Who Won and Who Lost in the Blake Griffin Trade?
When Blake Griffin entered the Staples Center for his free agency pitch last summer, the Clippers had public announcer David Courtney declare that they were planning on retiring Griffin’s number in 2029. They even raised a fake banner to the actual spot that they were reserving for Griffin. If the last six months has taught us anything, it’s that loyalty is dead and that the NBA is a business. The Clippers shockingly sent their 5-time All-Star to Detroit yesterday in a blockbuster move that has jumpstarted the trade season.
Here are the details:
Detroit receives: Blake Griffin, Brice Johnson, Willie Reed
Los Angeles receives: Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, Detroit’s first-round pick (Protected 1-4 until 2021), and second-round pick.
Jerry West: We’re not entirely sure who is in charge in LA. Doc Rivers would surely never go for a rebuild. Lawrence Frank feels more like a GM in name than an actual decision maker. To me, this trade feels like a Jerry West orchestrated decision. He looked at Blake Griffin’s contract and knew that he had to make a bold decision while Griffin was an attractive commodity. His athleticism has already declined, and his physical condition at the end of his $171.17 million contract is cause for concern. West may look like a genius in a few years. He took advantage of a desperate Pistons team that needed a splashy move, and unloaded a contract that could look ultimately look worse than Joakim Noah’s.
LeBron James and Paul George: I’m a born and raised Northeasterner, but I’ll admit it; Los Angeles is a cool city. Should we be surprised that Palmdale hero Paul George has outwardly declared his admiration for playing in the City of Angels? It’s no coincidence that LeBron hasn’t denied the rumors connecting him with the Lakers. He tipped his hand by purchasing a $23 million house in Brentwood.
Brian Windhorst reported on the Lowe Post Podcast that James is bothered by the fact that he isn’t playing with Eric Bledsoe and PG13 right now. So could the All-Star wings team up with the Clippers? After all, if you were LeBron, would you rather play with DeAndre Jordan and Patrick Beverley or babysit a bunch of Lakers who are born in the late 90s and early 2000s? Options created leverage, and a new opportunity is knocking at the door for LeBron and PG.
Friendship: The idea of Boban Marjanovic and Tobias Harris breaking up due to a Blake Griffin-centric trade is a depressing thought. For the sake of NBA Twitter, these two need to stay together. It would not have been unreasonable for Adam Silver to veto the trade if Boban and Tobias were split apart.
Clipper Flexibility: The Clippers are clinging onto their playoff hopes. If they can’t persuade LeBron and PG to team up, then they can go into full tank mode. Offloading Griffin’s remaining $141.6 million is a big step toward hitting the reset button. Bradley, Jordan, and Lou Williams can become unrestricted free agents this summer. Harris’s contract expires after next season. Signed for one-year at $5M, Pat Beverley is a tantalizing piece for a contending team. The same goes for Harris. Jerry West could turn the Clips into one of the youngest in the league with the snap of a finger.
Sure, the Clippers are stuck with Danilo Gallinari’s remaining $44 million, but he’s good for only 50-60 games per season and won’t be able to carry them to the playoffs. The Clippers owe their first-round pick in 2019 to the Celtics if it isn’t in the top-14, so changing directions to rebuild makes financial sense.
Little Caesar’s Pizza: The Little Caesars Arena is a brand new facility in the heart of Detroit. How are they celebrating their big debut year? Well…the Pistons are 29th in attendance percentage. Mike Ilitch, owner of Little Caesar’s Pizza and the co-tenant Red Wings, cannot be happy about that. The injection of a theoretical superstar like Griffin could help to re-energize the arena. Then again, another long-term Griffin injury could send attendance even further into disarray.
Austin Rivers: Sorry, Austin, but your dad is probably going to get fired. Doc has never been interested in a rebuild. Remember when he dumped the Celtics like a sack of bricks? Further, wouldn’t it make sense for the Clippers to essentially allow LeBron and Paul George to handpick some potential coaching candidates? Clean slate. Build the team how you want. That would be my selling point. With the way that things ended between Rivers and banana boat buddy Chris Paul, you’d have to think that LBJ would prefer to call up David Fizdale.
Austin Rivers has a $12 million player option for next season, a salary that he won’t fetch on the open market. So does Rivers take the money or bolt to chase hoop dreams with his dad somewhere else? Jerry West probably hopes that Rivers chooses the latter.
Los Angeles Lakers: See section titled “LeBron James and Paul George.”
Luke Kennard: The Pistons just unloaded their two best shooters in Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris. Blake Griffin is not a floor spacer. Neither is Stanley Johnson. Kennard’s shooting ability could become critical for the survival of this team. Once Reggie Jackson returns, Detroit will have three ball-dominant players in their starting lineup. Kennard, along with Reggie Bullock, will see plenty of catch-and-shoot opportunities.
The patented 4-around-1 system: Stan Van Gundy gave birth to the modern stretch four. Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Marcus Morris, and Tobias Harris all flourished as the spot up power forward. Having a shooting threat around a big lumbering center has been a staple of SVG’s system for the past decade. He now adopts one of the more uniquely skilled big men in basketball. Griffin is a talented ball-handler and dazzling passer, something that Van Gundy has never encountered before with a power forward. Detroit didn’t trade for Griffin with plans to have him sit in the corner and wait for a kick out pass. Stan’s scheme is about to undergo a complete overhaul, and I’m excited to see him adjust on the fly.
Hollywood Blake: Doesn’t it feel like Griffin loved living in Los Angeles more than playing for the Clippers?
Blake was a rising star in the stand-up comedy world. He was able to balance basketball life with filming dozens of commercials. KIA, one of the NBA’s most prominent sponsors, made him their poster boy for years. He’s starring in a new romantic comedy, titled “The Female Brain”, which will hit theatres on February 9. He used to date a Kardashian. Or maybe a Jenner? I honestly don’t know the difference, but I hear it’s a big deal.
All of that is gone. He’s banished...to Detroit! I looked up the list of movies filmed in Michigan. 8 Mile was the only one that I recognized. At least Blake has 171 million reasons to be thankful.
Lob City: The Lob City Clippers will be remembered as the most disappointing group of the 2010s. The combination of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan was far too talented to never make it to a Western Conference Finals. Why they were never able to figure it out together will be litigated for decades, and the failed years together were the best opportunity that the Clippers ever had to eclipse the Lakers’ popularity. Detroit will try to recreate the product, but nothing will ever replicate the kinds of beautiful alley oop dunks that Lob City had, accompanied by Clippers play-by-play announcer Ralph Lawler yelling “Oh me, oh my” or “The lob…the jam!”