Blake Griffin made minor headlines the other day when he said “If I’m on the Detroit Pistons, I’m doing everything I can to prepare to play for them and win games”.
Well, what if he’s not? Is that even possible? Is there a world where Blake Griffin doesn’t finish out his massive contract (Owed $75,768,024 the next two years, roughly $37.89million/year) as a member of the Pistons?
The short answer is yes. Detroit is committed to a rebuild and is actively looking to bring in a new general manager who will assuredly want his crack at building the team in his vision.
There a few potential avenues that would lead Blake out of the Motor City, but some of those roads are closed. A buy out as we saw with malcontent Josh Smith and fan punching bag Reggie Jackson is unlikely. Smith was both bad at basketball and bad in the locker room, and Jackson, while mostly effective while on the court, was not the leader that Blake is and had a contract that was expiring at season’s end anyway. Blake has two years on his deal after this season and it wouldn’t make sense for the Pistons to take such a large cap-hit to get rid of someone who is ultra-productive when he is on the court and provides valuable guidance to the younger players off of it.
Griffin could (never going to happen in 75 lifetimes) opt to decline his damn-near $39 million dollar player-option for 2021-2022.
That leaves us with the only scenario that could actually happen, which is a trade. The two trade partners who have been mentioned time and time again in shipping Griffin off are the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets. The Heat doesn’t seem like a viable option to me because they’re going all-in for Giannis Antetokounmpo and want their books as clear as possible. Bringing in Griffin who would eat up that $39 million we talked about earlier and plays the same position as Giannis is not ideal for Miami, so they’re out.
The Nuggets are a contender with one great player and a lot of good players. They were a game away from the Western Conference Finals last year and are a top-three team in the west again this year. If the Nuggets fail to get it done, they could be looking to shake things up. Gary Harris had some big-time struggles this season and Will Barton has three years left on his contract after this season ends and will be 30 before next season begins, and is not an integral part of Denver’s future.
THE MOVE: Detroit trades Blake Griffin for Gary Harris and Will Barton.
WHY IT WORKS: This would give Denver the ability to have a PF/C combo of Nikola Jokic and Blake Griffin, both can extend defenses out and make plays with the ball in their hands. They would round out their frontcourt with sharpshooting Michael Porter Jr and have a major scoring threat at point guard with Jamal Murray. That’s an incredibly solid group of four for the Nuggets, and the Pistons would be getting somewhat of a reclamation project in Gary Harris, a strong veteran presence in Barton, and in my most hopeful of dreams would talk Denver into giving them Bol Bol as well.
The next most realistic team would be the Phoenix Suns. The suns have been bad since Steve Nash left and current star Devin Booker seems like a prime candidate as the next big name NBA player to demand a trade. The thing working in the Suns’ favor is the fact that they have some nice young players alongside Booker in former number-one overall pick Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges.
THE MOVE: Pistons trade Blake Griffin for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Ricky Rubio.
WHY IT WORKS: Booker, Ayton, Bridges is a solid young core, and Phoenix can show Booker they’re committed to winning by bringing in another star in Blake Griffin. Oubre is young enough to essentially audition for a role in the Pistons future as the main scoring option and Pistons coach Dwane Casey has been public in his desire for a point guard. Rubio wouldn’t be the point guard of the future but he could certainly mentor one.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
The final team on the list would be a homecoming for Griffin. The kid born in Oklahoma City that starred at the University of Oklahoma would go to the Thunder as the prodigal son and reunite with his old lob city mate Chris Paul. The Pistons would be getting back a ‘mate’ of their own in New Zealand born center Steven Adams and 20-year-old Darius Bazley. There is undoubtedly hurdles to clear to make this move. Griffin and Paul did not have the best relationship in Los Angeles and may still not like each other.
THE MOVE: Detroit trades Blake Griffin for Steven Adams and Darius Bazley.
WHY IT WORKS: The Thunder appeared to be rebuilding when they acquired Paul and adding Griffin is not a move a rebuilding team makes. Something unexpected happened however, the Thunder were actually good. Oklahoma City is currently fifth in the Western Conference and if they feel like they have a window to add a superstar level player and use their treasure chest of draft picks to either draft the future or ship them away for another star, then we could be in business. Adams has one less year on his contract than Griffin does which is a plus for the Pistons and will be just 27 at the end of this season. Bazley is young enough that he would be given every opportunity in the world on a rebuilding Pistons team to develop and prove he’s a starter in the NBA. Bazley is only a rookie and has already been traded twice, so it is unlikely the Thunder hold him in high regard.
These scenarios make the most sense if Detroit were to move on from Griffin. Maybe none of these moves jump off the page but there are some intriguing options. It is important to note that the salaries work as listed above, but as with any trade additional players or picks can be involved to sweeten the deal. Every scenario listed was simply a base idea for what the Pistons could and should be targeting. Pistons fans will understandably celebrate if Griffin is moved because it will signal total rebuild. The reality of Griffin’s situation in Detroit should not be forgotten, he was one of the best players the franchise has ever seen and was stuck on bad teams with worse luck.