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NBA Trade Rumors: ‘I think Detroit is going to have a market for [Blake Griffin],’ predicts ESPN’s Zach Lowe

ESPN’s Zach Lowe and The Ringer’s Bill Simmons toss some fake Blake Griffin trades back and forth on podcast

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball buds Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe talked the NBA offseason on Simmon’s latest podcast, and it includes some speculation about the future of star Pistons big man Blake Griffin.

Griffin, coming off a lost year lost to injury and on a downtrodden franchise not even invited to play in the NBA’s Orlando bubble, might not be the albatross and unmovable deal many assume, per the always plugged in Lowe.

While tossing around fake trades involving the upcoming NBA Draft and the likelihood the Warriors look to move off of No. 2 in an effort to get back into contention, Griffin’s name came up.

Simmons tossed out an Andrew Wiggins and No. 2 for Blake Griffin and No. 7 deal. We’ll get to the specifics of that in a moment, but it’s Lowe’s response that was most revealing.

”Enough people have asked me what i’ve heard about Blake Griffin and how he’s looking. what am I hearing. This and that. That I think Detroit is going to have a market for him,” Lowe said. “I don’t think it’s going to be strong. They’re not getting two first-round picks. Or even a first round pick unless they take back something onerous too. But I’ve had enough teams ask me about Blake Griffin that I think there is still interest in what he can do to help you win.”

Recall all the way back to May 2019 when the tide was turning in Griffin’s favor compared to others who had signed supermax deals. He was healthy, continuing to grow his game and stretch beyond the 3-point line at high volume. He was scoring points, getting assists and getting to the free-throw line as the focal point of Detroit’s offense, and he propelled them to a playoff berth.

Conversely, critics said Chris Paul looked old and ineffectual in Houston, and Russell Westbrook looked to be a mess in OKC.

Of course, Griffin ended up aggravating his knee just before the end of the season, played on one leg in a playoff sweet at the hands of the Bucks and spent all last season hobbling before eventually calling it quits on the year.

Paul, meanwhile, completely rehabbed his reputation and looks to be an asset again and Westbrook, well he’s watching things burn around him in Houston and he might be the one holding the match.

The hope for Detroit was always that Griffin could be next season’s version of Paul. A great player who showed his greatness once he could prove he was healthy. It looks like Detroit already has some people intrigued enough about the possibility, and if Griffin can look anywhere close to the high-volume 3-point threat with passing ability from the four spot that he showed in Detroit the team should be able to move him.

That begs a few questions — What can you get for him? When do you move him.

That brings us back to the original fake trade scenario — Griffin and No. 7 for Wiggins and No. 2.

There are a few reasons Detroit could be interested. If they truly believe in the potential of one of the top players in the draft — LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman — as a franchise cornerstone worthy of building around then you have to entertain the offer. Another potential consideration is a financial one. On one hand, Wiggins’ deal is one year longer than Griffin’s. That is certainly a drawback.

On the other hand, Wiggins makes about $7 million less per season over the next two season than Griffin. Does that additional bit of salary cap flexibility look enticing enough for Detroit to swallow the $33 million Wiggins is owed in 2022 instead of having a clean cap sheet?

Having even more money under the cap allows the team to fully invest in Christian Wood with a long-term deal while preserving such a gargantuan amount of space that the team could take back just about any terrible contract a team was hoping to give up — and was willing to part with young players or picks to make happen.

The next consideration is when to pull the trigger on a deal. Let’s say the franchise is not terribly interested in moving in this year’s draft because they like who they think will be available at No. 7. Would Detroit still be hoping to move Griffin before the beginning of next season? Or do they want to gamble on his health to the point of once again making him the workhorse of the offense and allowing him to build up his trade value even more?

Even if Griffin is healthy again, like Paul was last season in Oklahoma, the Pistons surely will not be winning games at OKC’s clip so there is only so much shine Griffin will be able to muster. He’ll be on a young, struggling, losing team. And the risk is he either definitively shows he’s lost a step or he injures himself all over again.

Despite those disaster scenarios, I’m inclined to think the Pistons will hold off on dealing Griffin until at some point in the season. The same with Derrick Rose. They’ll play a little bit, provide that “veteran leadership,” the franchise can talk about competing and getting better every night, the sales department will have someone to put on programs, in emails and on banners and then when eventually they’ll both be shipped out to greener pastures while Detroit’s rebuild firmly takes hold.

Speaking of Rose, Lowe had his own fake trade an executive from a third-party organization pitched to him. Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose for Mike Conley. Both Simmons and Lowe quickly came to the conclusion a pick would likely need to be involved headed Detroit’s way.

Conley is an expiring deal and could hold down a position of glaring weakness for the final year of his deal. If the Pistons draft a point guard, Conley, a consensus all-NBA great dude, could serve as a leader and a mentor and then move on after the season.

This is not necessarily a deal I love, but it gives you an idea of the contours of what NBA personnel are thinking regarding Griffin’s value.