On Monday night, the Los Angeles Clippers and Detroit Pistons connected for a blockbuster deal.
The Clippers traded power forward Blake Griffin to Detroit for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, a top-four protected 2018 first-round pick and a 2019 second-round pick. Los Angeles also sent Willie Reed and Brice Johnson in the deal.
Talk about big-time. Griffin is arguably the best player in Clippers franchise history. Last summer, Los Angeles pitched the idea of being a Clipper “for life” to Griffin as they were convincing him to re-sign with the team. So much for “For life.”
Griffin was picked No. 1 in the 2009 draft by the Clippers. He missed his rookie season due to injury and debuted in 2010. In that time, along with Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers made the playoffs for six-straight seasons, but never made it past the second round, despite an enormous amount of hype.
Los Angles not only ended their relationship with Griffin, but also with his massive contract. He is in the first year of his five-year, massive money contract. He will be owed $31.8 million next season, $34.2 million in 2019-20, $36.5 million in 2020-21 and has a $38.9 million player-option in 2021-22. That’s a lot of money freed up for the Clippers who hope to lure a big free agent or two in the offseason.
It will be interesting for the Clippers moving forward as they still have DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams with multiple teams interested in both men. Will they be next to go? Time will tell and that time could get sped up as the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have expressed interest in both players, just lost Kevin Love for six-to-eight weeks with a broken hand.
For Detroit, this is the start of a rebuild around Griffin and center Andre Drummond. The duo should mesh well together, as Drummond is similar to Jordan. The only difference is Drummond is a better passer than Jordan, but a worse defender. The dup of Griffin and Drummond should flourish in the pick-and-roll, especially with Griffin showing more range this season and shooting 34% from beyond the arc.
This is a high-risk, high-reward deal for Stan Van Gundy, the president of basketball operations and head coach of the Pistons. This is the type of deal that can be extremely beneficial or take a turn for the worse. The two biggest factors of this deal are Griffin’s massive contract and his history of injuries.
In his career, Griffin has missed 34 of the games due to injury. A couple of knee injuries could be worrisome for the alomost-29-year old. The money factor could absolutely cripple this team in a couple years, especially if Griffin and Drummond don’t work out together.
Detroit needed to make a big splash in order to try and get this team back on winning ways which will ultimately attract fans to the new downtown arena. This isn’t a move that makes them contenders in the lowly Eastern Conference, as there isn’t much around Griffin and Drummond. This is a team that can be a middle-of-the pack team in the East and that is okay.
This deal is a reset for both teams. The Clippers get off the hook for all the money coming Griffin’s way and won’t have to start completely over as they have Harris and Bradley, who are both starters. They also open the possibility to clearing more cap space with the hopes Jerry West can recruit LeBron James this summer.
The Pistons get a big-name player who will hopefully attract fans to the new arena. He is a player who is good, but not great and that’s not a knock on him at all. If he can avoid injuries, he can make the combination of him and Drummond blossom. He can focus solely on basketball in Detroit and not be distracted by the bright lights of Hollywood.
The two teams involved in this trade both came out as winners in their own different ways.