When you first hear the idea floated of a possible trade of Los Angeles Clippers’ power forward Blake Griffin, many are taken aback. Yes, he’s a perennial all-star and is a dominant force in the paint. Yes, he is a superstar by some standards. Yet, with Griffin sidelined by multiple injuries and suspension, the Clippers have gone 18-4 and turned its season around.
There are a few reasons for why the Clippers have been more successful. First and foremost, the offense is much more free-flowing without Griffin on the court. Often when Griffin gets the ball, it stays in his hands as he is in an isolation situation against his defender. This slows down the flow of the offense, as the ball stops in his hands. Without him on the floor, the Clippers have been forced to play a smaller lineup, often relying on
Fs Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson and Luc Mbah a Moute to play the 4. Of course, those players’ don’t have the same skill set as Griffin, as they are more reliable jump shooters and better passers and perimeter defenders. Therefore, the ball does not stop in their hands, and allows the offense to keep a rhythm going.
Next, with Griffin and C DeAndre Jordan on the floor, the Clippers have two players that dominate the paint. Often times in a situation like that, these players can essentially get in each other’s way, and clog the painted area of the floor. That makes it hard for either Griffin or Jordan to have space to operate offensively. With Griffin off the floor, Jordan has been able to dominate, both offensively and defensively. Jordan has been able to dominate the glass, and with the spacing the Clippers are currently using, his job is to rebound and make the easy baskets or pass the ball out to his shooters.
This style of play is similar to the Golden State Warriors, the NBA’s reigning champion. The Warriors are a shooter-dominated team, relying on one big man (C Andrew Bogut) to dominate the paint and collect rebounds, while allowing space for the other four players on the floor to operate. This is a trend that is picking up around the NBA, and currently, the Clippers are getting a taste of what their team could be in that style of play.
With all these factors adding up, it becomes more palatable to consider trading Griffin. I believe there are a few scenarios that the Clippers could cash in on Griffin right now, while acquiring wing players and future assets that would help them continue to be a contending team in the Western Conference. Using ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine, I have put together three possible trade proposals that I think would be good fits for both teams in a trade of Blake Griffin.
1. Clippers trade F Blake Griffin & F Wesley Johnson to the Minnesota Timberwolves for F Andrew Wiggins, G Zach LaVine, G Kevin Martin and a future first round pick
This scenario is what I believe would be the best fit for Griffin and the Clippers. On the Timberwolves’ end, the team acquires a superstar in Griffin and a serviceable wing player in Johnson. Pairing Griffin with rookie C Karl Anthony-Towns would create a dominate combination in the paint, and Towns is athletic enough to be able to play out of the paint, allowing space for both players to operate. This allows Wolves’ G Ricky Rubio to continue to be a pass-first guard, which is what he is best at. With two dominate big men, the Wolves would be formidable on both offense and defense, putting them in position to
compete in the Western Conference. Plus, adding Griffin would be a way to attract free agents to Minnesota, which has been difficult in the past.
For the Clippers, they would acquire a future star in Wiggins, who is a perfect wing player to place next to G Chris Paul in this new system of spacing. Wiggins has the ability to shoot and drive to the basket, making him a dual threat. Under coach Doc Rivers’ guidance, Wiggins would be able to become a star. LaVine is a high-flying guard that is currently best at driving, but has the potential to become a decent shooter in the future. Martin is a good spot up shooter at this point in his career, and would work well in a rotation with Gs Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick.
Overall, I think this would be a great outcome for each team in both the short and long term.
2. Clippers trade F Blake Griffin & F Wesley Johnson to the Toronto Raptors for G DeMar DeRozan, F Patrick Patterson, C Lucas Noguiera and two second round picks
Immediately upon acquiring Griffin, the Raptors become an instant threat to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference, as they have no big man capable of covering the new Raptor. Toronto would lose its best player in DeRozan but you have to give something up to get something. Paired with G Kyle Lowry, Griffin would be able to be the top option in Toronto and become the dominant force in the paint. Wesley Johnson would move into a bench role in rotation with G Terrence Ross to replace DeRozan.
For the Clippers, DeRozan would step into a starting role at shooting guard, providing a player that can both drive and shoot from the wing. The key to this deal may be Patterson, as he is a big man that is capable of shooting the 3, while also being athletic enough to defend near the perimeter. Patterson is exactly the type of player the Clippers would need in playing a spaced-out system as previously described. Noguiera is a former first round pick that is still very young, and has shown potential in flashes. He would serve as a serviceable big man in rotation with Jordan and backup C Cole Aldrich.
3. Clippers trade F Blake Griffin & F Wesley Johnson to the Orlando Magic for F Tobias Harris, F Aaron Gordon and two first round picks
This scenario is the biggest stretch for me. While it still makes some sense for both teams, it is the scenario that I believe has the least chance of happening.
The Magic would acquire a superstar in Griffin, and immediately have the top scoring option they have sorely missed since C Dwight Howard left. Johnson would move into a bench role behind G Victor Oladipo, who would pair with Griffin to make a fun, high-flying team to watch. In the lowly Eastern Conference, the Magic would become instant competitors, albeit sacrificing future draft picks. I imagine the deal would be structured in a way that there would be a year in between each of the first round picks, as to not stunt the Magic’s development as a team.
For the Clippers, the team would acquire two wing players that are also capable of playing the stretch-4 position, acting as big men that are able to shoot the 3 while also defending the perimeter and the painted areas. Both Harris and Gordon would be useful to the Clippers’ style of play, but the key to the deal may be the draft picks. There simply isn’t enough value in Harris and Gordon alone to make this deal, but with the incentive of draft picks that can be used to add players or entice other teams in a trade, the deal makes sense.
All in all, those are three scenarios that I could envision the Clippers being enticed by in a trade proposal for F Blake Griffin. While I don’t believe the team will make a move before this year’s trade deadline, the idea of a Griffin deal could be revisited this summer, especially if the team falls in the Western Conference playoffs again.