A conference finals appearance was supposed to be a formality for the Milwaukee Bucks, owners of the best record in the NBA. Instead, the team ran into a Miami Heat buzzsaw and there are major questions about the construction of the roster, the stubbornness of the head coach and the long-term viability of keeping superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo happy in Wisconsin.
Look, I understand the NBA world wants to pick at the recently deceased corpse of the Bucks, and it’s probably supremely annoying to Bucks fans. But a Pistons fan has nothing to do than to look for big ways to retool their favorite team. Losing too early in the playoffs is like putting up the bat signal to fans of the Delete Eight.
That’s a long way of saying the Milwaukee Bucks should seriously consider adding Blake Griffin in the offseason. Yes, he makes $75 million combined the next two years but hear me out.
The Bucks certainly can’t rely on the status quo. They are on the clock in showing the progress needed to keep Giannis happy and an NBA Finals appearance might be necessary to convince him to sign a long-term deal in Milwaukee.
If Milwaukee is not interested in firing Mike Budenholzer this offseason, and there will definitely be demands for his head, then they will need to retool a major part of its rotation, and it needs to be a player with a dynamic offensive skillset.
He’s A Coach Bud type of player with increasing reliance and accuracy on a perimeter shot, but still maintaining decent skills as a post-up player. He can space the floor for Giannis as a power forward or center and he can become the focal point when Antetokounmpo needs to sit.
Griffin spent pretty much all of last season injured, but if you look back at his health All-NBA seasons of 2018-19, Griffin was in the top quarter of the league as an isolation scorer and in the 84th percentile as a spot-up shooter.
Speaking of health. Griffin and Bud seem like a match made in heaven. At this point Blake is more likely to excel in a 30-minute role than he is as a 36-minute workhorse, and we know Budenholzer seriously manages his players’ minutes.
The Bucks will also be looking for a scapegoat and it seems like if the axe doesn’t find Budenholzer’s neck then the fall man might be point guard Eric Bledsoe. He’s been a major disappointment in the playoffs in Milwaukee, and his contract actually stretches a year longer than Griffin’s.
For the Pistons, the consideration will be three fold. One, getting off of Griffin’s deal, while not essential does create salary cap flexibility that opens up a few possibilities for the club’s immediate future.
Christian Wood is an unrestricted free agent, and the Pistons would like to bring him back for his prime years. Trading Griffin opens up a starting spot at power forward and also creates the salary cap space to enable them to comfortable beat any offer while also having ample room to make further moves to take on bad contracts along with young players and picks.
Second, the Pistons need to seriously consider how much they are willing to swallow that extra year on Bledsoe’s deal. The Pistons have more money than they need this offseason so Blake’s megadeal isn’t causing anyone to lose sleep. Then he’s an expiring contract and the Pistons are still likely to be bad enough that salary cap space isn’t the highest priority.
Year three of the rebuild, though, might be just when the Pistons are hoping to add legitimate players and wishing for maximum cap flexibility. If they keep Griffin they have a giant war chest becoming available. If they take on Bledsoe, he’ll be eating up $19.3 million in 2022-23.
Third, the team really seriously needs a point guard. Even if they draft a point guard with the No. 7 overall pick, they’ll be looking to sign a veteran. While Bledsoe might not be made for the bright lights of a major playoff battle. Tonight, he was named second-team All Defense. For all his shortcoming’s he’s still a quality offensive player and decisionmaker. He’d be a good stopgap point man that would help support a young team that would make plenty of mistakes on the floor.
Bledsoe is overpaid but still good. He could play well enough in Detroit to eventually catch the eye of another, better team in need of a point guard, and the Pistons could again flip Bledsoe for assets.
So what would a proposed deal look like?
Griffin and his $36.8 million salary would be leaving Detroit.
You have to get around $29 million coming back to Detroit under the salary cap rules. Eric Bledsoe makes $16.8 million so you need about $12.4 million more. Add former Piston Ersan Ilyasova’s $7 million expiring deal and you’re only looking for $5.4 million.
That last $5.4 million is hard to come by, however. Robin Lopez makes $5 million but would have to exercise his player option and he doesn’t quite get you there. DJ Wilson makes $4.5 million. Sterling Brown is a restricted free agent so you could potentially maneuver him into a deal without soiling the cap sheet.
The Bucks could also move Brook Lopez’s $13 million per year deal but I’m not sure how enthused Lopez would be spending his twilight years as Detroit’s starting center. Maybe he could be rerouted to another contending team in another deal or as part of a three-team trade.
Another step back into reality. Would the Bucks really be interested? I say it’s worth thinking about, but it would also mean two extremely highly paid veterans who are best suited at power forward in Giannis and Blake. Now, Antetokounmpo is a positional unicorn who could seemingly hold his own at center and small forward. The Bucks could slot Griffin at center and still somehow have a top-5 defense. But, yeah, not ideal.
Also, the move would move them into the edges of the luxury tax, and I’m not sure how willing Bucks ownership is to pay the tax or how easy it would be to make additional moves to get back under.
Still, Milwaukee needs to make moves. It needs to be bold. It needs a second scorer who can more than hold his own as a primary scorer when Giannis sits. And he needs to have an offensive skillset that can work in the playoffs when teams have much longer to scheme against your preferred offense.
That’s Blake Griffin. And Griffin deserves to play for a title. And Milwaukee deserves to keep its superstar player. And Detroit deserves to accelerate its rebuild.
Wouldn’t this make everyone happy or did I spend too long looking directly into the light of this particular bat signal?