The Detroit Pistons started off this trade season with quite the bang. Seemingly out of nowhere, Stan van Gundy and company sent out a series of spare parts and draft picks to the Los Angeles Clippers for star forward Blake Griffin. In the process, the Pistons managed to keep Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, and former first-round picks Stanley Johnson and rookie Luke Kennard. The flip side is they severely hampered their depth, traded away a first-round pick for a draft that is extremely deep, and took on a potentially fatal contract. Two of our Palace of Pistons writers took a stab at trying to analyze both sides to the blockbuster trade.
Mike Anguilano, DefPen Hoops editor and Palace of Pistons contributor
There are two sides to every story and it is incredibly difficult to see how things play out, but I am skeptical of this trade. While the Pistons did manage to get a star who is under contract for half a decade, they had to sacrifice far too much in my opinion.
The aforementioned “spare parts” Detroit sent away is understating the value of Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley. Harris is criminally undervalued as a potent scorer and is still only 25 years old. Bradley was only recently made available according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and a market for him was already starting to bubble. Why not let that simmer for a few more days and see if you could get a desperate team like Oklahoma City or Cleveland to overpay? Even in a contract season where his stats are down, both of those teams would have ponied up just for the chance at an elite wing-defender like Bradley.
On top of giving up those two cogs, Detroit also sent the Clippers their 2018 first-round pick and a second-round selection in 2019. The former very well could be a lottery pick, as Detroit is still on the fringe of the playoff race. In a predictably deep draft, the Pistons could have used another young stud to pair with Griffin and Drummond to restock their roster. Instead, with their financial constraints, they will have to hope that Stanley Johnson, Luke Kennard, and/or Reggie Bullock blossom into an above-average shooter and staring-caliber player.
Speaking of financial constraints, Blake Griffin is expensive. He signed a five-year $173 million contract this past offseason with a $38 million player option when he turns 33. That could be a very tough pill to swallow if his already laden injury history comes back to haunt him. Between Griffin and Drummond, Detroit will be paying them a combined $61 million next season, with another $18 million to Reggie Jackson. They have $28 million next season tied up to Jon Leuer, Langston Galloway, Ish Smith, and Josh Smith. Yes, Josh Smith, who has not played for the Pistons in over four years.
Look, I get it. The Pistons needed to regain relevancy and do what they have been unable to do for years: get a star. Mission accomplished! Blake Griffin is definitely a star. It only took two good role players, a backup center, the short-term future in terms of draft picks, and any semblance of financial wiggle room if things head south. I understand why Detroit made this trade, but I do not feel it was in the best interest of the team moving forward.
J.T. Olsen, Palace of Pistons contributor
In a superstar driven league the Pistons have made a move to acquire what might be the biggest star the Pistons have had in a long long time. Blake Griffin is a complete power forward who can score inside and out, dominate the glass and pass the ball well for a big man. From a pure basketball perspective, his addition to the Detroit roster is obviously a good thing.
Griffin is most well known for his exciting dunks. So much so that his Clippers teams earned the nickname “Lob City”. This athletic leaping ability, combined with his 6’10 height and strong build, are a big reason he’s such a good rebounder averaging 9.3 a game over his career. Keep in mind that he’s put up those rebounding numbers while playing next to one of the great rebounding big men in the game next to him, DeAndre Jordan, cleaning the glass. However, Griffin is so much more skilled than what people may think.
He has a soft touch around the rim and the ability to float difficult shots up and in, even from odd angles. He’s also come a long way as a three point shooter. This year he is shattering his career high for threes taken this year at 5.6 per game (previous high was 1.9 per game) and is hitting more than 34% of those shots. The most underrated part of Griffin’s game is definitely his facilitating though. He can drive the ball into the paint to open things up and he’s a great passer for a big man as shown over the last four years where he’s averaged about five assists per game.
And while the price may have been high to obtain what might now be the Pistons best player, I believe it was well worth it. Boban Marjanovic couldn’t work his way onto the floor and was likely not going to be back next year, so no real loss there. Avery Bradley is a free agent at the end of the season and was probably going to be leaving Detroit as well. If Bradley was resigned, then Tobias Harris would have been gone after next year because Detroit couldn’t afford to keep both. The draft picks are always valued assets, but if this move works out like it’s expected to on the court then those picks should be fairly late anyway.
As an added benefit to this trade, the Pistons clear the log jam the have at shooting guard. Rookie Luke Kennard has been one of the most efficient three point shooters in the league this year and getting him more minutes will only help his development. Reggie Bullock has also seen some time at shooting guard this year and has looked good there when given the opportunity. And let’s not forget sharp shooter Langston Galloway who hasn’t gotten a lot of minutes this year, but has looked the part of a quality role player when he’s been on the court. With all three of these guys likely getting more playing time it’s fair to expect their production to increase as well.
(Featured image by Mike Mulholland/Mlive.com)