There’s a lot to digest when analyzing the Blake Griffin trade. Detroit sent a solid package out the door to acquire the eighth year power forward from the LA Clippers, who’s due roughly $143M from 2018-2022.
The Pistons will now be without their best scoring option in Tobias Harris. They no longer have their summer darling and best on-ball defender, Avery Bradley. And they’ll be without their first round pick this season AND next season’s second round pick.
In case you haven’t noticed, not everyone is so fond of the move for Detroit.
Didn't think we'd ever see a fleecing like Nets/Celtics again but what the Clippers just got for a dude who about to get his buy 6 get your 7th free with Dr. James Andrews wouldnt even be allowed in NBA 2K.— Wobacito (@World_Wide_Wob) January 29, 2018
Some people were more tongue in cheek regarding the move...
The folks who like the Blake Griffin trade for the Pistons are the same folks that thought the additions of Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade would make the Cavs better.— Shame Griffin (@shamshammgod) January 30, 2018
There are certainly some major questions that need to be answered, and basketball must be played before we can make any definite declaration of who “won or lost” this trade, but there are some inherent positives that we can take away.
The Pistons netted a five time All-Star
The Pistons have netted big-name guys in the past, all of which were significantly over the hill once Detroit acquired them (looking at you Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady and Chris Webber). This is not the case when it comes to Blake Griffin.
Griffin is a five time All Star, under the age of 30, still in his biological prime, and who will be playing the next four seasons as a Detroit Piston. This season, he’s averaging 22.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists, while shooting a career high in three point attempts (5.7) and percentage (34 percent). He’s evolved his game from being “just a dunker” to developing post skills, a solid mid-range jumper, and has drastically improved his long range shooting.
Prior to the myriad of strange happenstance injuries, Griffin was looked at as a top ten player in the NBA. And while he may not reach top ten status when he’s in Detroit, the Pistons have traded for a difference maker that should lead this team to the playoffs, while netting himself a few more All Star selections.
The injuries are without a doubt a major concern, but a lot of his recent injuries were fluky; the broken toe, the broken hand, and a sore left quad (that lead to Griffin missing the Clippers final playoff games in 2016), are not systemic in nature. For Detroit, if Griffin stays healthy, this trade was worth it.
Detroit would not have re-signed Avery Bradley
Avery Bradley was the prize of Detroit just a few months ago, when Detroit netted the two-way shooting guard (and a second round pick) for Marcus Morris. Things started off as perfect as possible when the season kicked off.
After the first month and a half of the 2017-18 season, Detroit was the 2nd ranked team in the Eastern Conference, 8 games above .500 and Bradley was playing the best basketball of his entire career (averaging 16+ ppg, shooting 40%+ from three).
Since then, the wheels have fallen off. For the month of December, Bradley averaged just 12.9 points per game while shooting 35 percent from the floor and 34 percent from three, chipping in 1.8 turnovers/game in the process. So far in January, he’s averaged 13.5 points per game, while shooting 38 percent from the floor, 32 percent from three, while turning the ball over 2.2 times a night. Detroit’s defense was 6.4 points per 100 possessions better when Avery Bradley was OFF the floor.
Mind you, this is a player that is reported to be aiming a $20 million per year contract when he signs as a free agent this summer. That was never going to happen in Detroit. Not after Bradley’s recent performance, not with Detroit sitting out of the playoffs when they relied on Bradley as one of their primary players. The fact that the Pistons were able to net something for a guy they didn’t plan on resigning is a definite positive.
Luke Kennard, still a Piston
It was reported that the LA Clippers wanted Detroit to include Luke Kennard in order to finalize the deal. As we all know now, that didn’t happen.
The Clippers wanted Luke Kennard, @wojespn reports. Pistons ended up keeping him in the deal.— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) January 29, 2018
Kennard is boasting shooting splits of 43/43/88 so far in his rookie campaign. Over the course of the last 15 games, he’s averaging 9.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists. During that 15 game span his shooting percentages also took a bump, averaging 47 percent from the floor, and 47 percent from three.
Had the Pistons sent away one of their primary building blocks in this deal, that could have spelled disaster for Detroit’s future. Luke Kennard has proven to Stan Van Gundy that he’s ready for more minutes (possibly a starting role?), and that the Pistons future must include the rookie shooting guard.
A farewell to the dancing duo
Tobias Harris and Boban Marjanovic were two of the brightest spots and most entertaining aspects of the 2017-18 season. One of them performed a bit better on the floor, while the other mostly entertained off the floor.
Harris was a true professional, who built upon his game each season, and who came to work with a lunchpail type attitude, a trait that Detroit Pistons fans thoroughly appreciated. He was having the best season of his career, averaging 18.1 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 41% from three. Many questioned whether or not he had reached his potential, yours truly was not one of those voices.
He was owed $14.8M next season, then was set to be an unrestricted free agent. With Harris’ versatile game, he could easily net $20M/year (possibly more) when he becomes a free agent.
Would Detroit have paid him? They should have. Would Harris had left anyways? Impossible to tell. But now, it’s a fact that Detroit will not be paying Harris in 2019, 2020 and beyond. They’ve already netted the better player, with a pricier tag in Griffin.
Goodbye Boban, you deserved better when you were here, but luckily for Detroit, the relationship ended prematurely. While Boban seemed like a great guy, he had an antiquated post-game skillset that threw off the second unit’s offensive rhythm. He lacked the tools and mobility to be a quality defender anywhere further than 3 feet away from the basket. He’ll be missed, but the $7 million owed to him next season, will not be.
At the end of the day, the Pistons moved a trio of players they didn’t really need for the best player available.
As mentioned earlier, it’s far too soon to declare winners and losers of the Griffin trade. Being overly optimistic or pessimistic right now is probably not a great idea. Let things settle, let the Pistons play basketball, and welcome Blake Griffin to Detroit, where he (if healthy) will play a major part in the Pistons playing winning basketball.