What Is Blake Griffin’s Future in Detroit?
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
What is Blake Griffin’s future in Detroit?
Let’s start with a quick recap. On January 29th, 2018, the Clippers traded Blake Griffin to Detroit in exchange for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, a 2018 first-round pick, and a 2019 second-round pick.
The trade came as a total surprise. Griffin has just signed a 5-year, $171 million contract, and the Clippers were poised to build around the high-flyer.
Over in Motor City, however, Stan Van Gundy has other plans. SVG saw an opportunity to bring in an NBA superstar to try and save his job with the Pistons. Los Angeles took the call, and the rest is history.
The Clippers have long since moved on from Lob City, while the Pistons are stuck in the mud. Van Gundy is out, and the oft-injured Griffin will presumably play out the rest of his max contract in Detroit, a deal that runs through next season, with a $39 million player option for the 2021-2022 season that Griffin will almost certainly accept.
Griffin has had some good moments in Detroit. He helped lead the team to the 2019 playoffs, averaging 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game in the process. He was even named to the All-Star team. Importantly, he played 75 games in the regular season that year.
In the 2019-2020 season, however, Griffin was only able to suit up 18 times. On January, 7th 2020, Blake was sidelined indefinitely, ending his season prematurely to get surgery on his ailing left knee.
Detroit will not be headed to Orlando this summer; this Pistons season is over. What happens next, and is keeping Blake Griffin in Detroit the right move?
The Pistons recently hired Troy Weaver as the club’s new General Manager. Weaver sees Griffin as part of the team’s future plans.
“As long as Blake is in a Pistons uniform and under contract I look forward to working with him in helping us restore the Pistons,” Weaver said. “So he’s definitely in our plans going forward. The coaches chomped at the bit to get him back healthy and going again.”
Blake’s leadership and experience is unmatched by any other player on the roster. (Derrick Rose comes close.) Players like Sekou Doumbouya, Bruce Brown, and Christian Wood are the future in Detroit; having players like Griffin and Rose around is incredibly important for their growth.
It’s possible Griffin can return to All-Star form. He has improved his three-point shooting year after year. During the 2018-2019 season, Blake’s 24.5 points per game was a career-best, shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc on seven attempts a night, also both career highs. He’s shown a willingness and ability to adapt his game.
Keeping Griffin presents a lot of opportunity for Detroit, especially given Blake’s limited trade value. Few teams would be willing to take on so much salary for a player on the mend. This spring highlighted how mediocre this Pistons team is without Griffin.
Keeping Blake Griffin in Detroit a shot at the postseason, a leader, and even a potential All-Star.
The most obvious con is Griffin’s injury history. History tells us two things:
First, injury-prone players like Griffin aren’t guaranteed long careers, especially when those injuries occur in the ankles and knees. Second, these injuries can severely diminish a player’s impact when he is still in the league. Derrick Rose, Jabari Parker and Chandler Parsons are good examples of this.
It’s also worth noting Griffin owns one worst, if not the worst, contract in the league. I think that idea is completely overstated, but it’s not totally incorrect.
Griffin is slated to earn $36.8 million in 2020-21. Surely Detroit could get as much or more production spending that money elsewhere, especially if Blake is stuck on the bench. If Griffin cannot stay on the court for a minimum 60 games for the following two seasons, then there will be no argument that his contract will have been extremely problematic for the Pistons.
Summing it up
It seems unlikely this version of Blake Griffin will be worth max money in the next few years. Still, Detroit should keep Griffin as the team focuses on young talent.
There’s a chance Griffin returns to being a dynamic, borderline All-Star player. Detroit could have an exciting next few years while Blake plays out his contract and the young guys learn the ropes. After trading away Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, Detroit actually has a projected $32 million in cap space to work with this next off-season, the most they’ve had in a long time. New GM Troy Weaver could find Griffin a running mate.
Keeping Blake Griffin isn’t a very big risk for the Pistons. The team’s cap sheet is relatively healthy, there are a few high-upside players on the roster, and Blake still has gas in the tank. Likewise, the trade market for Griffin is nothing to sneeze at. Nobody knows if Griffin is going to be able to stay healthy for another full season, but the Pistons would still be in a much worse spot without him.