The Clippers and Pistons shocked the NBA world on Monday when they made a trade that sent Blake Griffin, fresh off of signing a five-year $173 million deal over the summer, to Detroit. This blockbuster move is going to shake up both the Eastern and Western Conference.
While the Clippers were in the playoff race, Detroit had fallen out of postseason position and needed a deal to get back in the race. Griffin can help them do that.
However, there are definite risks involved not only for the Pistons, but also for the future of the Clippers. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Los Angeles has no plans of bottoming out, but will continue to pursue potential trades for DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams if they can't work out contract extensions.
For Clippers, three objectives with the trade were these: Stay competitive on the floor (two starters, Harris and Bradley). Get young players/draft picks and create some payroll flexibility. Organization isn't interested in bottoming out and tanking.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 30, 2018
Clippers will continue to discuss contracts extensions at the right price, while engaging teams in trade talks on DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams. They'll try to do a hard thing in the NBA: Rebuild on the fly with younger players/picks, without gutting roster. https://t.co/YyuXMFR9Mg— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 30, 2018
Staying relevant while rebuilding on the fly is one of the most difficult plans in the NBA. Some teams can pull it off, but the margin for error is incredibly small -- especially when trying to move the two best players remaining on your roster.
Here's a look at the final haul for both teams:
Los Angeles receives
- Tobias Harris
- Avery Bradley
- Boban Marjanović
- 2018 protected first-round draft pick
- 2019 second-round draft pick
Let's grade the trade.
Detroit Pistons: B-minus
The Pistons made a decision that is sometimes easy to overthink. They gave up a lot of key players and assets in their current system for a star. Is that going to make the future a little difficult? Yes. Tobais Harris has been fantastic for them the entire season. Avery Bradley was a disappointment, but he still played a major role in big minutes for them.
However, sometimes it's really as simple as adding a star player to the roster and figuring it out from there. The Pistons weren't in a position to go out this summer and sign a star. They had to be proactive and make a move. They've lost eight in a row and it's clear that, while what they were building had potential, it had a limited ceiling. The addition of Griffin raises their ceiling.
One of the big criticisms against the trade is that Griffin with Andre Drummond is just a lesser version of the Griffin pairing with DeAndre Jordan in Los Angeles. However, this is discounting Griffin's ability to run an offense. He's an underappreciated passer out of the high post and his mid-range jump shot can be dangerous. He and Drummond are both fast enough to run the pick-and-roll together ... and that just sounds fun.
There is a downside to this, however, and that's adding Griffin's contract with his injury history. He hasn't played more than 67 games since the 2013-14 season, and he's exited the playoffs early the last two seasons due to injury. That's a lot of money and time invested into a player that at this point has a sizable reputation for injuries.
To be a good team, risks need to be taken. If the Pistons are going to get back to the playoffs and actually make some noise, then taking a big swing on Griffin will be worth the risk every single time. Even if it flops.
Los Angeles Clippers: C-minus
The Clippers' future right now is a complete and total unknown. It can go in a large variety of directions, whether that's bottoming out, a re-tool or just an overhaul with the same goals in mind for a different roster. The cap room they're gaining in this trade, along with a first-round pick, gives them the exact kind of flexibility they want. It's why they can approach this plan so openly and just adjust as decisions are made.
Their asset acquisitions were good, but the talent they received was a steal. Harris is having an incredible season and played a huge role in the great start to Detroit's season. He's shooting over 40 percent from 3-point range and the Clippers can definitely make him a key player in their system.
Bradley hasn't been good this season, but if Doc Rivers can find a way to get him back to the player he was in Boston, that could be a win for them. Boban Marjanovic is giant and can take up some space -- watching him make DeAndre Jordan somehow look small will be a treat.
In terms of what the Clippers acquired for a star, it was a good trade. But at the same time, they probably hurt their perception among future free agents. Los Angeles sold Griffin this offseason on being the future of the Clippers. He bought in as the face of the franchise after Chris Paul's departure and was supposed to be an all-time great for them. He signed that five-year deal, which he did leverage, with the intent of being just that for them. Months later they traded him in the middle of that long-term contract.
That is a bad look for the Clippers organization no matter how it's spun. Griffin could have fought harder for a no-trade clause, and at the end of the day it is a business, but it's one of the colder moves we've seen happen to a star. Players notice that, and it may make the near future difficult for Los Angeles to acquire big-name talent -- at least initially -- and definitely for anybody that's also a client of Griffin's agent.