Blake Griffin Trade Fallout: Do the Clippers Have Their Eyes on LeBron?

Blake Griffin Trade Fallout: Do the Clippers Have Their Eyes on LeBron? article feature image
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Jan 20, 2018; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; LA Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) reacts during their game against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

According to the latest Woj-bomb, Blake Griffin is packing up and heading to Detroit.

What does it mean for the present/future of both teams, along with the DFS prospects of Griffin, Bradley, Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan, and more? Let’s dive in.

NBA title odds (by Danny Donahue)

The Pistons are currently on the outside looking in of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, three games behind the eighth-place 76ers.

Prior to the trade, Detroit was listed at +25000 to win the NBA title. Now they’re at +21000, meaning their implied probability has improved slightly from 0.40% to 0.47%.

The Clips’ odds were barely affected, going from +30000 to +31000 following the move.

In another year, a trade of this magnitude would likely have caused a much more significant market shift. But with such a top-heavy league led by the Warriors, even trades involving perennial All-Stars like Griffin have very little effect on the overall championship picture. — Danny Donahue

What the trade means for both parties (by Matt Moore)

Los Angeles Clippers

LeBron.

That was my first thought. The Clippers will keep this close to the vest, but they now have just $49 million guaranteed on the books this summer.

In 2010, the Clippers cleared cap space to get in the room with LeBron in Cleveland at his LRMR offices. They were a joke of a franchise run by an owner known as a racist cheapskate at the time. Now they’re owned by a tech mogul, with Jerry West and a great front office group on board. If James is interested in playing in LA but doesn’t want to deal with LaVar Ball or the shadow of Kobe Bryant, the Clippers give him what he’s looking for: a blank-slate roster with room to sign two stars, the LA market, and no legacy to deal with.

If James doesn’t come, they’ll have options. They can get involved in any conversation they want about any potential star. They owe their 2019 pick to the Celtics, with protections, but picked up an extra one this year from Detroit (top-4 protected, which they shouldn’t have to worry about).

They can bargain shop, they can compete (to a degree) with the roster they’ve cobbled together, and they can have their eyes set on big names. Jerry West did not come to the Clippers to get the eighth seed year after year. You don’t bail on your franchise icon after giving him a five-year max just because it’s convenient and the team is going nowhere.

There’s a plan here.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

In the meantime, don’t be surprised if the Clippers compete. Their young guys are good, and Doc Rivers will get more out of Avery Bradley than he’s had recently. Tobias Harris is a metronome of consistency, and Danilo Gallinari will probably play again at some point. If they don’t find a deal for DeAndre Jordan before the deadline, they can hang.

Either way, their contracts are all movable, their books are clean. Lob City is dead. The Clippers want to build a new metropolis.

Detroit Pistons

Some said this was a job-saver move from Stan Van Gundy, but there’s been no indication that SVG’s position with owner Tom Gores has been compromised.  This is clearly just a move to get a great player. Sometimes, you get the talent when it’s available and figure everything else out.

The fit here is not a problem. The Pistons have a slippery, ball-dominant point guard in Reggie Jackson, who has been all over the place. They have a physically dominant inside presence in Andre Drummond, who is analogous to DeAndre Jordan. And they have very little else after dealing Harris, Bradley and Marjanovic.

But, to be clear, this move isn’t about this year; it’s about the future. Griffin is 28, and in the first season of a five-year max deal. The Pistons are married to this experiment going forward, and that’s a bit terrifying considering his injury history. He has recurrent knee problems, but he also picks up the random, crazy injuries which seem flukey until you look at the complete list.

All that is to say … they got a hell of a player.

Griffin is averaging 23-8-5 this year, and while his efficiency numbers haven’t been great, he’s carried the load for the team when healthy. The big key on Detroit is his passing ability, especially out of the post up triple-threat:

Griffin is unique in that he’s a scoring power forward who can run the floor, and yet is comfortable finding a big man for stuff like this:

His 3-point game remains nascent at 34 percent, but his volume has increased. Griffin was better with a great point guard next to him in Chris Paul; Reggie Jackson (and Ish Smith until Jackson gets back) is not that.

There are comparisons to be made here to the Magic team SVG made his name with in Orlando. Drummond as Dwight Howard, only a better passer. Griffin as some sort of non-shooter Hedo Turkoglu. Now they just need a Jameer Nelson and a Rashard Lewis.

It’s a bold re-imagining of the team, and it’s also an unquestioned upgrade on their current talent. The Pistons as constructed were going nowhere. If they can make this combination work, they’ll be a force. There’s risk, but Detroit was in a position not to surrender much.


DFS impact (by Justin Phan)

Pistons’ updated depth chart:

PG – Ish Smith, Dwight Buycks, Reggie Jackson
SG – Reggie Bullock, Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway
SF – Stanley Johnson, Luke Kennard
PF – Blake Griffin, Anthony Tolliver
C – Andre Drummond, Eric Moreland, Willie Reed

Analysis: Don’t expect much to change for Griffin as he’ll remain the focal point of the offense and the primary playmaker when Smith is off the court. Pairing him with Drummond gives the Pistons one of the best passing frontcourt tandems in the league — arguably only behind Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic. Griffin’s addition is bad news for Drummond, who has more than tripled his assist percentage from last season. Drummond won’t have an issue working off of Griffin the way DeAndre Jordan did in LA, but will cede a decent amount of his playmaking duties in the process. Keep in mind that Griffin is replacing Tobias Harris, who ranks just 51st among 68 qualified small forwards in assist ratio. Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson have been abysmal on a per-minute basis but will be forced into heavy minutes as a thin Pistons wing rotation just got even thinner. They’ll be palatable as punt plays if the price is right. Same goes for Kennard, who’s only been marginally more productive.

Clippers’ updated depth chart:

PG – Milos Teodosic, Lou Williams, Jawun Evans
SG – Avery Bradley, Tyrone Wallace, Austin Rivers
SF – Danilo Gallinari, Wesley Johnson
PF – Tobias Harris, Sam Dekker
C – DeAndre Jordan, Montrezl Harrell, Boban Marjanovic

Analysis: This likely isn’t the last trade we’ll see from the Clippers as they continue to pursue packages of young players and picks for Jordan and Williams, according to Woj. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Gallinari shut down or traded either. For however long he’ll remain a Clipper, Jordan will be the main DFS player of interest. He’s averaged 40.3 DraftKings points per game in the 16 contests Griffin has missed this season, as opposed to 32.1 in the 28 games they’ve played together. Jordan’s assist percentage has nearly tripled with Griffin off the court and he’s seen a substantial bump in his rebound percentage as well. With Gallinari returning as soon as Tuesday and Rivers not too far behind, this quickly becomes a situation where there’s a few too many mouths to feed. Williams (29%), Rivers (23%), Gallinari (21%), Bradley (24%), and Harris (23%) all have usage rates north of 21 percent this season, and they’ll be competing for a lot of the same minutes. Harris is the most intriguing of the group, but it’s unlikely we’ll see any of them emerge as major winner.

Photo via Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports