Many people had deemed Blake Griffin the most untradable player in the NBA, and for good reason.
His contract was truly massive, with $36.6 million owed for the 2020-21 season and a $38.9 million player option due for 2021-22 that he'd be crazy to opt out of. He looked like a completely different player from the dunking machine we had grown used to over the past decade — especially considering he hasn't dunked a single time in two years — before the Pistons eventually decided to bench him for good in mid-February while they weigh their options regarding his future.
But just because he's probably untradable doesn't mean he's going to stay in Detroit. The Pistons will most likely have to settle on a buyout for Griffin, as it would help to unload at least some of his salary from their books next season, and he's not serving any purpose by sitting on the bench every game. A buyout certainly wasn't the best option for the Pistons, seeing as they'd have to pay a huge sum of money to a player they don't have just to get rid of him, but that's what a number of executives saw as a likelier outcome than a trade. And that's exactly what happened on Friday morning.
Just because he was untradable to the point where the Pistons bought out his contract doesn't mean that he's unusable. He's well past his prime — I'd think, barring a surprise renaissance — and has been a net negative for the Pistons the past two seasons, but he's also only two years removed from an All-Star campaign marked by 24.5 PPG production, even with his transition into a perimeter scorer well under way. For a playoff team who needs veteran leadership, a stretch big with a versatile skill set, and some general depth to the rotation, Griffin should be an intriguing option, especially given that his pay from the Pistons following a buyout would negate the need to spend a significant amount of money on him.
There are plenty of title-seeking contenders that could use him to their benefit. Here are eight likely options.
All stats retrieved from Basketball Reference.
The needs for the Celtics haven't changed much since the start of the year — other than their dire need for Marcus Smart to return from injury — and a stretch big is of primary concern. Griffin fits that category despite his underwhelming performance to this point in the season. He's two years removed from launching 7.0 threes per game and converting at a 36.2 percent clip. Boston's current bigs, on the other hand, don't even combine for that volume. Daniel Theis attempts 2.2 threes per game, Grant Williams (a 6-foot-6 "big") attempts 2.1 and neither Tristan Thompson nor Robert Williams contributes in that department at all.
The Brooklyn Nets don't really need anyone, but they've already established that they're going all in this year, and then some. So they might as well add another rotational piece in their pursuit for a title, and Griffin actually makes quite a bit of sense when you consider that the Nets are very short in the "big man" department. DeAndre Jordan — Griffin's longtime Clippers teammate — is their starting center, Nicolas Claxton backs him up and... that's about it. No floor-spacing five, unless you generously count Jeff Green as a five. No ball-handling, versatile playmaker like Griffin. Why not make yourself richer if you're the rich?
Golden State Warriors
The whole "versatile, playmaking forward" thing has worked out pretty well for the Warriors as of late, considering Draymond Green led the NBA in assists throughout the month of February.
It couldn't hurt for the Warriors to use another player in that mold, though one who can score with more consistency and is a stronger overall threat than Kevon Looney or Eric Paschall in the backup big department. The Warriors' window is running out, so it would make a lot of sense for them. But the question is whether or not Griffin's desire to win a championship and his connection to Los Angeles — he reportedly has five multimillion-dollar homes there — would take away from his appetite to join the Warriors as opposed to another team in California.
Los Angeles Clippers
Could Griffin reunite with the team that brought him up into stardom before suddenly shipping him out? It might not be the most ideal situation, but it makes a lot of sense from a basketball standpoint. Title contenders? Check. Near his mansions? Big check. A need at that position? Meh — not as much as other teams on this list, seeing as Marcus Morris is a 6-foot-8 shooter who takes 60 percent of his shots from 16 feet and beyond, and that Serge Ibaka is a 6-foot-10 big who takes 40 percent of his shots from that same range. However, having a big to space out the floor alongside Ivica Zubac couldn't hurt. And again, why not, if it's for a minimum deal?
Los Angeles Lakers
This team could be the biggest obstacle in a reunion between Griffin and the Clippers if the market gets hot for him as a free agent and he wants to head west. After all, the Lakers are waltzing toward title contention like the Clippers are. They're both in L.A., so there's no advantage for either side there.
Where the Purple and Gold might have the advantage is that they're fresh off a title with the same proven core, and then some. The Lakers, should Anthony Davis miss some more time or need to start slow after returning from his injury, could use Griffin way more than the Clippers could, as he is a better playmaker than Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Markieff Morris, and a better shooter than the latter two (and similar to Kuzma). The Lakers should be viewed as a very realistic location for a number of reasons if they can snag him at the minimum.
Could the allure of Miami life late in Griffin's career draw him to Miami? That's not the only reason it could be an appealing destination.
Kelly Olynyk isn't an upgrade over Blake Griffin, and that's who currently plays in that role in the frontcourt alongside Bam Adebayo. Olynyk can shoot the three ball — he's hoisting more than five per game — but he's only converting at a 32.1 percent rate. He can't make plays like Griffin can, either. Miami would likely be the spot Griffin could go to if he wants a legitimate role for a contender right away, though he would still get more playing time than he would in other places even if he took a backseat or split time with Olynyk.
This is probably one of my personal favorite spots for Griffin, and the Heat seem interested as well. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald says that both Griffin and DeMarcus Cousins could be players the team pursues as free agents. They're getting hot after a really slow start, and riding that wave and fetching some more help could further the momentum.
A leading contender in the Eastern Conference, the 76ers' title aspirations are at a very legitimate high this time around, but there are certainly holes in their roster. One of those holes is a floor-spacing stretch big — like Griffin — considering backup bigs Dwight Howard and Tony Bradley, the latter of which barely plays, aren't shooters. Mike Scott hasn't been all too impressive this year, and he's currently the backup four behind Tobias Harris.
When Ben Simmons is in, the idea is to space the floor as much as possible, which Griffin could help the Sixers to achieve. When Simmons is out, the more playmakers, the better, which Griffin could also help accomplish.
However, the relationship between Griffin and Doc Rivers is a question mark after their time together in L.A. ended on an unexpected note. There's also the fact that some off-court drama has impacted both Simmons and Griffin in the past.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers have gotten by with Enes Kanter as the team's sole big while Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins have been out, and though both could be returning relatively soon-ish, their health issues go to show that some more insurance in that department can't hurt. Besides, Griffin is more versatile than just another big, and he can be a more useful shooter than guys like Derrick Jones — and even Robert Covington has been pretty mediocre — have been to this point in the season at the forward position.
They're staying afloat right now, and once their bigs and CJ McCollum return from injury, they should probably go forward with guns blazing considering they're playing relatively well despite all these issues.