Troy Weaver is not a bashful person, that much is clear after a whirlwind week that saw the Detroit Pistons new general manager put his stamp on the organization with a flurry of trades, signings and draft selections.
Unsurprisingly, not even star forward Blake Griffin is safe. Zach Lowe of ESPN reports that the Pistons made an “exploratory call” to the Washington Wizards in recent weeks to gauge the interest in a potential Blake Griffin for John Wall swap.
Before you yell, throw things or just scratch your head, let’s take a step back and make a few things clear:
- This conversation, if it took place, happened before the NBA Draft and before rumors of a trade request from Wall became public.
- Blake Griffin is more valuable than John Wall, both on-court value and in contract value.
- The talks reportedly went nowhere and there is zero indication anything involving either player is imminent, much less a deal between the two franchises.
- “Exploratory call”s are just that. They are calls to get a better sense of what a team is willing to give up to obtain (or get rid of) certain players.
With all that out of the way, does this do anything to shed light on how Troy Weaver and company value Griffin or what the franchise’s intentions are going into this season?
While not exactly an answer, I wonder if one of the primary motivations was to see if it was at all possible to extract the ninth pick in the draft away from the Wizards. With Wall’s contract having extremely negative value, any team willing to trade for Wall would surely expect picks back, and probably multiple first-round picks at that. Perhaps Detroit had eyes for a certain player at No. 9. The Wizards ended up drafting Deni Avdija.
Detroit, meanwhile, did swing deals for two additional first-round picks lower in the draft and ended up selecting Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey.
Another interesting thing to ponder is whether this deal was floated by Detroit after it already had a very good understanding of what they were going to do in free agency. I mean, sure, deals can’t be discussed before free agency officially begins (wink, wink), but if Detroit had eyes on Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee it at least tells me that a Blake deal is much more about the future than about the present.
By that I mean Detroit is much more interested in future draft picks and perhaps young players than it is in trading Griffin for a current, established quality player. And in some ways that is the most positive way to look at Detroit’s free agency spluge.
Sure it didn’t make them a playoff team, and, in fact, they’re still more likely than not to be a bottom-seven team in the league. But if the thinking goes that the Pistons would rather spend (heavily) to fill giant roster holes at center and forward, then they wouldn’t be desperate to send Blake off for whatever established player they can get.
Instead, they can let Griffin play up his value and send his ginromous contract to another team for an even worst deal, or collection of deals, and in exchange take back a few extra first-round picks.
That is the only way a Wall deal makes sense. I mean, sure, Wall could turn it around and be a competent point guard, but Detroit was looking at more than one point guard of the future in the draft, and ended up with Killian Hayes.
This is the exact approach Detroit should take. They don’t need a Blake trade to take them from the fifth-worst team to the tenth-worst team. They need a Blake trade to get younger, get draft picks and have more collateral to swing a bigger trade in the future should the opportunity present itself.
They need their version of the Paul George trade between OKC and the Clippers one. It would be more minor, of course, but that deal netted the Thunder one player coming off his rookie deal (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander), a high-priced veteran (Danilo Gallinari) and five first-round picks and a couple draft swaps. Even typing that all out, that deal continues to amaze me.
Anyway, obviously Griffin isn’t fetching that treasure trove. But it could be a way to grab a prospect coming off a rookie year like Shai, a veteran who might look a bit more like dead money than the productive Gallinari, and one or two first-round draft picks.
Of course, Weaver always surprises, so perhaps his preferred Griffin trade is more like the original George trade that sent the forward to OKC in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Damontis Sabonis. That one worked too, so I wouldn’t complain!