Nuggets, Clippers reportedly had talks over Blake Griffin: Six things

Things have evolved rapidly with Blake Griffin and the Clippers. As of five months ago, he was the franchise icon, their MVP candidate, the face of the team, even more so than Chris Paul. They were a playoff team with a strong chance at making a run, even against the Warriors. They had to have felt at least pretty good about their chances. 

Flash forward five months, and Griffin has a broken hand from punching an equipment manager, could be facing discipline from the team or the league, has his owner saying there will be consequences, the team looks like a second-round also-ran, and everyone is questioning his maturity. 

Blake Griffin
The Nuggets reportedly asked the Clippers about Blake Griffin. (USATSI)

Now there's talk that the Clippers could actually trade Griffin, which would be an absolutely stunning move. 

First, on the Vertical, Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski says the Clippers could look to trade Griffin in the offseason if they fail to make a deep playoff run. Wojnarowski says that if given the opportunity to sign Kevin Durant this summer, Doc Rivers would move Griffin "in a moment." That's a lot different than pawning him off mid-season, so it's hard to see where ... oh, hi, there, longtime NBA reporter Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News and NBA XM Radio:

OK, lot of moving pieces here, so here are six things to know:

1. Pay attention to the phrases in trade rumors

First off, "talked to" is a vague term. "Have had significant discussions" is a phrase you want to hear. Or "have discussed the structure of a deal." When you say two teams talked, that typically means Team A called Team B about a smaller deal (say, hypothetically, Darrell Arthur). Then while discussing it, Team B says "hey, you wouldn't be interested in anything for (X star), right?" And Team A says "Well, we'll listen to anything. What would you have in mind?" And the reason you do that is because Team B might say something like "We'll give you every first round we have until the sun goes cold and dark and the universe collapses in on itself." And in that case, if you're Team A you say "OK, so what else?" That does not make a substantive discussion of a deal. It just means the idea was discussed. 

As for how much? Here's how far that reportedly got: 

So I would not get too excited about this at all. 

2. Sounds like the Clippers are willing to listen to Griffin offers

However, you do need to recognize the importance of the talks being mentioned at all. Because that means that the Clippers did not say "absolutely not, in no way are we ever doing that, non-starter." Because if they had, the source would not have logically felt it worth mentioning unless he was just like Puck in "A Midsummer's Night's Dream" and just causing trouble for the heck of it. Which does happen, but doesn't seem likely here. So the Clippers are at least not going to hang up the phone if you call, even if they should. 

3. Denver has veterans and draft picks to offer 

If this ever materialized, your next question would probably be, "what could Denver possibly give up?" because most people don't pay attention to a low-market, non-star-ridden team that is several games under .500. Here's the thing, they have a whole lot of stuff the Clippers would want. 

Blake Griffin, Nuggets

Denver can offer veterans and picks. They have the potential to shift the dynamic of the Clippers with quality players while also giving them options for down the line. They can offer Danilo Gallinari for scoring and versatility, Kenneth Faried for energy and playmaking, and Darrell Arthur for defense and the ability to spread the floor. Those three guys combined don't come anywhere near the value of Griffin. However, they do provide specific things that Griffin does. Faried can rebound and catch lobs off the pick and roll. Arthur can defend and knock down the mid-range shot. And Gallinari can draw fouls and help in a smallball lineup while spreading the floor. Again, though, that's not enough. 

The pick situation is what's interesting. Denver has the following:

a. Their own pick, which will almost certainly be a lottery selection.

b. Their own picks in the coming seasons.

c. The right to swap with the Knicks, which means they effectively have two shots in the lottery.

d. Houston's pick, if Houston makes the playoffs, which seems likely.

e. Memphis' pick, if Memphis misses the playoffs (unlikely but it eventually could convey and one injury could doom the Grizz) and if it doesn't fall in the top three.

f. Portland's pick, if they make the playoffs (coin flip)

That's a lot of assets to get for a guy. That's a whole lot of assets to get for a guy. Denver may not be willing to part with that many assets but Faried is likely available, Gallinari is likely available, and the Clippers nearly signed Arthur this past summer. The picks are valuable, but Denver literally doesn't have roster space for all of those picks. They have to do something, whether it's moving guys or the picks, and if you can do it for Blake Griffin, you jump at that. 

4. It wouldn't make sense for both teams to pull this off

There are problems -- huge glaring problems -- on both sides of this, even if the Clippers were interested. For the Clippers, you're in win-now mode. Your best chance of winning now is keeping Blake Griffin. That's just the fact. You can add those veterans, and they might fit. But if they don't, you've just blown off another year of Chris Paul's prime, and you're rapidly running out of those. L.A. doesn't need a bunch of young guys. Even if they got Ben Simmons (which would be extremely unlikely with the lottery odds even if they got both the Nuggets pick and right to swap with the Knicks), that doesn't vibe with their timeline. They'd need years for Simmons to be ready, just as it took Griffin to reach this level. 

It's one thing to say you're going to break up the core. But if you do that, you're making wholesale changes at once, not starting the process now when you have an even-tiny chance at the title. 

For Denver, the timelines don't match either. It's going to take years for Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, and Nikola Jokic to be ready to contend. If you trade the veterans today, Griffin would be entering into a situation where he would go from being a title contending megastar in the entertainment capital of the world, to the lone star veteran on a young and up-and-coming, mistake-prone team that has to fill a lot of holes this summer quickly, in a town that is awesome but not one that players flock to. Not a lot of hiking/skiing/snowshoeing among the NBA players. 

5. Griffin has an early termination option for 2017-2018 

The contract situation is massive. Griffin has an early termination option for 2017-2018 which means he could wind up leaving after less than 18 months. Let's  say this deal is made (which doesn't exist yet, I remind you), he hates it in Denver, and tells the Nuggets in January of next season that he's going to leave. The Nuggets would be forced to deal him next year. Which means you'll wind up trading $1.50 on the dollar for Griffin, only to have to turn around and deal him again for .50 cents on the buck. 

Or, alternatively, he doesn't tell you that, and then departs anyway. That's what happened with Andre Iguodala after the Nuggets gave up Arron Afflalo and picks for him, and then saw him walk to the team that helped beat Denver in the playoffs in 2013. There are very real risks that Denver has to keep in mind. 

Both the Clippers and Nuggets have to give themselves outs in a speculative trade, and that's really hard to do given the parameters. 

6. Nuggets are in search of top-end talent

However, do not be confused. The Nuggets want stars. They know they need top-end talent, and opportunities to acquire one don't come around often. So if Griffin is in any way available, they'll do everything they can to try and get him. It just may not be enough, and they won't want to compromise the young core, which would set them back for years if the deal goes wrong. 

We'll see where this goes, and it has already been talked down (from L.A.'s end) less than hours after the initial report. The implications of the Clippers being open to at least talking about a Griffin trade, and Denver being this aggressive in pursuing a major upgrade, however, have ramifications that go beyond these "talks." 

(HT: LA Sports Report)

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Moore's colleagues have been known to describe him as a "maniac" in terms of his approach to covering the NBA, which he has done for CBS Sports since 2010. Moore prides himself on melding reporting,... Full Bio

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