Earlier today, Adren Wojnarowski tweeted that former first overall NBA pick, Blake Griffin would be on sitting out until the team and Griffin’s representation could figure out a solution that would allow Griffin to pursue his career with another organization. This is a sad turn for the career of a dude who was one of the most explosive players from a time that now seems to be a bygone era. It’s National Side Piece Day so it’s no wonder the Pistons felt the need to tell Blake he simply wasn’t the one.
Basketball has seen the dominance of the big-man become less of a relevant trait with the game moving toward proficient 3 point shooting and spacing. Griffin’s career started with delays due to injury and it unfortunately has not improved over time. I will say this is not without Griffin’s best intentions.
We all remember the LOB City Clippers that often continued to disappoint in the playoffs. This team was characterized by the energetic play of Chris Paul, the defense of DeAndre Jordan and the exciting finishing ability of Blake Griffin. This seems like a while ago but this team, built on the principals of a bygone era in the NBA was the last of its kind. While it did not pay off for the Clippers the team was also one of the few in the modern NBA who seemed to make plans without consultation with their superstar. The team moved Jordan and Paul but extended the contract of Blake Griffin and promised to build a team around him. However, it became clear that the team was too bad to compete and too good to completely rebuild. Before we knew it, Blake Griffin was moved to Detroit.
At the time, many were critical of this acquisition for the Pistons. I was one of those who criticized Stan Van Gundy’s move in pairing an athletic interior player with another of that ilk in Andre Drummond. Neither were particularly gifted at defending the perimeter and it seemed like a lot of duplication in an NBA that doesn’t reward that style of play. I would be proven wrong in the 2018-2019 season.
Blake Griffin completely changed his game upon his arrival in Detroit and 2018-19 saw a return to form as the freak athlete was healthy and now developed some range. His renewed speed and agility allowed him to be more respectful on switches and covering perimeter shooters and he himself developed an outside offensive game. Griffin went from attempting .5 three pointers per game to 7 per game and he was shooting .362 from three during that season. That certainly isn’t deadly from range but is very respectful. He would not end that season as a bone bruise in his ankle led to him missing the final 8 games of that season.
Since that time, Griffin’s play has fallen off. I don’t believe we’ve seen him healthy and once again the organization made a decision to rebuild. I can imagine the motivation to play at the highest possible while seeing a team being stripped down around him again is difficult to muster. This is especially true if he is trying to do so while battling injuries. He hasn’t been himself since the 2018-19 season and that’s clear to anyone who’s watched him play. He currently has been an inefficient player and his box +/- is the worst in his career (-4.3 BPM).
So what’s next? In order for the Pistons to move Griffin they will likely need to staple a first round pick so that someone is willing to take on the final two years of his deal. However, the Pistons first round pick will likely be a lottery pick and will be hesitant to lose that pick just to clear cap room and no one is going to take a chance on paying a max salary player with injury concerns and give up assets to do so.
We’ll likely see a buyout after the Pistons are unable to move him in a trade. This would also be the best thing for Griffin in his career. He would likely choose a team that could be a contender but in reality he would be looking at being a good piece on a good team that has a reputation for rebuilding players that were considered broken. The Phoenix Suns come to mind as they rejuvenated Shaq at a time where his body looked run down and they have been competitive to start the season. Other first class organizations like the Golden State Warriors or Miami Heat come to mind as both teams need a spark to play at a higher level but have enough depth so as to not rely on Griffin. In the end, a buyout and allowing him to sign for a franchise that will be committed to rehabbing his career would be the best for all parties and it would be the first time in the star’s career that he could choose a destination that will consider his needs.