Blake Griffin deserves better than this.
The Detroit Pistons spent much of their offseason performing transactions that will likely lead to them being near the bottom of the Eastern Conference this coming season. The signings of Mason Plumlee and Jahlil Okafor, in particular, prompted every rudimentary NBA Twitter joke you could think of related to their roster construction. They also signed Jerami Grant for three years and $60 million, while allowing Christian Wood to leave for the Houston Rockets at $41 million for the same amount of time.
It’s just one of the weirdest rosters in the NBA. It ain’t bad, just weird. But it’s clearly headed for a rebuild, which doesn’t suit Griffin at this point of his career, assuming he’d like to be competitive immediately, or, just a fun situation. Not knowing what direction they’ll go in their starting lineup, it’s safe to assume that Griffin will be sharing time on the interior with Plumlee, Okafor, 2019 15th overall pick Sekou Doumbouya, and this year’s 16th overall pick Isaiah Stewart. The latter two are clearly players the Pistons are invested in and would like to develop, and Plumlee has a three-year commitment worth $25 million. All this makes Griffin, the most accomplished player on the team (with respect to Derrick Rose pre-ACL tear), the eventual odd man out, a distinction emphasized by $36.6 million coming to him this year, with a $39 million player option for next season.
He was injured last year but is just two seasons removed from his 2019 All-Star appearance, highlighting his best basketball played since 2014-15. Let’s send him off properly.
Somewhere via Philadelphia
Daryl Morey is always up to something. As good of a fit as Tobias Harris seems to be next to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, there’s no doubt that Morey and the Sixers would like to rid themselves of his remaining four years and near $150 million if possible. A straight up deal for Griffin is one solution, although they’d likely have to entice Detroit with multiple draft picks in said deal. Griffin also doesn’t make a ton of sense for the 76ers as presently constructed, seeing as how Embiid and Simmons have spacing issues that are more well-documented than Donald Trump’s legal ones.
There are a number of teams Griffin could find himself on from here, one of which we’ll expand upon in a follow-up slide, with others including the Indiana Pacers, in a deal that would have to include Victor Oladipo and other matching salaries.
And one of those teams Griffin could be rerouted to from Philadelphia is James Harden’s Houston Rockets. Except, theoretically, the deal would be used as a chip to land Harden back with Morey in Philadelphia without having to part with Simmons or Embiid.
The challenge is what Philly would accompany Griffin with upon being rerouted. Is it salary filler in the form of Mike Scott and a collection of first-round picks? Is Matisse Thybulle part of said salary filler, making his inclusion less costly as it relates to outgoing draft picks? That’s basically what it comes down to. But Morey prefers to keep Embiid and Simmons, meaning if Harden is to come on board, Morey will need to get creative, which he’s attempted to do for his entire career.
If they miss out on Giannis Antetokounmpo, Griffin is a worthwhile consolation prize for Mark Cuban.
It also wouldn’t cost much outside of the expiring contracts of Tim Hardaway, Jr. and James Johnson, in terms of non-draft pieces. Griffin is an obvious lob threat for Luka Doncic, who finished second in usage rate last season between Giannis and Harden, but as a secondary playmaker, he could also alleviate some of Doncic’s offensive workhorse needs, especially when Kristaps Porzingis is off the floor. The last time we saw Griffin, he averaged 15.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists on 35.2 percent shooting before his season-ended after 18 games. But the last time we saw him healthy, he posted a career-best 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists. He also converted 46 percent from the field and 36 percent from three on a personal-high seven attempts per game. That was in 2018-19.
Griffin will be 32 in March. It’s worth a shot for Dallas if Giannis signs his supermax.
Oklahoma City Thunder
It’s another rebuild, but it’s also home, so it gets a pass.
We don’t need to run down the sports homecomings we’ve increasingly seen over the last 10 years or so, but it’s an ongoing list Griffin could find himself on one day. The Oklahoma City native is the last cover athlete of EA Sports’ March Madness/NCAA Basketball ever, wearing his Sooner duds from his college days.
Oklahoma City was given something to cheer for last season because of Chris Paul, and as they continue their rebuild, Al Horford clearly isn’t long for the organization and would be the primary trade chip used to bring Griffin home for the short-term. The deal would still need a George Hill or Darius Miller type of salary piece, with possible draft compensation for whoever deserves it by the time trade restrictions wear off. Horford would likely be rerouted to a different situation, because he doesn’t make sense in Detroit either, but Griffin landing in OKC would be a joyous ending to the duration of this contract.