The Los Angeles Clippers have strong interest in pursuing LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony if they can clear the requisite salary cap space to make a maximum-level offer to the superstars, who have both elected to become free agents starting July 1.
One player they have no interest in moving, however, is forward Blake Griffin. While the Clippers would need to move significant players and money to make a run at either James or Anthony, sources told ESPN that Clippers president and coach Doc Rivers has told Griffin on numerous occasions that he considers him "untouchable" in any trade.
The Clippers have $76 million committed in salaries for next season. That figure will decrease to $71.7 million after Darren Collison, Glen Davis and Danny Granger opt out of their contracts for next season, meaning the Clippers likely would have to trade some combination of prized young center DeAndre Jordan (one year, $11.4 million), Jared Dudley (three years, $12.1 million), Matt Barnes (three years, $10.1 million), Jamal Crawford (three years, $16.3 million) or J.J. Redick (four years, $27.7 million) to facilitate a deal.
The Clippers' discussions about making a run at James or Anthony have been internal thus far; however, sources said the team has engaged in trade discussions this spring with the Orlando Magic regarding shooting guard Arron Afflalo. Those conversations were initially rebuffed by the Magic, who didn't like the package of assets the Clippers could offer, sources said. However, there was some sense the clubs could revisit those talks later if they morphed into a three-team discussion.
The Clippers have coveted former UCLA star Afflalo for several years, coming close to trading for him last summer before the deal -- which included Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler -- was shut down by owner Donald Sterling, sources said. Sterling has since been banned for life from the NBA for racist comments.
ESPN reported in February that if James were to leave Miami, the Clippers would be among his preferred destinations because of the strength of their roster and his close relationships with Chris Paul and coach Doc Rivers. Paul is one of James' best friends and the two have talked about playing with each other since they were in high school, when they met on the AAU and prep all-star circuits. Paul is godfather to James' son Bryce and they were in each other's weddings.
The Clippers have a similar interest in Anthony, who is close with both Paul and Griffin, but it would be too difficult to clear enough salary cap space to pursue both James and Anthony in tandem.