Blake Griffin to Beantown? It's not as crazy as it sounds
Blake Griffin had himself a night in Sunday's All-Star game. Griffin finished with 38 points, making 19 of his 23 shots to go along with six rebounds and a couple steals. Yes, this was an All-Star game. Defense was a four-letter word for most of the contest. And yes, most of Griffin's points came from dunks, but man were they some good ones, and he made a few nice jumpers along the way.
After watching that video, one thing is crystal clear: Griffin is a physical freak. He's one of the few in the league who can match LeBron James in athleticism and with Griffin turning 25 years old next month, he's still got plenty of time to improve.
Griffin has already taken some meaningful steps this year to improve his game. He's averaging 24.2 ppg (career high), 9.8 rpg and 3.5 apg in 36 minutes per contest. Griffin is also posting career highs in true shooting percentage (59.1), free throw percentage (70.5), win shares per 48 minutes (0.215) and player efficiency rating (24.3).
The guy is special. Just thinking about Griffin pairing up with Rajon Rondo for the next few years is the definition of exciting. And Boston could be a very real landing spot for Griffin if the Clippers decided to go in another direction.
The first question to address in a deal for Griffin is why in the world would the Clippers look to deal their superstar?
For some reason, Griffin is one of the few guys whose name has been mentioned in trade rumors about as much as Rondo. He was even rumored to be part of a package that would have netted the Clippers Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and coach Doc Rivers from Boston last summer. We all know what happened next, with Los Angeles acquiring Rivers for a first-round pick and KG and Pierce getting shipped to Brooklyn for a slew of picks. If you thought the Nets trade for three first-round picks for Garnett and Pierce was a coup, a trade of Garnett, Pierce and Rivers for Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe would have been highway robbery, looking at what Garnett and Pierce have been able to do, or not do, on the court this year.
Based on how much Griffin's name pops up in trade rumors, it looks as if he's far from untouchable.
Any deal for Griffin would take place this summer, possibly on draft day, as the Clippers see themselves as contenders this year and want to see how they fare as constructed in the playoffs. Also, Boston is banned from trading with the Clippers this year after the very public negotiations for Rivers in the offseason.
In the past two years since Chris Paul became a Clipper, the team was knocked out in the second round of the playoffs in 2011-12 and in the first round last year. Another first round exit and the team will have to take a serious look at itself and see if they have what it takes to win. As the standings sit right now, the Clippers would face Portland in the first round. Would the Clippers even be favorites to win that series, given the spectacular play of LeMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard?
When Rivers took the coaching job in Los Angeles, he was also given the title of vice president of basketball operations. He has some control over personnel decisions. If the Clippers fail to live up to expectations again, Rivers could look to deal Griffin and build the team as he wants to see it.
It just so happens that Rivers' former team has a ton of assets it could trade, as Boston looks to rebuild. Rivers and Boston GM Danny Ainge had been close when Rivers was coaching the Celtics, but the two weren't too pleased with each other after Rivers left. Hopefully, that's all water under the bridge and the two can still work together on trade negotiations.
So what would it take to land a still-improving superstar just starting to get into his prime?
The short answer: a ton.
One possible deal for Griffin could be Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Keith Bogan's $5 million non-guaranteed contract, Boston's 2014 first-round pick, L.A.'s 2015 first-round pick and the Clippers' choice of one of the Nets' first rounders.
Why the Clippers do the deal:
L.A. would be getting an instant upgrade at small forward with Green replacing Matt Barnes, an up-and-coming double-double machine still on his rookie deal in Sullinger, some savings with the Bogans contract and three first-round picks, including one that could be a top-5 selection in a loaded 2014 draft depending on where Boston finishes the year and how the lottery plays out.
Would the Clippers be worse than they were with Griffin? There would be a period of adjustment, but depending on who the Clippers took with that top pick, they could actually bring in more talent than they sent out with Green, Sullinger and the pick. And they'd still get their own first-round pick back and a Nets pick that could be very good, if the Nets are terrible in a couple years which looks to be the case given how constrained they are financially.
Why the Celtics do the deal:
Some may see a package of three first rounders and a talented guy in his second season who has been one of the few bright spots this year as too high a price. But to them I'd say, Boston is in a very unique situation. First-round picks just don't mean the same thing to the Celtics as they do to other teams because Boston has so many of them. If Boston made this deal, they'd still have a pick in this year's draft, either Brooklyn's or Atlanta's, all of their own picks from 2015 on and two future first-round picks from the Nets.
You acquire draft picks to make a deal like this. There is no way Boston is going use all nine of its first round picks it owns between now and 2018 on rookies.
Even if the Celtics had to throw in another first rounder to get the deal done, they'd still be left with plenty of picks to either use in the draft or to acquire more talent.
These two could find themselves sharing
the ball instead of fighting over it
A team built around Griffin and Rondo would be quite deadly. Boston would become Lob City east and with coach Brad Stevens at the helm, would have taken a major step on its path back to title contention. Ainge's work would be far from done, however, as he would have to add another borderline star to cement the team as a threat to knock out Indiana or Miami. That task shouldn't be too difficult as Boston would still have plenty of assets to trade. A package of Avery Bradley, depending on how much he re-signs for this offseason, Kelly Olynyk and a first round pick or two should be more than enough to net another impact player.
Boston would also become a legitimate landing spot for free agents, because who wouldn't want to play with Rondo and Griffin? It seems like players are already warming to the idea of playing in Boston as they had nothing but great things to say about the city and its fans over the All-Star break.
Griffin would also be great for Boston off the court. He has the perfect kind of attitude for the city, he just doesn't take himself seriously. Have you seen his GameFly commercials?
Leaving a market like Los Angeles to come to a cold weather city wouldn't be easy, but it's not like Boston is a small market. Griffin's face would be everywhere. If Griffin saw the tributes Garnett and Pierce received in their comebacks this year, he has to know the fans in Boston are passionate and loyal, which isn't exactly the case in Los Angeles on a team not named the Lakers.
The chances of a deal like this actually going down are slim. There are too many variables and in the end the Clippers may end up sticking it out with Griffin even if they get knocked out of the playoffs early because it's hard to replace a player of his caliber. But after watching Griffin put on his high-flying show Sunday, it's hard not to at least entertain the idea.