It wasn’t supposed to go like this, man.
That was seemingly the primary takeaway when Blake Griffin,
fresh off receiving a five-year, $173 million deal from the Los
Angeles Clippers in 2017, was sent to the Detroit Pistons for a
package headlined by Tobias Harris. Griffin was near the peak of
his powers at that point, a wrecking ball with playmaking chops and
a budding jumpshot. He helped bring the Clippers to prominence and
was rewarded for such, though that partnership ended roughly seven
months after the contract was signed.
We’ve arrived at the same conclusion -- it wasn’t supposed to go
like this, man -- four years later, yet for a more somber reason.
Griffin is now an oft-injured shell of himself, testing the
free-agency waters a year and a half earlier than
It wasn’t that long ago that Griffin and the Pistons came to a
we’ll-sit-at-home agreement with the expectation of finding Griffin
a new home. With no trade on the horizon, the two sides agreed to a
buyout, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
It’s worth emphasizing that Griffin is a shell of himself. After
an All-NBA-caliber campaign in 2018-19, Griffin has played in 38
games since then, averaging 14-5-4 with a 36/28/75 shooting split.
That’s, uh, pretty bad! He’s somehow even worse defensively; the
rim protection was never there because of the lack of length, and
the injuries have sapped quite a bit of his lateral mobility.
The bet for teams -- Woj and others have reported that plenty of
playoff contenders are interested -- is that a rejuvenated,
less-relied-on Griffin can make an impact as a role player. Even at
this stage of his career, he remains intriguing as a playmaking hub
in Elbow sets or short-roll situations. If the jumper rebounds at
all, you’re looking at a half-court connector that could take a ton
of pressure off a primary initiator.
Let’s examine some of the best landing spots for Griffin.
Team: Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers
Financial reasons rule out the Bucks right now. Per ESPN’s Bobby
Marks, the hard cap currently prevents them from making an offer. A
trade would be needed to clear some room.
If that were to happen, the Bucks would certainly move up the
power rankings. The 4 rotation behind Giannis Antetokounmpo has
been… an adventure, to be kind. The frenetic Thanasis Antetokounpo
gets burn; DJ Wilson is perpetually in and out of the rotation.
Torrey Craig has gotten some run. It’s fair to wonder what Griffin
would look like in that spot, potentially playing the 4 in
There’s always a “man, the Lakers want/get everyone” angle to
play, particularly online. It’s mostly a meme, but it wouldn’t be a
total shock to see Griffin in a Laker uniform. Purely from a
we-need-firepower perspective, a Griffin flyer could be worth a
shot. He’d fit in as a high-IQ passer who could execute plenty of
the high-post sets that the Lakers like to run.
There are financial factors at play that make this pairing
unlikely. The Lakers aren’t hard-capped, but they also don’t have
mid-sized exceptions to fit Griffin into (like the other teams
pursuing him do). Beyond that, the frontcourt is a bit crowded.
Once Anthony Davis is back, Griffin would be fighting with Marc
Gasol, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma, and Markieff Morris for
closing minutes. Even that is working under the assumption that
LeBron James would slide up to the 3 in such an alignment.
SURE, I COULD SEE
Teams: Toronto Raptors
Don’t believe in the Freaky Friday that the Raptors are pulling
right now. The advanced stats page on NBA.com may tell you that
their offense (113.4 offensive rating, 10th) is better than their
defense (112.0, 18th), but their defense remains the foundation of
The Raptors rank eighth in half-court defense and fifth in
transition efficiency, per Cleaning The Glass. They get stops,
force turnovers, and run all over teams. Get them in a half-court
setting and things bog down a bit (13th). Adding Griffin to provide
a similar element to what Gasol brought in years prior -- high-post
passing, pick-and-pop shooting -- could help juice the offense.
Worth noting: Kyle Lowry would be, by far, the best point guard
Griffin has played with since his Clipper days. Higher quality of
looks could see the efficiency jump a bit.
Teams: Golden State Warriors, Boston
Similar to the Raptors, the Warriors’ half-court defense is
driving their success. Getting out after misses or turnovers allows
the Warriors to tap into Steph Curry’s unpredictability. The
Warriors are slightly ahead of the Raptors in half-court efficiency
(11th), though they could use a bump in playmaking.
Outside of Curry and Draymond Green, who consistently
capitalizes on advantages via passing? At the very least, having
Griffin on the second unit could improve some of the flow
The Celtics have missed Gordon Hayward a little more than
expected. To be fair, they’ve missed just about everyone at some
point during this woebegone season. Still, having Hayward as a
third (sometimes fourth) playmaker helped take pressure off of
Boston’s star wing duo. For a team that ranks toward the bottom of
just about every passing stat that matters, and has seen an
increase in double teams against their star wings, adding Griffin
as a short-roll threat could be helpful.
Teams: Portland Trail Blazers, Miami Heat, Brooklyn
Please get Damian Lillard some help.
His second- and third-best players are hurt. Even when healthy,
the Blazers could use a little more playmaking help. With Lillard
consistently having two bodies tossed at him near half-court,
having Griffin as a release valve would take some of the creation
burden off of Lillard.
The Heat desperately need help at the 4. After capturing
lightning in a bottle with Jae Crowder during the second half of
last season, the Heat have flat-out failed to find a reasonable
replacement. Mo Harkless has been a dud; youngster KZ Okpala has
gotten an inconsistent leash, and has mostly looked out of sorts
when trusted with major playing time. Kelly Olynyk and Andre
Iguodala have filled in admirably, but have glaring limitations on
opposite ends of the floor.
Griffin would help sort the frontcourt hierarchy there. He or
Olynyk would start, the other flanked by rookie Precious Achiuwa
while Iguodala would fill the backup minutes at the 3.
In the end, Griffin may just opt to play with the team that
makes life the easiest on him. That would be the Brooklyn Nets,
home of three of the 15 or so most talented scorers the NBA has
The Athletic’s Shams Charania has reported that the Nets are the
frontrunners to land Griffin; the title aspirations, personal
relationships, and the ease in which he could get open looks serve
as valid reasons for the choice. The thought of closing games with
Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Joe Harris, Griffin, and Kevin Durant
is a daunting one for opposing defenses.
As the adage goes, giving up 130 doesn’t mean much if you’re
Or something like that.