Column: Welcome to Detroit, Blake Griffin
Imagine yourself in the shoes of NBA superstar Blake Griffin, playing for the same team for the first seven years of your career and set to become a free agent in the offseason following your seventh season. The offseason free agency finally comes around, and you hold the keys to your future destination. But before making a decision, you meet with your old team.
Upon arriving at the arena, you realize a sort of maze full of pictures from your career has been constructed. The maze lead to the stands of the arena where you sit down and a presentation starts. It’s a mock jersey retirement and the announcer says, “Tonight we are honoring a lifelong Clipper.”
This was the pitch the Clippers put together to keep Griffin in LA only six months before trading him to Detroit. Truly heartbreaking for Griffin and Clippers fans, but for Pistons fans, it’s time to rejoice because we finally have a superstar.
The Clippers traded Griffin, Willie Reed and Brice Johnson to the Pistons for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris and (sadly) Boban Marjanovic. Also, the Pistons added a top-four protected draft pick to sweeten the pot.
The short version of what I’ll say in the rest of this article is this: I absolutely love this trade for a few different reasons.
Since Reggie Jackson went out with an ankle injury the day after Christmas, the Pistons have been on a bad, bad skid. Posting a 4-12 record without Jackson prior to the trade—including an eight-game losing streak—the Pistons had to decide whether to rebuild for the future or make one last push for the playoffs. The move in the front office was that trading for Griffin not only gives them one of the league's most recognizable stars, but—more importantly—it gives them another playmaker to direct the offense.
Griffin may be classified as a power forward, but at times he can play with the skill of a much smaller guard. His dribbling skills and precise passing make him the ideal running mate for Andre Drummond, as demonstrated by their smooth pick and roll during the Pistons' victory over the Grizzlies on Thursday, Feb. 1. Griffin’s vision and playmaking ability should have Pistons fans everywhere itching to see more of these pick and rolls.
Griffin brings so many things to the table that the Pistons have lacked, like floor spacing. Every time he dribbled inside the 3-point line Thursday night, he drew so much attention that he was able to pass the ball out to an open teammate and get a solid shot.
Those with criticisms of the trade have said the Pistons gave up too much for a player who is frequently injured. I disagree, as the chance Stan Van Gundy took was worth it because a healthy Griffin is a top-25 player in the NBA.
There is one thing that rubs me the wrong way about the trade, and that is Griffin’s massive contract, a five-year, $171 million deal, along with a player-option. The only player who makes more than him is two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry. That’s a lot of money for one player, and if it goes wrong, it could set the Pistons back quite a bit.
Nevertheless, at the very least, the Pistons have something they can sell with this trade, and they have a player who is exciting and can (and hopefully will) help sell tickets.