This year's NBA trade deadline challenged the glut of Western Conference contenders to test how far they would go to separate themselves from the pack.
Some teams, like the Phoenix Suns in their Kevin Durant blockbuster or the Dallas Mavericks in their Kyrie Irving acquisition, swung for the fences. Others — such as the Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans — only nabbed a rotation player or two, opting to bet on their current core.
The Los Angeles Clippers appear to fall in the latter group, but we should not overlook their trade-deadline moves. With three separate trades, all in the final hours of dealmaking on Thursday, the Clippers added Bones Hyland, Eric Gordon and Mason Plumlee. They took calculated risks and changed three important spots in their rotation, hoping the current stalwart defense insulates a boost of offensive juice.
Hyland was one of the hottest names in the rumor mill last week after his falling out with the Nuggets. Los Angeles pounced and dealt two second-round picks for the former No. 26 overall selection in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Hyland quickly becomes the most promising developmental talent on the roster at 22 years old. But more immediately, he brings a high-charged dose of long-range shotmaking to the Clippers' bottom-10 offense.
Bones Hyland hit a career-high 7 three-pointers to lead the @nuggets to the win! #MileHighBasketball@BizzyBones11: 26 PTS, 7 3PM pic.twitter.com/IkJU5Ajf0U— NBA (@NBA) October 29, 2022
The combo guard profiles as one of the most extreme perimeter creators in the entire league. Some evidence: Hyland has attempted 118 self-created threes this season, according to PBP Stats, which would rank second on his new team behind Paul George (164) and far above the third-place guard he's replacing (Reggie Jackson, 66), in only 820 minutes this season. His 39.8% clip on those attempts ranks 13th among 81 players who have attempted at least 50 such shots.
To this point of his career, however, Hyland's primary impact has come from distance. He can attack the basket, but he's no more than a mediocre rim-pressure threat, and he's a very limited playmaker. Microwave shooting is an important skill that can swing a playoff series if active; it's unclear if Hyland can consistently impact the game this way.
That's why the Eric Gordon trade adds another level of intrigue. Gordon, a 34-year-old shooting guard, finally leaves a rebuilding Houston Rockets situation after years in and out of reported trade talks. He rejoins the franchise that drafted him seventh overall way back in 2008.
Ty Lue on the @LAClippers new editions of Bones Hyland, Eric Gordon & Mason Plumlee. #LAClippers pic.twitter.com/yxsD8SyutK— Hoops & Brews (@HoopsNBrews) February 11, 2023
Gordon has a 15-year history of solid, albeit streaky, pull-up shooting, and he can still slice his way to the rim with ease. Gordon has converted 67% or more of his shots within three feet of the hoop in each of the last three seasons, per Basketball Reference — and that's in a Houston offense that has looked pretty wonky at times.
The Clippers acquired Gordon in a three-team deal with the Rockets and Grizzlies that ultimately sent John Wall to Houston and Luke Kennard to Memphis. They now have a reshaped guard rotation that includes Hyland, Gordon, Terance Mann and Norman Powell — four complementary scoring threats next to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.