So The Ringer is currently doing their “Who Says No?” series where they create fake trade proposals for a bunch of different teams in the league. Today’s edition of that series included the Detroit Pistons making a deal for Dennis Smith Jr. You may be thinking, “What’s wrong with a deal for Dennis Smith Jr? He is a young player with upside who has been replaced as the future of the franchise by the fantastic Luka Doncic.”
I am all for trading for Dennis Smith Jr, but not for this deal that DJ Foster of The Ringer decided to propose:
Pistons receive: Harrison Barnes and Dennis Smith Jr.
Mavericks receive: Blake Griffin
Obviously, Dennis Smith Jr. is going to be a bit pricey to acquire due to the fact that he is a former lottery pick who still has some untapped potential. But if anybody in their right mind thinks he is worth Blake freaking Griffin, I don’t even want to know what kind of crazy thoughts go through their head on a daily basis.
You may be thinking that I completely ignored the inclusion of Harrison Barnes in this deal. That is because Harrison Barnes is not that useful of a player and is simply in the deal for salary matching purposes. He is set to make $25 million next season after accepting his player option that he would be absolutely out of his mind to not accept. And with that money you are getting one of the biggest black holes offensively in the league. The only players who have played more minutes this season and have a lower assist percentage than Harrison Barnes are Robert Covington and PJ Tucker. Both of those players are also elite defenders, which Harrison Barnes is not. The only positive I can see from Harrison Barnes is his 39.6 percentage from three on 6.5 attempts per game.
The Ringer also had a pretty confusing rationale behind this deal in terms of the players on the roster. They are essentially calling this move a salary dump to clear out space after next season when both Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond are expiring. Except, that is not true because Andre Drummond has a player option for $28.7 million in 2020 that, unless his agent is one of the dumbest people on the face of the Earth, he is not going to decline. Even though the fans of Detroit have seemingly turned against him, there is absolutely no way Andre Drummond makes that on the open market, so opting out just because the fans don’t like you is not worth the loss of money. He also has no incentive to get out of the contract early due to age because he will only be 28 at the time his contract expires, which will still allow him to get one last long term contract.
Also, his reasons for the Mavericks doing this don’t make a whole lot of sense. The reason for the divorce between Dennis Smith Jr. and the Mavericks is not because he has not been playing well or developing how they had hoped, it’s because him and Luka Doncic have struggled to fit together. Luka has been fantastic this season, so it makes sense that the organization favors him. However, Luka has been fantastic with the ball in his hands and creating the tough shots that he seems to hit every night now. Blake Griffin has been great for the Pistons because he has had the ball in his hands and has full control of the offense.
Blake Griffin has the highest usage percentage of his career of 30.4 and is near the top of the league in touches per game. If both players need the ball to be at their best, it is not the best fit. I’m not saying it is an awful fit that is destined to fail because both players are very good at creating their own offense so they will find a way to make it work. But is also probably isn’t worth surrendering cap space that the Mavericks seem to value as they lose the chase for the big name free agents they go after every offseason.
DJ Foster tops this all off by saying that this deal is “selling high” on Blake Griffin. How is getting less than the Pistons gave up to acquire Blake Griffin “selling high” when * knocks on wood * Blake Griffin has been healthy this season and having a career season? The Pistons gave up a 1st round pick, Tobias Harris, who is way better than Harrison Barnes, plus Avery Bradley and Boban Majanovic to acquire Blake Griffin back in January of last year. They are now going to turn around and “sell high” by flipping Griffin for Harrison Barnes and Dennis Smith Jr?
Yes, Dennis Smith is a solid prospect, but he also has been in the league for two years. The inherent value of a 1st round draft pick is higher than a young player because the team is able to take whatever player they like the best with it. A 1st round pick from the Mavericks would also likely have a bit more value because at this point of the season, even if they acquire Blake Griffin, they aren’t going to make the playoffs in the West so it will be a lottery pick. Yes, this front office may like Dennis Smith Jr, but if the Pistons are getting no 1st round pick in this deal, it isn’t even a starting point. If Blake Griffin was putting up these numbers on a good team, he would be in the MVP conversation. You don’t trade players playing this well for an albatross contract and a decent young player.
Blake Griffin’s contract is very difficult to make work salary-wise, which is why deals like this pop up because there are very few teams with enough bad contracts to match Blake’s salary. However, the Pistons are in no position right now to turn around and try to trade Blake Griffin. We are one year into the experiment and the team has been disappointing this season, but Tom Gores and the management team is not going to throw in the towel on the Blake Griffin experiment after one season. Tom Gores approved the trade for Griffin with the hope that the team can assemble a supporting cast around him to compete. Management isn’t able to do that until at least some of the bad contracts like Reggie Jackson and Jon Leuer come off the books.
The Ringer is a professional organization who has written some pretty solid pieces over the years. I fully understand that this series is just for fun and this is what people do around trade deadline season. However, creating a one-sided trade that benefits a team that more people care about is something that fans do, not an organization like The Ringer. Do better next time.