was a major win both now and in the future.