With the NBA trade deadline quickly approaching we’ve finally been treated to our first blockbuster deal. Yesterday afternoon the Los Angeles Clippers sent former franchise power forward Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons along with reserves Willie Reed and Brice Johnson in exchange for Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley along with Boban “BOOOOOOOBAAAANNNN” Marjanovic and a protected 2018 1st round pick (more on that later) as well as a 2019 2nd rounder.
Whew! That was a mouthful and believe me unpacking the overall impact for all parties involved is just as daunting. In many of these deals that involve players of Griffin’s caliber the intentions of the franchises are pretty obvious. Take for example the Chris Paul trade of this past summer. It was clear as day that Houston wanted to add another dynamic back court piece to pair with their existing superstar James Harden and they don’t come more dynamic than CP3. The Clippers, simply wanted to get as many usable bodies to field a competitive team in the wake of such a loss. The directions here are a lot less evident. But no worries folks, I’ll shine a light on this.
Given the complexity of this deal I’ve elected to break this up in two parts. First up, we’ll look at the players involved.
Winner: Tobias Harris
Admittedly this isn’t the sexiest place to start but I can’t think of a bigger winner here. Sure, he has some pretty big shoes to fill but Harris may not be as far away as you think. He’s having a breakout year offensively averaging 18 points per game while nailing 41% of his threes. He’s not much help on the boards (5.1 per contest this season with a career rate of 5.6) which is a bit of a concern for a power forward but he represents enough of an upgrade in shooting that he should give Milos Teodosic and the Clipper guards more room to operate creating more scenarios for opposing defenses to account for. His experiencing playing with a traditional big also helps here as there shouldn’t be much awkwardness adjusting to life with DeAndre Jordan.
Loser: Blake Griffin
It can be argued that since Blake’s getting paid here he can’t possibly be a loser. Sorry Wayne, but this time the money ain’t the motive. The movement of franchise guys is always a sensitive affair. And the more said guy was buttered up by the franchise the uglier the split usually. This matters because the Clippers put so much into making it apparent that Blake was “their guy” this summer. Most notably by signing him to a 5 year deal for $173 million in July. By all accounts Blake was prepared to retire a Clipper and there seemed to be mutual enthusiasm around this.
The reality is that shortly after signing him to this albatross they realized that they had made a huge mistake and their plan was to essentially appease him until they found a buyer. Well, they have one in Detroit and there are already reports that BG is less than thrilled. Surely this is something that can work itself out but what can’t be fixed is location. Blake had become more of an L.A. dude than a Clipper. Now that he’s been jettisoned to Detroit there’s a chance that he’ll never really embrace the change.
I wish I could be a bit more optimistic about the fit on the court. There’s absolutely no doubt that Blake is still one of the most skilled players in the league specifically in how he’s been able to reinvent his game to remain a force to be reckoned with. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Blake will be bad in the D (his averages of 22 & 8 may see a bump) because Blake isn’t a bad player but his fit with star center Andre Drummond and inconsistency in the back court puts him in a pretty difficult place. Both he and Drummond like to operate around the free throw line and finish close to the rim (albeit in different ways) so negotiating that space will pose an issue. And a falloff in talent in the backcourt will make his adjustment even the more arduous.
While Blake does most things better than his predecessor Tobias Harris defenders will be more likely to let Blake’s threes fly (34% this season) thus threatening to shunt off the little spacing Detroit has. It isn’t all doom and gloom but there is evidence to suggest that Blake may take a hit to his efficiency.
Winner: Avery Bradley
Avery Bradley is a good player that isn’t having a good season unfortunately. After being traded from Boston during the off-season Bradley was viewed as being the missing piece of the Detroit backcourt and an upgrade from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who left for Lakerland during the off-season but the fit has proven to be an odd one. His defense has fallen off leading many to believe that he only thrives on that side of the ball when operating with other plus defenders and offensively his efficiency has fallen off of a cliff. Seeing his second home in six months the 6’2″ guard may be in a position to finish this season on a positive note (which is a priority since he is on an expiring deal).
Averaging 15 points per contest and shooting 38% from deep he will be able to help the Clippers immediately as they can definitely use someone with his skill set. And there is some reason to believe that his defense may return to form. Bradley controls his own destiny here. And he’s been placed in a situation that makes it a bit easier to do so. It’s a win for that alone.
Loser: Boban Marjaonvic
As much as I love Boban he fills a VERY specific niche and it’s not one of high importance either. He’s leaving a situation where he’s fighting for a second string spot to a situation where he’s fighting for a second string spot against a MUCH better player. Boban has size and is a pretty effective scorer but there just isn’t much use for his 7’3″ 290 pound frame in the modern NBA. The Clips will probably kick the tires on him but I just don’t see the Boban era in Tinseltown being a very memorable one.
Winner: Willie Reed
I actually like this for the Pistons. Reed is a sneaky good prospect that turned heads in Brooklyn and Miami and deserves to be a clear cut second string center. With Drummond being the only other center on the roster Reed will definitely get reps. And his more athletic frame will help him stay on the floor more than Boban.
Who Knows: Brice Johnson
This may be the break he needs as Doc never really found a role for him. But in his very scant time on the floor he also didn’t do much in carving out a role for himself.