Clippers acquire Mason Plumlee, Eric Gordon and Bones Hyland at trade deadline

Charlotte Hornets center Mason Plumlee, left, drives to the basket ahead of Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic.
Charlotte Hornets center Mason Plumlee, left, drives to the basket in front of Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic. The Clippers acquired Plumlee ahead of the NBA trade deadline on Thursday. (Nell Redmond / Associated Press)

Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard were among the first Clippers to leave the team’s locker room Wednesday night after a loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Less than 12 hours after they’d departed Arena, each was no longer on the team, traded away along with fellow backup guard John Wall as the Clippers worked to solve their central priority in the lead-up to Thursday’s noon PST trade deadline: How, in a difficult Western Conference, could they improve their playoff rotation?

The Clippers, who entered the day with a record of 31-27 and sixth in the West standings, also wanted to consolidate a guard rotation that had too many players for not enough spots, add youth, and not give up a future first-round pick or members of its young core, including Terance Mann and Brandon Boston Jr., to make it happen.

Those priorities beget a series of moves that were confirmed by people not authorized to discuss the matters because the league office had not yet made them official. To Charlotte went the team’s 2028 second-round pick and Jackson — the longtime starting point guard who lost his place in the rotation one month ago before finding footing as a reserve — in exchange for 6-foot-11 Mason Plumlee, who will fill their gaping need for a backup center behind starter Ivica Zubac.

Kennard, a 44.8% three-point shooter during his three seasons with the Clippers, is going to Memphis as part of a multi-team trade that brought back multiple second-round picks. One of the league's deadliest shooters, Kennard turned down shots often enough to rankle coaches who implored him to shoot. He had fallen out of the rotation this month after returning from a calf injury.

Wall is on his way to Houston — the team that bought him out last summer, and is reportedly planning to buy him out again in the coming days — and in return the Clippers will receive Eric Gordon, the guard who began his career with the Clippers.

Houston's Eric Gordon controls the ball during a game against Minnesota on Jan. 23.
Houston's Eric Gordon controls the ball against Minnesota. Gordon was reunited with the Clippers on Thursday. (David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

In yet another move, the Clippers added second-year wing Bones Hyland from Denver in exchange for a pair of future second-round picks.

With the trade deadline over, the market for players bought out of their contracts now opens. With one roster spot still available, the Clippers will evaluate options but are not expected to be active in scouring the market for buyout additions. One such name said to hold interest in joining the Clippers, in particular, is former Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook, who was traded to Utah on Wednesday, but insiders across the league expressed skepticism Westbrook would ultimately land in L.A., describing it as a limited possibility because of questions about fit.

The Clippers have sought guards who can defend at the point of attack while spacing the court around their core of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with shooting. Of the 55 players who have taken at least 700 shots this season, Westbrook’s 41.7% accuracy ranks fifth-worst.

Though Hyland owned one of Denver’s worst net ratings — the Nuggets outscored by 18 points per 100 possessions with him on the court versus off — his electric energy and offensive potential left the Clippers enamored with the 6-3, 22-year-old guard since they worked him out before the 2021 NBA draft. They kept close watch on him during his two seasons in Denver, and he could be used as a ballhandler with reserves.

Gordon’s contract for next season is not guaranteed. Though there are stylistic similarities between the 34-year-old and Norman Powell, a candidate for the league’s best reserve, there is a belief Gordon can still be effective while playing off of the ball as he did while in Houston with James Harden, while also upgrading the bench’s point-of-attack defense. As the team evaluated how to improve its playoff rotation, Gordon fit that criteria.

The Clippers will have Plumlee’s Bird rights, allowing them to exceed the salary cap to re-sign the 32-year-old who averaged 12.2 points and 9.7 rebounds in Charlotte this season. Plumlee’s ability as a passer also appealed to the Clippers.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.