Clippers could maneuver with LeBron James on their mind

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Could the Los Angeles Clippers make enough moves to join the LeBron James free agency chase?

The Los Angeles Clippers want to make a roster upgrade or two, and they're not talking about small backend changes. Doc Rivers and Co. could be eyeing the biggest free agent prize of all. The Los Angeles Times' Broderick Turner and ESPN's Ramona Shelburne report Los Angeles will consider chasing after LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, but with Blake Griffin listed as an untouchable in any trade scenario.

The Clippers would first need to shed enough cap space to be a landing spot for either.

Why it makes sense

If the Clippers were somehow convinced to part with Griffin, it's a lot more conceivable they and the Miami Heat could work out a sign-and-trade deal for James, who opted out of his contract and will become a free agent.

But assuming that Griffin is an untouchable, the Clippers would first need to find trade partners for some combination, or multiple combinations, of DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick. Then they would need to convince James they are the best fit. According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, James' camp would certainly have interest in heading to Los Angeles. Clippers point guard Chris Paul and James are very close -- Paul is godfather to James' son -- and James would be intrigued by playing for Doc Rivers.

Turner reports that James' wife, Savannah, likes Los Angeles and would favor her husband playing for the Clippers rather than the Lakers. It makes sense if James wants to choose the team most ready to win now. The Clippers can certainly sell James on winning if Paul and Griffin are still in the fold.

Why it doesn't make sense

Miami is widely considered the frontrunner in the recruitment of James.

Even if Los Angeles were to relent regarding Griffin's availability, it's hard to imagine the Heat would be willing to work out a deal. Wojnarowski reports that the Heat are "privately adamant" that they won't consider a sign-and-trade deal involving James. The forward would have to force Miami's hand, making president Pat Riley believe he is leaving and the Heat have no choice but to get players in return.

Talks about acquiring James and Anthony are so far internal, according to Shelburne. Again assuming Griffin isn't available, the Clippers would have to get mighty creative in working out trades that would free up enough cap space for either James or Anthony. It's hard to see their available players being enticing enough for a sign-and-trade, or those players being dealt elsewhere without the Clippers taking on contracts in return.

Perhaps a more likely scenario for the Clippers is making a trade to acquire Orlando Magic guard Arron Afflalo, who Shelburne reports has been a targeted by the team in the past; Donald Sterling shut one Afflalo-to-Los Angeles trade last summer.

The likelihood James joins the Clippers

There are too many hoops the Clippers would need to jump through to see this through. Los Angeles would need to know James is willing to join it before it clears enough cap space to fit his new contract, and timing will become a major factor in the forward's free agency process. When it comes down to it, James will always take a hard look at remaining in South Beach, where he won two NBA titles.

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