Reading reactions of the NBA blockbuster deal that sent Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic and first- and second-round picks has been fascinating.
Maybe it’s because I’m not quite sure what to think myself. I know that the Pistons were a bad basketball team. They were a sad basketball team. They were not fun to watch.
Now, they’ll be interesting — an interesting trainwreck or an interesting and fun and unconventional joy.
In looking for smarter NBA minds than myself to weigh in, it seems they are equally split from Detroit’s perspective.
Sports Illustrated: Grade A-
The good news is, the Pistons can try to figure this out long term. The bad news is, they’re locked into serious risk and financial investment for the next several years. Griffin will turn 29 in March and comes with a checkered injury history, having last played 80 games in a season in 2013–14. He is signed through 2020–21 with a player option for 21–22, meaning he could be 33 by the time the Pistons are off the hook for his deal. They’re betting on his health and his chemistry with Drummond, whose massive deal runs through 2020–21 (he has an option for that season). Jackson is also signed through 2019–20, and barring another move, this is what Detroit is working with. The long-term risk may be more consequential than what the Pistons traded away, given Bradley is a free agent to-be, and the better they play, the less valuable this year’s draft pick will be for the Clippers.
Hoops Habit: Grade B
Unfortunately, the deal — while a good one in and of itself — leaves Detroit in severe need of depth. Their starting wings are gone, putting a ton of pressure on youngsters like Luke Kennard and Stanley Johnson to produce.
Even worse, this trade does nothing to address the team’s biggest need at point guard. With Jackson still sidelined and both Ish Smith and Langston Galloway failing to fill that gaping hole, Detroit will heavily lean on Griffin and Drummond’s playmaking in the frontcourt.
ESPN (Insider): Grade D+
The first big question about this trade is whether the upgrade from Harris to Griffin at power forward can offset the loss of depth on the wing, one exacerbated by the fact that Harris could swing to small forward and Griffin cannot. On the plus side, Bradley has been dreadful this season, rating a league-worst 2.1 wins below replacement level by my metric.
However, WARP understates Bradley’s value as an individual defender nearly as much as conventional wisdom overstates it. And the alternatives are not great.
Reggie Bullock is the one remaining Pistons wing who has been effective this season. Despite good moments recently, Stanley Johnson also has rated worse than replacement level this season; rookie Luke Kennard has provided little beyond 3-point shooting; and Langston Galloway is limited defensively against bigger guards. So I’m not sure how much adding Griffin will actually improve Detroit’s chances of reaching the playoffs this year -- particularly given his own iffy track record when it comes to staying healthy.
Piston Powered: Grade C+
The problem is that building around Griffin may necessitate some further moves as The problem is that building around Griffin may necessitate some further moves as well. Andre Drummond has excelled this year, mostly by playing more around the elbows, using his face-up game, finding cutters and keeping the offense flowing with dribble hand-offs. That’s the exact area of the floor and the role in which Griffin has been most effective. Drummond has some similarities to DeAndre Jordan but he’s not as good as Jordan at the things Jordan does will — protecting the rim and rolling to the basket. Playing him next to Blake may mean he gets to do less of the things that have helped him be more successful this year.well. Andre Drummond has excelled this year, mostly by playing more around the elbows, using his face-up game, finding cutters and keeping the offense flowing with dribble hand-offs. That’s the exact area of the floor and the role in which Griffin has been most effective. Drummond has some similarities to DeAndre Jordan but he’s not as good as Jordan at the things Jordan does will — protecting the rim and rolling to the basket. Playing him next to Blake may mean he gets to do less of the things that have helped him be more successful this year.
CBS Sports: Grade B-
However, sometimes it’s really as simple as adding a star player to the roster and figuring it out from there. The Pistons weren’t in a position to go out this summer and sign a star. They had to be proactive and make a move. They’ve lost eight in a row and it’s clear that, while what they were building had potential, it had a limited ceiling. The addition of Griffin raises their ceiling.