Equipment managers of Detroit, beware — Blake Griffin is coming to Motor City. The former All-Star was a preseason MVP pick, and after starting the season scorching hot from three, he looked every bit the part. But since then, he’s cooled off considerably, averaging 22.6 points on 44/34/79 (field goal, 3-point and free throw percentage) shooting. Detroit is hoping he can return to early-season form.
The Pistons, coming off of a rough 10-game stretch in which they’ve gone a brutal 2-8, have sent the league a message with this trade — they want to win now.
The thing is, the rest of the league doesn’t care.
The Pistons traded away Tobias Harris, their best scorer and (potentially lottery-bound) first-round pick, and their best perimeter defender, Avery Bradley. The second-round pick and Boban Marjanović won’t hurt them as much now, but taking on Griffin is still a huge risk for the Pistons.
Blake hasn’t played a full season of basketball in four years, and the last three seasons he couldn’t even break 70. And coming with a freshly signed five-year, $171 million dollar contract, Detroit is betting that the former All-Star’s injuries were more about the Clippers’ curse than they were about Griffin.
That being said, a healthy Blake Griffin is one of the best players in the league. The man is a force. He’s one of the best passing big men in the league and he’s nearly unstoppable in the paint.
Griffin still isn’t a passable stretch four, but he’s definitely shown the potential. And with all his limitations, it’s important to note that he’s 28 years old. He’s in the middle of his prime, and chances are he’s still got plenty of great basketball in him.
Griffin should also benefit from playing with All-Star teammate Andre Drummond. Drummond will act as a more-than-suitable replacement for DeAndre Jordan. Both players grab their fair share of rebounds, but Drummond has added an entire new dimension to his game with his passing. Averaging almost four assists a game, Drummond and Griffin will soon have an argument for best passing frontcourt in the league.
For the Clippers: All hail Jerry West. The Clippers’ championship window closed the moment Lob City ended this offseason. Their new core of Griffin, Jordan and Lou Williams was entertaining but destined for nothing but mediocrity over the next few seasons.
Instead of allowing Griffin to walk, West flipped the team’s star for two solid young pieces, a dependable vet, and a first-round pick. Combine that with the haul they got for Chris Paul, and West has given the Clippers’ roster some much-needed depth and a future.
But now for a more important question: Does this matter?
The East is basically unchanged. The Pistons went from being a fringe playoff lottery team to a perennial five or six seed. With Blake and Drummond both signed until at least 2020, head coach Stan Van Gundy has saved his job at the cost of the franchise’s long-term success.
With the Pistons locked in purgatory for the foreseeable future, watch out for trade requests from the two in the next few years.
While Detroit went from lottery to mediocrity, the Clippers chose the other direction — the smarter direction. This trade had no real important ramifications for the West other than opening up the battle for the eight seed.
But this trade does mean one very important thing — DeAndre Jordan is going soon. While teams have known about Jordan’s availability for a while, the Clippers are bound to trade the big man sooner rather than later. The trade could bolster the front court of the Cavs or maybe add to the young core in Milwaukee. Either way, Jordan is on the move.
But the most intriguing trade chip on the Clippers’ roster is Lou Williams. Unlike Jordan, Sweet Lou is on a relatively small ($7 million) expiring contract and will be much easier to move. Lou is riding on a very hot two months, but whether he can sustain it through the playoffs is the question most teams have on their mind.
Any way you spin it, the Clippers have assets, and Blake was just the second player to be dealt. Headed toward their first losing season since “basketball reasons,” the future seems bleak, but with West captaining the ship, the Clippers might actually have some hope.
As for the Pistons, Van Gundy has saved his job in the short term, but the future of the team is murky. A long-term core of Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson, Drummond and Griffin isn’t really threatening anyone in the East.
With no real depth or other assets, the Pistons are going to have to bank on Griffin staying healthy and Drummond making another impressive leap if they want to be something more than the Pelicans of the East.
Harshil Desai covers cross country. Contact him at