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No Joke: Blake Griffin Is a Piston Now

The first domino of the NBA trade deadline frenzy has fallen, and it’s a shocker

Minnesota Timberwolves v LA Clippers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The Deal

The Pistons have agreed to a deal with the Clippers that will send Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, Tobias Harris, their 2018 first-round pick (top-four protected until 2020; unprotected in 2021), and a 2019 second-round pick to Los Angeles in exchange for Blake Griffin, Brice Johnson, and Willie Reed, according to reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Winner: The NBA

The lead-up to this trade deadline had been awfully quiet, which in a regular world would indicate an inactive market. Of course, in the NBA, it’s more likely than not a sign that chaos was afoot. Now we have proof.

The trade is surprising on multiple levels. News of the Pistons making Bradley available on the trading block was only hours old when the Blake Griffin trade was reported. Detroit surprisingly made quick work of its desire to trade Bradley, but much more shocking is the Clippers’ decision to part ways with the most valuable player in franchise history after courting him into a five-year, $171 million max deal this past offseason. Remember the PIONEERS T-shirt that the Clippers used to woo him last summer? The one that featured him alongside Martin Luther King Jr.? None of that matters now.

It’s safe to say no one saw this coming. Right, Blake?

It’s unclear who the long-term winner is at the moment other than the fans who now have a few more NBA talking points that don’t involve the Cavaliers. Griffin is, when healthy, a top-10 talent who raises Detroit’s ceiling. If the Pistons claw their way back into the playoff race and win a series, their gamble (specifically Stan Van Gundy’s gamble) may pay off. On the other side, the Clippers are now fully in flux, punting on the only superstar they had on their roster. I trust Jerry West, but Los Angeles not landing a young asset like Stanley Johnson or Luke Kennard despite giving up the biggest star in the trade makes me skeptical. I bet Steve Ballmer is happy about getting under the luxury tax line, though.

The Risk

Both teams are in respective fights for a playoff spot and are currently the 9-seeds in their conferences, but they are clearly on different trajectories after this deal. The Clippers have decided to rebuild, while the Pistons have recommitted to their postseason goals.

Stan Van Gundy is shooting his shot, and it’s not a free throw; landing Griffin is more like a deep 3-pointer. He is trading for a superstar (can we still call him that?) who will be 33 by the end of his contract and has a long history of lower-body injuries. For most teams, betting on Blake would be a high-risk, medium-sized reward, but when you’re Van Gundy and your team has lost 12 of its past 15 games without Reggie Jackson and you haven’t won a single playoff game in your four seasons as head coach/president, what else can you do?

Griffin should be enough to vault the Pistons into a playoff seed that’s better than eighth. Of course, that’s if he stays healthy, which is no small feat. Griffin is nearly 29 and hasn’t played more than 67 games in a campaign since the 2013-14 season. The Clippers, meanwhile, don’t feel like they have a clear franchise directive just yet. This team might still be good enough to make the playoffs, though Woj reports it’s trying to trade Lou Williams and DeAndre Jordan (RIP, Lob City). That Griffin was traded before Doc Rivers was fired is surprising. What isn’t is Rivers’s ongoing interest in stockpiling former Celtics. Welcome, Avery. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Loser: Blake’s Body Warmth and Stand-up Career

There are onion-amounts of layers to this, but one of the best ancillary talking points is that Griffin is headed from L.A., the capital of entertainment and comedy, to Detroit. (I certainly can’t be the first to have Googled “stand-up comedy clubs in Detroit” over the past hour.) Look, it’s bleak, but at least there’s one in nearby Canada. In any case, I doubt we’ll be getting an updated version of this bit anytime soon:

Also: It’s 84 degrees in Los Angeles at the time I’m writing this. It’s 19 degrees in Detroit. Pack your parka, Blake. You’re going to see a little thing called snow on your way to the arena.