Kevin Durant is reportedly meeting with a team from Los Angeles, but it isn’t the Lakers. While there’s no way to know whether or not he would actually sign with the Clippers, the interesting part is what this means for Blake Griffin. Doc Rivers has been adamant that he would keep their Big Three together for one more season, but the only way the Clippers would be able to acquire Durant would be if they offered one of their stars, presumably Griffin, an Oklahoma City native, in a sign-and-trade.
The case for Durant to L.A. is simple: KD lives in Los Angeles in the offseason, so the Clippers would give him the best combination of lifestyle perks and immediate championship viability. Durant spacing the floor for the Chris Paul–DeAndre Jordan pick-and-roll would be unguardable, while KD would thrive with a roll man like DeAndre and a traditional point guard like Paul feeding him open shots.
Griffin, meanwhile, would be about as good a return as Durant could fetch on the open market. Not only would he form an incredible tandem with Russell Westbrook in the two-man game, he could work the same magic with Steven Adams in tight spaces that he does with DeAndre. Just as important, his Oklahoma roots means he could be a lot more willing to commit to a long-term extension in one of the smallest markets in the league.
Even if a Durant acquisition doesn’t materialize, there will be a ton of interest in Griffin throughout the NBA. He’s coming off a difficult season when he couldn’t stay healthy or out of trouble, but he’s only a year removed from running the Spurs off the court in the first round of the 2015 playoffs, during which he averaged 25.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 6.1 assists a game on 51 percent shooting in 14 games. He’s still only 27 and about to enter the prime of his career, and he’s gotten better every season.
There are two possible avenues the Clippers could go down in terms of building a trade for Blake: They could enter a star exchange or they could bolster their supporting cast. Flipping Griffin for Durant would be the best-case scenario, but there are plenty of interesting options out there.
The Supporting Cast
Blake to Denver for Danilo Gallinari, Will Barton, and Joffrey Lauvergne
Denver reportedly rejected a proposed trade that would have sent Griffin to the Nuggets near February’s trade deadline, but some sort of deal still makes sense for both teams. Griffin would bring Denver back into the playoff discussion this season, and the team would have more than enough assets to acquire him without sacrificing its present or future. Defense would be a huge question mark, but per-minute all-star Nikola Jokic would stretch the floor for Griffin to work at the rim. Having two excellent passers like Griffin and Jokic on the front line would create a ton of open shots for the Nuggets’ phalanx of young guards. From the Clippers’ perspective, Gallinari would be a perfect fit as a small-ball 4, Barton would slide right into the sixth man role vacated by aging free agent Jamal Crawford, and Lauvergne would give them a nice complement to DeAndre as a stretch 5.
Blake to Boston for Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and Kelly Olynyk
The Celtics have been trying to turn four quarters into a dollar for well over a year, linking themselves to every star rumored to be on the trading block. Blake would certainly fit their desire for an elite player who could turn Isaiah Thomas into a second option, although they might prefer to move Marcus Smart into the deal to maintain some semblance of shooting from the perimeter. Bradley and Crowder would give the Clippers a fearsome perimeter defensive duo to put next to Paul and DeAndre, and those four could easily allow for J.J. Redick or Olynyk to hide on an opponent’s weakest link, depending on the matchups.
The Star Exchange
Blake to New York for Carmelo
The logic of moving Carmelo Anthony for Kevin Love goes double for the Knicks if you consider the other 27-year-old star power forward who may not be long for his current team. Blake would be a perfect fit next to Kristaps Porzingis on both sides of the ball: His ability to guard on the perimeter and run in space would give New York one of the fastest frontcourt duos in the NBA. Carmelo, meanwhile, would be a lesser version of Durant, a small-ball power forward who opens the floor for the Clippers’ bread-and-butter pick-and-rolls. Melo would also give L.A. a player who meshes more with CP3 off the court and fits in with Paul’s timetable to contend. This would be the riskiest trade for the Clippers to make; they would be going all in on winning now despite being a clear step behind the Warriors and the Thunder. But with significant roster shakeups coming in Golden State and Oklahoma City, this might be the perfect time.
Blake to Cleveland for Kevin Love
Any real chance of this happening probably went out the window once the Cavs won a championship. Love’s defense on Steph Curry in the final minute of Game 7 was a sign that their current roster’s best days may be ahead of it. But one could make a reasonable argument for trading Love to the Clippers. Love played college basketball in L.A., and would give the Clippers a reliable 3-point shooter at the frontcourt position. For all his woes on the defensive end, he can be hidden on defense next to Jordan. While the spacing in Cleveland would be tighter with Blake and LeBron in the frontcourt, who cares? Playing those two at the 4 and 5 interchangeably would be utterly fascinating. Who would be the roll man in that pick-and-roll? Who would be the ball handler? It’s not like Tristan Thompson offers much rim protection, so Griffin could slide right into Thompson’s role as a rebounder and perimeter defender. It would be a huge gamble for the Cavs, but it would boost the ceiling of a team with dynastic aspirations.
No matter how you spin it, moving Griffin would open up a ton of possibilities for the Clippers, who are stuck in the second tier of Western Conference contenders. Letting him go somewhere where Paul doesn’t dominate the ball, meanwhile, might open up possibilities for his game that doesn’t exist in L.A. The odds are good that Doc stays true to his word and keeps the band together for one more season, especially if Durant stays put in OKC. But if Durant isn’t the one to cause shockwaves this summer, Blake Griffin is the one domino out there who could change the balance of power throughout the league.