Can Blake Live up to the Max?
Blake Griffin is going to make a lot of money over the next five years, $173 million to be exact. Is that warranted for an injury prone, undisciplined player who struggles to make a consistent three-point shot? (Griffin’s career percentage from three is 29.9%). He’s missed a total of 83 games since 2014-15, a time where Griffin should be entering his physical prime. On the other hand, Griffin’s talent cannot be denied. He is a five-time All-Star, a Rookie of the Year and has made the All-NBA team four times; those credentials are nothing to be sneezed at. His offensive capabilities are second to none, he’s a scoring machine and he’s one of, if not the best big man passer in the league. Following the departure of former franchise cornerstone Chris Paul it is now up to Blake to be the face of the team. Does he deserve that sweet Microsoft money and more importantly can he live up to it?
The Case For Giving Griffin The Max
The front office needed to give Griffin the max. In a diverse and crowded LA market signing him maintains their relevance in one of the sport’s premier hubs. Despite the loss of Paul, the securing of Blake’s services also means the Clippers will be there or thereabouts come playoff time.
Griffin is the Clippers’ most famous son. He was drafted by the team with the first overall pick in the 2009 draft and since then (despite some mild murmurings), he has stayed loyal to them, and they’ve repaid that loyalty heftily. He’s an incredibly marketable player on and off the court. His humour and personality draws people in and his on-court exploits put their bums on the seats.
BG is the NBA’s best passing big man. That isn’t a statement that comes without qualification. Last season, despite missing 21 games he still averaged 4.9 assists. The only power forward/centres who averaged more were Draymond Green (and those numbers are inflated by the fact he has two of the game’s best shooters alongside him) and Al Horford. One thing Griffin has over those two is the creativity he has in his playmaking and passing. His superb ball handling allows him to create in transition, his cross court passing and facilitating with DeAndre are just some of the many ways that allows Griffin’s assist numbers to remain so high. Combine those skills with his basketball IQ and you’ve got an elite big man in every sense of the word. With Paul gone those skills will be utilized even more as Griffin may develop into more of a point forward role. His decreased athleticism may concern some but the aforementioned skills more than mask that.
For Griffin personally, this gives him security, something he hasn’t had with the franchise over the past few years. The faith put in him by Balmer and co. will hopefully allow him to prove his naysayers wrong. He needs to reward the franchise for the faith they have put in him by going out and producing next season. With all the tools he has in his arsenal there’s no reason to say he can’t recapture his All-NBA form. Lob City may have come to an end but the new era headed by Griffin doesn’t look too bad either.
The Case Against
$173 million is a lot of money. Griffin is 28 and this contract will take him into his mid-30s. Will he still be producing at an All-Star level come that fifth year? It’s highly unlikely and the Clippers could find themselves in a situation similar to what the Knicks find themselves with Carmelo Anthony right now.
Griffin is nowhere near an elite defender nor is he a capable three-point shooter. The way the league is trending with floor spacing Griffin may struggle to keep up, though the addition of Gallinari will certainly help that. The team also signed Milos Teodosić who is one of the world’s best passers and could impede on Griffin’s role as a future playmaker.
Another significant negative is that Griffin is extremely unlikely to suit up for the team come opening night. The toe injury he sustained in April during the series against the Jazz has prevented him from doing anything more than basic ball handling and free throw shooting. From Griffin’s side of things he revealed in a recent press conference that he thinks he’s “a very realistic possibility” to be back for training camp. For a man who’s had eight injuries within the space of three years it’s hard to see him back so soon. That’s where the real negatives come to fruition. Imagine that Griffin gets injured again at some stage next season. The pressure on him and the team will be insurmountable, and without another star like Paul to alleviate, that pressure has no way of being eased. Jordan has the ability to provide some useful assistance alongside him but his skillset in comparison is extremely. Blake needs the Clippers, but more so the Clippers need him to remain healthy.