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The Los Angeles Clippers' options for trading point guard Eric Bledsoe appear to be expanding now that star guard Chris Paul has verbally agreed to a five-year, $107-million extension.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Clippers this week have exchanged sign-and-trade scenarios with both the Milwaukee Bucks and Dallas Mavericks in potential deals that would bring either J.J. Redick or fellow free agent O.J. Mayo to L.A.
While the Clippers have had cursory discussions about Bledsoe with other teams, including recent talks with Orlando and Toronto, sources say senior vice president of basketball operations Doc Rivers is strongly inclined to keep Bledsoe. Rivers loves Bledsoe's game and while he doesn't intend to start him next to Paul, he sees him playing an integral role in the Clippers' title push.
Rivers also has strong interest in Mayo -- they are scheduled to have lunch Tuesday in L.A. -- and the Clippers could look to move Caron Butler or Jamal Crawford instead of Bledsoe.
Talks with the Bucks, meanwhile, center on Redick, with one source close to the process telling ESPN.com that a face-to-face meeting between Redick and the Clippers was imminent, perhaps as soon as Monday night.
The Clippers, in their previous discussions with Orlando and Toronto, have targeted Magic guard Arron Afflalo and Raptors swingman DeMar DeRozan, although it's not immediately clear what Toronto's pending trade of Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks does to the Raptors' ability to stay in the Bledsoe hunt. The Clippers had interest in Bargnani as a potential solution to their lack of floor-spacing shooters.
A trade with any of the known suitors would almost certainly have to include other pieces -- such as Caron Butler's expiring contract -- because Bledsoe is due to make only $2.63 million next season in the final year of his rookie contract.
Bledsoe, a dynamic sparkplug off the bench and outstanding defender, has spent the last two seasons serving as Paul's apprentice and is widely regarded as being ready for a starting role. The Clippers have acknowledged as much, but it remains to be seen what impact Rivers' arrival has on their immediate trade plans.
If they can acquire another player or two Rivers likes, it's believed he can be convinced to part with Bledsoe before the start of the season. The 23-year-old is eligible for a contract extension before the Halloween deadline for such deals for members of Bledsoe's draft class.
Yet there's clearly also a part of Rivers who wants to ignore the conventional wisdom that the Clippers can't afford to keep Bledsoe as Paul's backup and try to keep him around for one more season as the ultimate insurance policy for Paul.
The risk there is that Bledsoe will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2014, raising fears within the Clippers' front office that they won't be able to match an offer sheet next summer, thus exposing themselves to losing Bledsoe without compensation.
The Clippers, with or without Bledsoe, are focused on adding perimeter shooters around Paul and Blake Griffin, sources say, as well as upgrading their perimeter defense.
Redick is considered one of the top two or three available shooters on the free-agent market, but getting a precise read on Milwaukee's backcourt intentions is difficult. The Bucks have increasingly professed a desire to bring back restricted free agent Brandon Jennings, but Jennings' future has been uncertain for months. ESPN.com reported earlier Monday, furthermore, that the Bucks have decided to essentially let both Redick and fellow free agent Monta Ellis walk while also -- at the behest of new coach Larry Drew -- showing interest in restricted free agent Jeff Teague.
The Mavericks, meanwhile, are said to be excited by the prospect of signing and trading Mayo -- whom Dallas does not expect to retain -- for Bledsoe as part of a potential contingency plan if the Mavs fall short in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes.
One source told ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon that Clippers forward Matt Barnes -- who averaged 10.3 points and 4.6 rebounds off the Clippers' bench last season -- would likely be part of any deal with the Mavericks involving Mayo. The Mavs, though, would first have to convince Barnes to come to Dallas; Barnes' agent Aaron Goodwin said Dallas is merely one of 12 teams to register interest in Barnes on the first day of free agency.
"He knows Mark [Cuban] is going to be able to build a championship team," Goodwin said. "If the Mavericks are interested, we're definitely going to listen."
The Mavs also have interest in Clippers free-agent guard Chauncey Billups, sources told MacMahon. Mayo signed a one-year, $4 million deal with Dallas last summer in part because of the advice of Billups, who credited Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle for helping his career take off during their year together in Detroit.
The Magic and Clippers have been discussing the possibility of a trade with Afflalo and Bledsoe as the principals dating to early June. Yet those talks began before the Clippers' drawn-out hiring of Rivers to a dual role in coaching and management.
In-season proclamations from Paul himself that Bledsoe deserves to start elsewhere continue to convince rival executives that the Clippers -- despite Rivers' fondness for Bledsoe -- will ultimately conclude that keeping the 23-year-old as Paul's backup is a luxury they won't be able to afford.
But it's becoming increasingly clear that Rivers, to sign off on parting with such a capable deputy for Paul, will have to be convinced that the Clippers are getting an over-the-top return in a trade to sign off on parting with Bledsoe this offseason.