Doc Rivers said in a pregame press conference before the Clippers’ matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers that the Blake Griffin trade “…came out of nowhere, and it came pretty quick.”
One moment, the Clippers were a potential playoff team with two of the premiere big men in the league. The next moment, they are almost certainly in rebuild mode with more valuable pieces that might be on the move.
Most NBA pundits are completely divided on the trade. Did Detroit give up too much? Did Los Angeles throw in the towel too early? Who does the deal benefit more?
Even though both teams are almost certainly indifferent to anyone’s opinion other than Griffin’s and the front offices’, let’s break down the winners and losers three days removed from the trade.
Winner: Los Angeles Clippers
Many might argue that the Clippers didn’t get enough for Blake Griffin. They might say that Los Angeles didn’t field enough offers for him, or didn’t wait long enough to see how desperate teams would become for Griffin’s services closer to the trade deadline.
The fact is, Griffin is injury-prone, and the longer teams have to think about that, the higher the odds are that they will want to buy low. When you add up all the time that Griffin has missed in his seven-year career, he has missed almost two full seasons.
The key to the trade isn’t Tobias Harris or Avery Bradley. It’s the 2018 first-round and 2019 second-round picks they received from Detroit.
Sure, Griffin makes Detroit much more competitive, which will devalue the picks considerably. But if the Clippers commit to a rebuild, which they should, then stock-piling picks is the way to go. Find good players in the draft, and once it seems like the team can be competitive again, trade less valuable pieces away for the pieces they are missing.
This trade was a gamble, and no one should really believe that the Clippers are trying to stay competitive, or are going for a “soft rebuild.” However, hamstringing the team to pay Griffin in 2023 out of nothing more than loyalty, would be a mistake.
Loser: Doc Rivers
Becoming a non-factor in the Western Conference playoff picture almost definitely means Rivers’ time is up in Los Angeles.
His contract is up in 2019, and if the Clippers trade Lou Williams and DeAndre Jordan, then they are set up for a disastrous 2018-19 campaign. This will allow the Clippers to cut ties with the head coach without a second thought.
The news isn’t all bad for Rivers, however. He’ll find another job, maybe even on another competitive team due to his player coaching abilities. However, not even getting Lob City to a Western Conference finals is a huge black mark on his record.
Either way, Los Angeles would be silly not to bring on a younger, more new-school coach after the 2019 season that fits better with the team’s new direction.
Winner: Detroit Pistons
Getting Blake Griffin now is a huge win for the Pistons’ future.
Since he is under contract until 2022, Detroit has time to build around Griffin and convince him to stay for less money if they manage to become legitimately competitive by the time his current contract expires.
It is also a huge incentive for Andre Drummond to stay after his contract is up in 2021. If the chemistry is there between the two players, then Detroit might be able to convince him to stay. Perhaps they could even have a life-long Piston on their hands.
Teams can absolutely turn things around in 3-4 years. The Griffin-Drummond combo makes Detroit an attractive free agent destination in the coming years. That alone could turn the Pistons from an afterthought in the East to a real threat, especially if LeBron James finds his way to the West.
The NBA is better off with at least one competitive team in Los Angeles. Now that it seems as if that ship has sailed for the Clippers (no pun intended), the NBA is in a tough spot.
The trade makes the road to the finals even easier for the juggernaut that is the Golden State Warriors. The Clippers could have caused them some problems with Griffin, but the last thing the NBA needs is to make the Warriors’ lives even easier.
The trade also does not make the Eastern Conference much more competitive. Regardless of the Cavaliers’ struggles as of late, it would be foolish to think they can’t turn it on in the playoffs and get back to the finals. The Boston Celtics will also almost definitely be in the Eastern Conference finals due to great depth and coaching. The Pistons will not be able to compete with either of those teams with only half a season’s worth of chemistry-building.
TBD: Blake Griffin
Finally, the man in the center of all of the drama’s fate is yet to be decided. Will this experiment work out in Detroit? Or will it be more of the same for Griffin?
It looks on the surface as if it might be just more of the same. Being paired with another impressive big man, surrounded by decent role players was the exact situation Griffin was just a part of in Los Angeles. Who is to say the Pistons won’t peter out in the second round like the Clippers did?
However, another great coach and having the ability to finally draw in free agents might set the Pistons apart from some of the other conferences in the East. It will all depend on if Griffin can finally stay healthy and find a different level of success in an easier conference.
It’s not a ridiculous exaggeration to say that this move will either set up Griffin for more success than he has previously had, or whether he will just go down as the greatest Clipper ever.
All the NBA can do is wait to see how Detroit’s front office will approach the coming years as the East gets tougher.
Featured image by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
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