In the coming months leading up to the trade deadline you will see many articles such as ‘top 4 best Blake Griffin Trade destinations’ or perhaps ‘top 5 trades that will definitely happen’.
I want to be clear. This is not one of those generic articles.
Yes – many proposals will come though the rumor mill and many will likely include the Clippers and Blake Griffin. There’s really only a few legitimate 2 to 3 team deal that works for Blake and the Clippers and the most realistic one is more or less the following:
Clippers Trade: Griffin, Pierce
Clippers Receive: Gallinari, Barton, Crowder
Nuggets Trade: Gallinari, Barton
Nuggers Receive: Amir Johnson, Jerebko, 2017 Brooklyn 1st Rd pick
Celtics Trade: Crowder, Amir Johnson, Jerebko, 2017 Brooklyn 1st Rd pick
Celtics Receive: Griffin, Pierce
Now different variations of the deal could also make sense. Maybe Boston gives up slightly more assets such as a Memphis pick or Terry Rozier? Maybe Denver pushes hard to move Faried instead of Gallinari? But this is the general flow of the deal: Denver collects a Brooklyn pick, Clippers exchange Blake for more depth, Boston grabs Blake.
Will such a deal work for all parties? There are probably more squeamish reactions than not when looking at such a trade framework.
Will Gallinari be healthy enough to be effective long term in LA? Would Denver jeopardize a somewhat successful first half of the season (they are at the cusp of the west playoff race)? Could Blake and Horford even Co exist in Boston?
Every trade has questions like this, but the potential reward should out weigh some of the risks.
The Clippers need to be honest with themselves and understand that even at their best the current framework of the team won’t come out of the 2nd round of the playoffs. The team is absurdly thin, particularly at the 3 where cast offs like Mbah a Moute and Wesley Johnson are netting significant minutes and 39 year old, playing like he’s 49, Paul Pierce is starting most nights. On what other team would these three even be in a rotation?
Insert Gallinari who could actually fit well as a small ball 4 next to Jordan. Crowder would also be the perfect small forward compliment, essentially serving as a better version of previously departed Matt Barnes who is tremendously missed. Will Barton would also be a key piece who could emerge as a backup combo forward and help Jamal Crawford with more efficient offense off the bench.
Is it enough to beat the Warriors in a 7 game series? Probably not, but it could give them a fighting chance if everyone is healthy. At the very least it gives Chris Paul an opportunity to completely control the unit where the team has been most effective.
The Nuggets need to be realistic as well. While the team may be somewhat excited now about smelling the post season, they need to continue concentrating on the long term. The team is saddled with redundant veterans and a Mish mash of solid, but not superb talent, which needs minutes. Their wings: Chandler, Gallinari, Harris, Murray and Barton all need rotational minutes and it has been tough for Coach Malone to find rotation consistency.
With such a trade Denver opens their rotation more and allows for their young wings, Harris and Murray, to have an increased role. Wilson Chandler has played well as the small ball 4 and could remain in a similar capacity. Faried is another vet the team would rather move and the latter two could be interchanged somewhat and placed in this trade potentially. Of course the main crux of the trade is acquiring the Brooklyn 1st Rd pick.
Let’s chat about the value of first round picks for a second. Remember before the recent CBA when the value of even middle to late first round picks were high? You could snag a top 10 starting center for a non lotto pick. The Wizards sent a lottery protected 1st Rd pick for Marcin Gortat. The Blazers acquired Mason Plumlee who was coming off a double-double season for the 23rd pick in the NBA draft.
Recently of course the value has flipped the other way. Danny Ainge experienced it first hand in the last few drafts. Two years ago the Celtics were offering Charlotte a slew of future 1st round picks, including a future Brooklyn pick, in the hopes of moving up from 16 to 9 just to select Justise Winslow. The Hornets rejected it. This past draft no one even sniffed at Boston’s offering of the 3rd pick.
The truth is the value of a future 1st Rd pick is probably somewhere in between these 2 extremes. Right now the scale is on one end and any team who is able to make a deal with Boston and snag one of their Brooklyn picks will probably get the better end of a deal. In short, it would be extremely wise for Denver to unload 2 vets who will not be part of their future for the chance at building an extremely enticing long term foundation.
So now it comes back to Boston, why do the Celtics make this move? Speaking as a Celtics fan I can’t say I’m thrilled about the scenario. Danny Ainge simply is holding onto far too many assets that he’d prefer unloading them in hopes of landing a vet who could move Boston to the upper echelon of the East and challenge Cleveland.
While the Griffin and Horford tandem could be awkward it also has the potential to really beat up teams down low. Looking at the state of the East there’d be no other 4/5 tandem who could endure such a combo battling underneath. Blake has also been quietly phenomenal for the Clippers in prior post seasons. He also gives the Celtics another needed go to option down the stretch of games which can open the floor more for Thomas. At his best, Blake Griffin could go in revenge mode and catapult Boston to the conference finals where they’d have a competitive series against the Cavs. Let’s also not forget the additon of Paul Pierce which could add some playoff leadership although is more likely to be nothing more than cute.
Why is this good for the league?
Everyone is afraid to say it, but the NBA has a parity problem. You look across other sports and you could theoritically see several different teams winning a championship. The Cubs and Indians were somewhat surprising in baseball, in the NFL while the Patriots may be favorites, the Cowboys, Packers, and Chiefs are extremely scary. In the NBA, could you even theorize a finals which isn’t another rematch of the Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers?
The NBA has recently been more about wake me up when May ends, of course until the finals happen which should be captivating. Both the Cavs and Warriors need at least one potential threat in hopes of engaging a larger audience prior to June.
Boston and the Clippers seem to be as good candidates as any at this point. LA has managed a top 4 seed over the past several seasons and on the brink of conference finals contention. A simple swap of talent for depth could be a change that takes the current team to new heights.
Boston is more likely to make the conference finals due to the lack of strength of the east. The hope is Griffin unleashes a revenge type mentality like none another to catapult Boston to contention.
There are other trade scenarios to look at as well, but funny thing is the ones that need to demolish parity to help save the league all involve Blake Griffin.
For example, other scenarios could include the Kings and DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins is the kind of high risk – high reward big Doc could be interested in and the Kings could either acquire Blake and pieces in return (would be closer to Cousins and Afflalo for Blake and Reddick) or look to Boston for a 3 team deal and net assets. Again in the latter scenario the Celtics and Clippers could catapult themselves to contention.
In the end Doc holds the card that can save the NBA. If the Clippers simply hang onto Blake, finish the season in typical 2nd round and out fashion we should be headed for a typical ho hum finish down the stretch.
The NBA has a parity problem, fortunately there is a Doc in the house.